As our kids get older, it’s become important that Denisa and I be able to reach them when we need to. Sometimes that’s meant giving TRC one of our cell phones when he heads off somewhere, but that leaves us in an awkward position: whoever’s at home has no phone.
We’ve looked at various solutions to this. The obvious one is to get TRC a cell phone, but we really didn’t want to do that. I just don’t believe having a cell phone is a good thing for a kid. Not because I’m against him being able to call and talk to people, but because it’s so much more than that. A camera, a video camera, texting, internet, etc. There’s a ton of “stuff” that comes with a cell phone these days.
So why not just get a non-smart phone? We thought of that. But even the dumbest phones these days come with cameras and video cameras already installed. And not just that, but the things are expensive. Not break-the-bank expensive, but more than I wanted to pay. (For reference, the cheapest option I found was getting a Tracfone with 60 minutes of time for $20. You need to top that off every three months, which means it’s essentially $80/year.)
Could I do better?
This is when it occurred to me that the goal here isn’t to have TRC have a phone. It’s to have him be able to call us when he needs to. For most situations, he’s going to be out with friends. And almost all of his friends have cell phones. (Yes. This means I’m the one parent who’s too stubborn or mean to get his child a cell phone. I’ve accepted that fact.) So he’ll be able to reach us with their phone. When we need to, we can lend him one of our phones, as we’ve done in the past.
Really, the only time that things really get tricky is when he’s at home and we’re not. Denisa and I were away from home last year when he came from school one day. Normally that’s fine: he has a key, and he’s more than old enough to take care of himself. But that day there was an emergency, and he didn’t have a way of calling us, since we both had our phones with us. But it didn’t make any sense to get a cell phone just to leave it in the house every day. It’s almost like it would be better to have a permanent phone that just stayed there, attached to the wall.
So I looked into signing up with the phone company, but that was going to be just as expensive as the Tracfone. There had to be something cheaper.
It’s a $50 device that hooks up to your router and then connects to Google Voice, allowing you to make phone calls for free. It’ll even call internationally for like 3 cents a minute, if you need to. There are only two difficulties. First, it only works if you have power and internet. That’s a stipulation I’m okay with. It’s going to be rare enough that it happens that we can deal with that when and if it does. Second, it doesn’t do 911 calls unless you sign up with a separate service, which costs $15/year.
$15/year is a cost I’m willing to shell out for, so after talking it over with Denisa, that’s what we went with. I set it up this week, and it works like a charm.
The funniest thing is watching how excited TRC and DC are by this new device. “Look Dad! It will tell you who’s calling! It even remembers who called!” “Look Mom! You can press this button on the base station, and it’ll make the phone ring so you can find it if you lost it!”
Yup. My kids have never really had a home phone. So for once, I get to feel all cool about my extensive knowledge and experience with out of date technology.