Choosing when children get cell phones is very important – a more important decision than many parents treat it.
By Jessica, Contributing Writer
If you have children, at some point you will have to answer the questions: Will they have cell phones? At what age? What kind of parental controls or restrictions will we use? (Or, you have already had to answer these questions!)
I’m grateful to Erin for letting me share our family’s perspective on this (very controversial) issue. Before we dive into it, I want to say a few things:
- This isn’t a life or death issue. There are some issues that are life and death. My son has food allergies. That is a life and death issue. I want my kids to know Jesus. That is a life and death issue. Cell phones are not a life issue. I get that.
- Not having cell phones doesn’t guarantee your children will turn out perfect, nor does having them guarantee they’re ruined, of course.
At the same time, I believe that choosing when children get cell phones is very important – more important than many parents treat it. Often, regrettably, getting a cell phone is just a haphazard decision. Oh, I have a leftover phone … I guess you can have it. Oh, you’re playing on a sports team … I guess you need a phone.
Friends, this decision is HUGE because of the possibilities it opens up. And it deserves long, thoughtful consideration.
As the title indicates, we’ve decided our children won’t have cell phones. First, a little definition of the terms: By “children,” I mean anyone younger than 16. (Though it’s a long ways off, I’d like to even say younger than 18!) And by “cell phones,” I mean smart phones. You can actually still buy a “basic phone” that just texts and calls (I checked!). I hope they’re still available when my kids are older!
But, I firmly believe kids should not have smart phones.
Here is why:
It is a huge temptation for boys.
Recently I attended a fundraiser dinner for a youth organization. The speaker said he was talking to a teenager and said, “What percentage of your friends do you think look at porn?” The kid said, “100%.” The man looked at him and said, “You realize what you just admitted, don’t you?” The kid held his phone up and said, “Man, I don’t have to go looking for any of that. It just finds me.”
Those of us who did not grow up with a smart phone DO NOT HAVE ANY CONCEPT of what smacks kids in the face via their phones. You might like to think you can prevent a lot of it by using the “media rating systems.” But as one mother recently confided in me, you cannot trust the “rating systems” for apps or sites, because many “good ones” have totally inappropriate ads or content. As a mother of boys, I want to do all that I can to protect them from the destructive addiction of pornography, even if it means that they’re the only ones who can’t Snap Chat or pick their fantasy teams at a restaurant.
Secondly, it is a huge temptation for girls.
Again, those of us who grew up without phones HAVE NO IDEA what is like to go through your teenage years with social media. One girl explained it like this, “Imagine being able to see EVERY SINGLE THING the guy you like is doing, all day long. Who he’s dating, where he is, what he’s saying.”
There is no “safe zone” anymore. Young women face the temptation to engage in private, erasable chats with guys. They’ve got to stomach the “selfie culture,” facing the overwhelming temptation to display photos of themselves they might regret later. I know I sound like a grandmother – but regrettably, what I am saying is 100% true. Pick up the average kid’s phone and prove me wrong. We can protect our daughters from difficult, adult-level decisions by simply taking away their access to a smart phone.
Third, technology (although it does much good) is an addiction, and one that I’d like to spare my children from as long as I possibly can.
I recently shared a controversial post entitled, “The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children Is A Technology-Free Childhood.” Many disagreed with me, even some close friends! But I stand by my point.
Technology is addictive and accessible in a way that no other medium prior has ever been. And you probably know this already! A few months ago I felt convicted by my own iPhone use and penned, “The iPhone Is Ruining Your Summer.” This post garnered a resounding “yes” from my readers, even getting reprinted by The Huffington Post.
It is clear – we adults CLEARLY feel burdened by our unhealthy addiction to our phones. Well, imagine being 8, or 13, and having to try to muster up the self-control to master this! If we adults can hardly do it, how are children supposed to?
I know all the objections to kids not having their phones: “It’s safer!” “She needs Google Maps!” “He’s on a team and I won’t know when to pick him up!” “All their friends have them! It would be so hard to say no.”
I see the merit of these claims, and there is no denying it: Yes. In many ways, smart phones are easier. But to me?
Note from Erin: When our oldest child was 13, we decided to get her a Pinwheel phone, which we LOVE. This option didn’t exist back when Jessica originally wrote this now-updated post, but we feel it’s the perfect solution for parents who need a way to contact older children who may be away at sports practices, youth group, etc. who want to continue to shield their children from the dangers of the internet.
What is lost is far greater than what is gained.
When I was 16, I broke up with my boyfriend. I still remember being crouched in the bathroom, snotty toilet paper for tissues, my stomach in knots, my heart breaking. Now, my parents were amazing parents – very involved in my life, plenty of boundaries. However, they did allow us to date. I know this sounds crazy, but in that bathroom, I clearly remembering thinking through the sobs, “Why did Mom and Dad let me go through this?? Why didn’t they tell us not to date?”
I wonder if, deep down, there aren’t more than a few kids grappling with the all-too-adult temptations, pressures, and lures of technology, and they’re wondering it, too…
“Why are Mom and Dad letting me go through this? Why aren’t they doing something?”
Friends, this is NOT an easy decision. I may sound staunch, but I have no judgment. I simply feel compelled to call us all to a greater awareness of the struggles that the Tech Generation is facing. And whatever decision you make, I beg you to think deeply about it. And if you just don’t feel right about it? Just say no. (Read this if you have to.) You have at least one mom on your side!