We walk our fifth-grade daughter to school every day. Technically, she walks several feet behind or in front of us with a friend and pretends she doesn’t know us, but it’s a good chance for us to get some exercise and make sure she gets safely to school since we’ve just moved to a new place. I am often astounded at the number of kids with cell phones. Even those in first and second grade have cell phones! I’m even more astonished at the number of the kids who are learning to text and drive on their scooters and bikes. It makes me think Louis CK has it right, not allowing his kids to have cell phones at all.
Our oldest son escaped the house before cell phones became a necessity, but our older daughter was only 12 when she started asking for one. We held out until she was 15, but by then the convenience of her having a phone to call and tell us when cheer practice was over was too tempting. We learned the hard way, however, about placing limits on the use of the phone after receiving the bill for her first month…in which she’d sent over 5,000 text messages. We were not on an unlimited plan.
That daughter is now 23 and is absolutely devastated that her younger brother, at 13, ALREADY has a smartphone. How unfair!
So much has changed between the time our daughter was a teen wanting a cell phone and kids with cell phones now. We are one of many households who no longer have a landline because the only calls we received were from sales people who didn’t know us. (According to the Wall Street Journal, one of every three households has no landline). In addition, our younger son has Asperger’s, and we’ve found that he can successfully use the phone to develop and maintain social connections that he has a difficult time making in person.
Does your child need a cell phone? It depends. I think cell phones can serve a wonderful purpose of offering a way to stay in touch, stay safe, and stay connected. Like anything else (video games, food, TV), cell phone privileges can be abused. And while I was astounded at the idea of a first grader with a cell phone, if I were forced to go to work before my kids left for school, I would want a way to know they’d arrived safely.
Most kids don’t need cell phones, but I’d rather have our kids learn to use technology responsibly while I’m there to help teach them the etiquette. In our house, you don’t use phones at the dinner table; also, when you’re having a conversation with another human, you don’t stare at your phone or keep playing Temple Run.
Have your kids started asking for a cell phone yet? How do you plan to handle it?