Every parent knows it takes time, energy and attention to raise a tween with high self-esteem these days. We have raised just one happy, creative, expressive kid so far, and we are not ready to surrender all of our hard work too easily.
A big part of getting here was learning how to have clear values and good boundaries while simultaneously not getting pulled into whatever the Joneses are doing this week.
After hearing lots of arguments as to why I should buy my child a cell phone, here are 13 reasons why my husband and I are waiting before we help our daughter make that first, life-changing cell phone purchase.
1. We are not in a hurry for our daughter to grow up. We do not need her to be any more sophisticated than she is. Tweens are still kids. We are happy to let her stay naive a little longer.
2. We always know exactly where she is and what time to pick her up. We don’t over-schedule and we are hands-on parents. If we are late for any reason, she can use a friend’s phone to call us or we can contact the adult in charge. Easy-peasy.
3. We are waiting for the new-phone obsession to wear off with some of her friends before she gets networked in. We are hoping to avoid the onus to be in constant contact with friends 24-7. Even if this is what some friends do, this is not what we are planning to allow.
4. Our daughter is sensitive and impressionable. She can say she doesn’t care what others say and do, but we have seen the impact of peer pressure in the past, and it’s significant. We also see the cyber-bullying reports online, and would guess that the victims of tragedies were probably sensitive and impressionable, too.
5. Now that she’s a tween, we have started having interesting real-life conversations with our daughter on critical topics. We don’t want to make it easier for her to tune us out. We’ve got some important ground to cover heading into middle school and high school. We don’t expect her to understand worldly matters unless we discuss them with her in detail ourselves. And we certainly don’t want her asking Google the answers to some of life’s biggest questions.
6. A lot of what we notice her friends accessing online is silly, fluffy, age-inappropriate stuff. Are we in a rush for her to pick up on this habit? Not really.
Sure, a little phone etiquette wouldn’t hurt some of our daughter’s friends. But they will figure it out in time, hopefully. In the meantime she can learn from their positive and negative examples.
7. Our home is fully wired and full of screens that are easy to monitor, which our daughter can use in moderation and with permission. So it’s not like she is living in the dark ages or anything.
8. There are certain times of the day when I like my daughter to be unplugged. Our kid thinks best with a little down time built into each day, and so do I for that matter. So we’re sticking with what works.
9. We want our daughter to be an independent thinker who has something to contribute to the whole. She already does lots of interactive activities in school and in after-school activities, so taking breaks from group time is good for balance. Taking breaks for me-time is crucial, especially when connectivity is relentless.
10. Her brain and body are still developing. I can’t time travel ten or twenty years ahead to find out what the studies are going to say in the future about the impact of cell phones on healthy growth and development now. So in the meantime, I’ll stick to accepting what everyone else is choosing to do and stick with what works for us.
11. I love technology but I recognize that technology is neutral until colored by what is brought into it. My daughter will get a cell phone when we decide she is ready and, by then, she will understand the responsibility that comes with it. Once she owns a phone, we will be available to coach her on how to use it wisely and enjoyably so that the experience enhances her life but does not dominate it.
12. She will appreciate the phone a whole lot more if she earns it, and if she is the last one in her peer group to get one. Just trust me on this.
13. Our middle schooler is already dealing with a new school and a new style and pace of learning. Once she settles in, and gets adjusted and on track with her teachers and schoolwork, we will consider a phone as a reward for her diligence. We’re no fools. We know we can’t hold out forever.
Christina Katz is no Luddite. She has been on a Mac since the first one debuted in 1984. One thing she has learned over many plugged-in years is the wisdom of being a consistent late adopter.