Have you heard your son or daughter mutter these words, “But everyone else has a phone!”? Maybe “all her friends” are using their phones for Instagram, or “all his friends” have the latest iPhone. You are wondering if you are the meanest mom or dad on the block.
Having a personal phone can seem like a right to many children, but in most cases, it’s a luxury, not a true need. A phone isn’t just a significant financial investment. It can easily lead to addictive behaviors and rob your child of hours and hours each day.
Analytics firm Flurry says American consumers spend 5 hours a day on mobile devices. Apps are proliferating, increasing 69 percent year after year according to another study. From a data mining perspective, your children on phones are perfect fodder for identity thieves, child predators, and neighborhood bullies.
According to Influence Central’s 2016 Digital Trends Study, the average age for getting the first phone is 10.3 years old. The same study shows that by age 12, 50 percent of kids will have social media accounts.
When your child insists that everyone else has a phone, you may calmly disagree. According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 15 percent of kids ages 14-17 do not have a phone. 31 percent of kids ages 11-14 do not own phones, and 69 percent of kids ages 8-10 don’t have phones. While your child might feel like the only one doing without as he or she gets older, it’s possible to find peers from families with similar values.
You can cite my children as evidence that not everyone has a smartphone. My kids (ages 8, 11, and 13) do not own phones. Granted for my oldest, he is an anomaly, but might I add he is a very happy and secure anomaly. I concur with Bill Gates who in an interview with The Mirror said he didn’t allow any of his children to get their own phone until they were 14 years old. I have experienced the many benefits of phoneless children firsthand.
James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, agrees. In their home, the kids have to be in high school before getting a phone and must first demonstrate that they can exercise restraint and understand the value of face-to-face communication.
I have seen many elementary school kids with their heads turned towards their phones this summer. Instead of enjoying the sunshine, they are catching up on social media, watching entertaining YouTube videos, or playing video games. Summer is a time to take a break and get rejuvenated for the upcoming school year. But with a phone in hand, there’s not much of a break from the endless string of tweets, pings, videos, texts, posts, and photos.
So the next time your child complains about being the only one without a phone, you can say with a smile, “You are not the only one. Trust me, your brain and soul are better off without a phone right now.” When my daughter was in sixth grade, one of her friends said, “You’re so lucky. Your brain is pure. You’re not addicted yet.” Sometimes, even other kids can see the wisdom in postponing phone ownership until a later date.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right. and Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life. Learn more at ArlenePellicane.com.