There are moments in your child’s life where all of a sudden you flashback to when they were in diapers. And as they move from riding a bike to getting their first military ID card there are some conversations you dread. Once you tackle the “If I have genes from you and from Dad how did Dad’s genes get in you?” question about inherited traits, you may think it’s all smooth sailing. And then they come at you with, “but all my friends have a phone!” Parenting a tween is hard enough without a cell phone, here are a few reasons to say no to smartphones for kids.
No Smartphones For Kids
No matter how many times my mother said, “If everyone jumped off a bridge would you follow them?” to me as a child, I just can’t seem to get my kid to realize that I don’t care what other kids are doing. I don’t care that they get to stay up until 10 pm on a Tuesday night or play football. I don’t care if they ride their bikes without helmets and I don’t care if they have cell phones. Nope, “no phones for kids,” is my household rule.
And suddenly parents all around the world shudder and wag their fingers and say, “just wait, you’ll change your mind.” Maybe. But that’s part of being a parent. Part of learning as your kids learn. Right now, today, at the end of elementary school and looking towards sixth grade and a new middle school I can confidently say my kid will not have a cell phone on the first day of school.
Now, most parents – myself included – aren’t naive enough to think our children are going to be raised in the same way we were. I didn’t have a cell phone until my senior year of high school, a year after I started driving. We did what our parents did, we borrowed someone’s home or work phone, we walked home from our friend’s house to ask if we could spend the night, we used a payphone. But we know our kids aren’t growing up like that and, eventually, they will need a phone.
An Argument For Smartphones for Kids
But just as children mature at different rates, they will “need” a cell phone at different times. A few of my 10-year old’s friends already have them. For one it’s to communicate with a parent who lives overseas. Another comes home to an empty house and calls to check in each day. Yes, other friends are going to have cell phones earlier.
And, as I recently discovered, kids are going to find a way to communicate no matter what we do. Sometimes that means a kid without a phone gets left out. More often it means that kid’s parents are suddenly receiving texts, phone calls, and Marco Polo messages at all hours of the day.
One additional argument is that giving a tween – or middle schooler – a cell phone will help them learn responsibility. Yes, this may be true. With a smartphone, they can communicate with their teachers and receive notifications from the Remind app. With a phone, they can call home and say they are going to be late. And, of course, you can teach responsibility by making them work for a portion of the bill, too.
For the record, our kids have tried all of these arguments, and we haven’t budged yet. Still president of the “no phones for kids” club over here.
And An Argument Against Them
Away for the Day, a program that pushes schools to have students put their phones away, has done some interesting, research on smartphone use in middle schools. Among the results – which are overwhelmingly against cell phone use in schools – are the following statistics:
- The average age that children get their first smartphones is now 10.3 years old, and the majority of middle schoolers have smartphones.
- A majority (56%) of middle schools allow students to carry phones all day.
- Public schools (64%) are over twice as likely to allow students to carry phones all day compared to private schools (31%).
- 82% of respondents reported that they do not want their children using cellphones at middle school and prefer policies that require cell phones to be left in lockers all day (58.9%).
- Of the 56% of schools that allow students to carry phones all day, roughly one-third of them have a policy stating that students are not to use their phones during breaks and lunch.
You may have also seen Facebook posts where teachers had students document each time their phone sent a notification during the class period. Unless you are a teacher or high school student, you were probably shocked. The notifications are coming via text message, social media platforms, email, phone calls, and even reminders from the teachers themselves.
Children – and yes, middle schoolers are still children – need to concentrate on their education. And while Google classroom, calculators, and YouTube are being used in their education, they don’t need constant, unfettered access to it while sitting in front of a teacher. They need someone – parents – to stand up and say no, no smartphones for kids.
A Few Options
Of course, saying no to smartphones for kids doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There are so many ways to compromise here. Maybe you need a way for your child to call from home and you don’t have a landline, so you buy a flip phone that stays at home. Maybe you want to teach responsibility and start with a smartphone that they can’t take to school while in middle school. Maybe you let them use your phone to text their friends and send Marco Polo messages.
Remember, you can change your mind halfway through sixth grade, or really whenever you want. Either way. Take that phone away if they can’t handle it. Or pop one in their hands when life changes and they need one. The beauty of parenting is that you are in charge! Which team are you on, are you looking at adding a line to your plan or are you standing by your no smartphones for kids statement?
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