My daughter is 8, loves science, reads far past her bedtime, and wants a phone. I share cool science facts with her, routinely spend more than I plan to at the bookstore, and will not buy her a phone.
Not today, not tomorrow, and definitely not next week.
I have been saying “no” to a cell phone for at least a year now. Apparently I am “so mean.” And I literally do not care. The internet is a great, wide wonderful place, and my kids do have access to it from either of our computers. But there are rules. My techie husband has a special browser set up for them and, if they want to watch a Minecraft or funny animal video on YouTube, then they have to come get one of us and we’ll let them on the regular browser to do so. But there is no video line-up, no jumping from video to video. Sorry, we are mean.
This is not to say we are not a technology and computer-loving family. We have two desktop computers, tablets, a laptop, cell phones, and game systems coming out of my ears. We spend hours, hours playing video games or watching TV and movies. She even uses my phone to text or call her grandparents and aunts or to send an onslaught of gifs to her dad. She’s allowed to use my phone to call her best friend.
But I am not buying her a cell phone.
I cannot control what she watches at her friends’ houses. And yes, one day she will have to learn how to traverse the uncertain world that is email and social media and the comments section of virtually any article that expresses even the slightest aspect of the author’s opinion. That time is not now, though. It is not just that my kids don’t need access to the world 24/7, but the world doesn’t need access to them either.
In the United States, the average kid gets their first cell phone around age 10. 50 percent of all kids have at least one social media account by the time they turn 12, and of those 11 percent got their first account when they weren’t even 10.
How many of us find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of envy and uncertainty when scrolling through Facebook or Instagram? Our life is pretty good, but we’re busy and don’t always have time to do all of those fun “extras” in life. I don’t make themed pancakes for holidays or spend time crafting with my kids. In fact, I don’t make pancakes at all because I’m terrible at it and I routinely lob the glue gun at my daughter so she can tackle her own crafting desires. It’s our life, it’s what makes us happy. And yet a perfectly framed picture on someone else’s timeline is enough to make me question whether I’m doing enough or if my kids are truly happy. If it has that impact on me, how would it hit my kids?
One day my children will have cell phones. But for now, I’m going to keep on being a mean mom.
Writer Bio: Caitlin Lane lives in Tucson with her husband and two kids. An active writer and lazy runner, she is currently studying Japanese and Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. When she isn’t busy typing on her laptop, she’s probably busy drinking too much coffee.