The point of this post is to tell you more about our tween’s first phone- a Palm– and how we’re monitoring it with Bark. I will get to that and ALSO tell you how you can win one at the end of this post.
But first, a parenting update.
I miss the days when I could blog about all the parenting things that were hard, and you all got to chime in with advice and commiseration, and we laughed our way through it. LOL SLEEP REGRESSION IS THE DEVIL, TEETHING BITES, SO TIRED.
Those were the days.
Middle school is a lonely time to parent when so much of your parenting village is on the internet. I can’t share 99% of the stuff we’re going through right now online. It would only make that stuff worse, you know? It’s not my story to give the world anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time.
School has been great, and also not so great. This week was particularly challenging in the school AND social aspects, but we seem to have found a resolution as of yesterday that I’m hopeful will make a big difference.
That’s all just a cryptic way of saying the emotional whiplash of parenting a middle schooler is like nothing I’ve experienced as a parent before, and I am EXHAUSTED in a way I haven’t been before.
So this tween’s first phone review, which so many of you requested when I first shared that Kendall got a Palm last month, has taken a while because we’ve been trying to figure out how responsible phone usage fits into this rollercoaster. I didn’t want to jump in here and talk about how perfect and amazing everything is and not have that come from a place of authenticity.
It’s still not perfect and amazing, BTW, but we have a good phone system down.
Here’s where we stand with our tween’s first phone usage right now:
We like that he can text or call us. This is helpful when we’re picking him up after school, or when he needs to remind us about something and vice versa. It’s good to have that easy line of communication.
We like that he can text or call family and friends. He has his cousin’s number, he can talk to his friends from school or his friends from his last school. He mostly texts them, but sometimes they talk on the phone while playing video games together. We’re ok with all of this, especially because Bark monitors his text messages. More on that below.
We like that he can use our family Spotify account to listen to music. He has to use bluetooth headphones since there’s not a headphone jack in the phone, but that’s what all the “cool kids” do anyway.
We like that it’s not essential for him to have a phone right now– he’s not often away from us, not driving, etc. I worried that he might be too young for a phone, but the upside to that is that when we do take it away from him (and we have for a couple long stretches), it’s not much of an inconvenience.
This phone is not for playing games, with one exception. In the beginning, I drew a hard line at any game apps, but have since let him download Pokemon Go. Beyond that, though, he knows that this is not a phone to play games on.
The phone can be a distraction for him, just like it can be for all of us. It’s frustrating sometimes, but we’re also laying the groundwork now for what responsible and healthy phone usage looks like. Again, since it’s non-essential, we can take it away for days at a time if needed.
What About Social Media?
Social Media is a hard NO. Kendall is 11. He’s not legally old enough for social media accounts. We have no plans to allow any social media accounts at all until he is at least 13.
Why The Palm Phone For Our Tween’s First Phone?
Originally, I thought we’d just get Kendall a flip phone. All we wanted was a way for him to call or text. We started to consider that it would be nice for him to be able to listen to music with his phone, though- that way he wouldn’t have to walk around with a separate device just for that. And texting with a flip phone is not exactly a skill I felt he needed to master. The biggest issue, though, was I wanted to be able to monitor those texts without having to read every one.
I reached out to my friend Titania. She’s the Chief Parenting Officer at Bark, an internet colleague and someone whose opinion I’ve long respected, and also has a boy close to Kendall’s age. She enthusiastically recommended the Palm and connected me with their team to ask all my questions.
After some research, I was pumped about this option, and Palm sent me their phone in exchange for what I’m writing here today.
Palm Phone Details
- The phone is SMALL. It’s 2 inches wide, by 3.8 inches tall- about the size of a credit card. For what it’s worth, Kendall thinks this is actually pretty edgy, unique, and he likes that.
- It was originally created as a secondary phone adults could use when they wanted to take a break from their robust, larger smart phones. It’s marketed as a way to use your phone less.
- You can still install apps and access the web like you can on a full size smart phone, but it’s not as easy or enticing to spend long periods of time doing this because of the size- in theory.
- It comes unlocked, so you can add it to your existing phone plan. OR you can do pay-as-you-go plans for as little as $5/month with US Mobile.
- It’s easy to navigate, you can activate facial recognition and/or a passcode to unlock it.
- There is no headphone jack. Kendall syncs bluetooth headphones to his.
- When you activate Life Mode, the phone will not ring or send notification alerts if the screen is not awake. Meaning, during class or whenever the phone is put away and the screen is off, you won’t be disturbed. Life Mode also helps with battery life.
The Unlocked Palm Phone Costs $350. SAVE $50 With Code JILLK50
We originally had the phone in the Under Armor case Palm gifted us. Unfortunately, his phone screen shattered about a week after getting it- BUT we are pretty sure there was more to that than just dropping it. I can’t really elaborate more on that other than to say some kids are jerks, and we’re working through it.
We now have it in this SupCase with an additional glass screen protector, and that seems to be keeping it safe. It’s similar to an Otterbox Defender, which is what we always have and always will keep our iPhones in. They are TOUGH.
Battery Life- Not A Big Deal For Us, But Maybe For You?
The only other “issue” we’ve had to figure out is battery life. With Life Mode on, it should have plenty of battery to get through the day, but Kendall likes to listen to music on it during lunch and whenever his teachers let him in class, and sometimes this means it’s dead before the end of the school day.
Not necessarily a bad thing. Again, we want to teach him to manage his time wisely on his phone. He knows we expect it to at least have enough battery left at the end of the school day for us to call or text when we pick him up, and most days it does now.
He’s not supposed to be using this phone so much that the battery life is an issue, but we know that sometimes life happens, and even I’m not great at managing my phone usage, especially when listening to music or podcasts. So we do let him bring a battery pack to school to charge the phone if he needs to, but he claims he hasn’t had to use it in a while.
Why Not An iPhone Or Full Size Smartphone For Our Tween’s First Phone?
- For us, I knew that it would be really hard to keep iPhone usage to a minimum. The small screen size of the Palm, and the limited battery life does not make it conducive to game play and video streaming, and that’s a real plus for us.
- Even if I hadn’t been sent the Palm, the $350 price ($300 with my code JILLK50) is much less than most iPhones and other smart phones. We don’t have an extra phone laying around to pass down to him at this time, either.
- We view this as a starter phone. He’s gotta prove that he can use this responsibly before he graduates to a larger, more robust phone in the future.
What About Bark? How Does This Parental Monitoring App Fit In For Your Tween’s First Phone?
We’ve been using Bark since he got the phone, and I have so much love for this app that I’m going to have to write up a whole other post about it. It’s been the source of some really great parenting wins for us recently!
For now, here’s a quick rundown:
- Bark is $99/year (20% less with my link- JillKrause.com/Bark). It’s a family membership that allows you to monitor all of your children for that price.
- Bark monitors online activity like web searches, app downloads, text messaging, emails, Spotify, YouTube, Pinterest, social media, and lots more.
- It only sends you a notification to review issues if it detects something of concern, including cyber-bullying, porn, profanity, mentions of drugs or alcohol, or suicidal ideation. That’s not an exhaustive list.
- This means that I don’t have to read every single text message that comes in or goes out. There’s a bit of privacy that remains there, and K knows that as long as he and his friends aren’t texting stuff that brings up these alerts, I won’t have any reason to review them. I can also trust that it’s monitoring all that other activity I listed above.
- It’s not a super fast setup, but Bark gives you a lot of guidance. Just don’t expect to download the app, click a few buttons, and be done with it. You’ll need your child’s login info for their email and social accounts (if they have any). I’d say set aside about 45 minutes to dedicate to getting it up and going.
- You are alerted about issues via text, email, and Bark dashboard. It’s easy to set up these preferences and even add another adult to be alerted.
I hope to write more about Bark next week. Stay tuned. For now, let’s get to the part where I GIVE AWAY A PHONE!
How Can You Win A Palm Phone For Your Tween’s First Phone?
This is SO exciting! Palm is going to give one of you an unlocked Palm phone + lanyard case. This giveaway is US only, BUT I will be doing one more Palm giveaway before the end of the year, and it’s possible that one may be open to other countries. For now, if you’re in the US and you want to enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. and I’ll draw a winner on November 2nd.