Cell phones! Our older kids spent their teenage years during the beginning of the cell phone era. The only thing available then was a flip phone, which we call a “dumb phone.” That’s the kind Dave still uses. No internet, no social media, no games, camera, or videos on their phones. It was just a phone where one could talk or text.
If I were raising my kids today, there would be some definite rules for having cell phones and using one. Cell phones were a new thing to us and we had no idea that one day social media would be available on these things. We never sat down and discussed the ramifications of cell phone usage. Really, there was no data out there about screen time, distractions, or predators. This was a time when we were not “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” If I had to do it over, I’d more carefully consider the purpose of a cell phone and how we were going to handle its use with our kids in our family. I would have had restrictions as to where and when it could be used. As it was, it was hard to think “down the road” on this one because we didn’t consider or realize that there was even going to be a “down the road.” Our safety net was a flip phone with no social media because that was the only kind of cell phone available at that time! Today, there’s an even greater need for a safety net because of social media available on “smart” phones.
Because our kids did not have internet on their phones, the only concern was calls or texts coming in or going out. If I had to do it over, our under-age kids’ phones would have been confiscated at bedtime and not allowed to be in their bedrooms. The temptation to answer a phone call or a text from a friend was too great. Our kids didn’t ignore those calls or texts and sometimes spent time on their phones when they should have been sleeping. We didn’t have to hire a private detective. We could see who they’d been talking to (and texting) when the phone bill came. We learned a lot about friends and “neediness” by the record of those calls. IF a child felt they needed to talk to someone, they could always have come downstairs and used the phone where we knew he was and how much longer he would be up before going to bed.
If I were raising teenagers (or preteens) today, there’d be some rules.
For starters, I’d flatten some excuses: Everybody else’s kid does not have a cell phone. Even if everybody else’s kid has a cell phone, you are not everybody else’s kid.
- A child doesn’t normally need a cell phone before he/she is driving. Any other place he’s going, he will be traveling with an adult who will have a cell phone.
- If for some reason a child really needs a cell phone because of special circumstances, all he needs is a flip phone, no matter what other kid his age has a smart phone.
- A child who needs a cell phone because he has a job or is driving doesn’t need social media, so he gets a flip phone.
- The cell phone stays in the main area of the house. An under-age child who has a cell phone for use while away from home, for travel, or for work, does not need a smart phone. Nor does he need to have his phone in his room when he’s at home. (I know this because I grew up without cell phones and we learned to drag that cord to another room to talk to someone in private and managed to do it without having a phone in our rooms.) If his friends want to call him and his family does not have a land line, he can hear a phone kept in the main area of the house.
- The cell phone needs to be turned off at bedtime. It’s okay if he tells his friends that his parents are old-fashioned and mean and he just can’t have it in his room, and it’s all their fault. After all, his parents are paying for his phone.
- The cell phone needs to be in a set place in the home, and that place is not in the bedroom of the “owner” of the phone.
- A child can pay for his own “smart phone” once he is of age.
If you pay attention to research, you will know that too much time spent on electronics can delay learning. When we really pay attention to the behavior of children, we will see that too much time on social media will affect their social skills and the way they relate to others.
A pre-teen asked me a few weeks ago if I noticed that she was happier than she used to me. I told her that I did notice, and asked her if she knew why she was happier. I already knew the answer: she had “lost” her smart phone a few weeks before.
“Yes, I know the reason,” she told me. “I was on my phone 24/7 and now I play outside with my puppy.”
If we were raising our kids in this “social media crazed smart phone” era today, I know some things we would ask for starters. I also know that, if we were funding the phone, we would choose the phone and the rules for use of this phone.
- Why do we want this child to have a cell phone? Do we really have a good reason for this child to have a phone?
- What is the purpose of the type of phone we are providing?
- How will having a cell phone be an asset to this child at this time in his life?
- How might having a smart phone be a hindrance to this child at this time in his life?
- What parameters should we set so this child will be safe having this type of cell phone?
- What consequences are we prepared to make and then follow through with if this child does not follow with our parameters?
- What are the things that could cause the greatest regret in providing a cell phone for our child now?
There is a lot of research out there about the effects of cell phones and electronic devices, especially for children whose brains are still developing. You can do your own research if you’d like. I’ve included a few links in case you’re interested. [see below]
Too many times, we as parents don’t consider the long-term effects of what we permit or prohibit for our children. A look down the road ahead of us can help alleviate a lot of pain later if we but take the time to look at the road map to a designated destination before we choose a route. Doing this is part of being wise as serpents. Doing this can protect our children and prevent a lot of heartache down the road.
You can click on the links below if you’re interested.
Video: “Our smart phones are making us stupid.”
Effects of cell phones on kids. “The risk is, if unchecked, a child could pursue that digital high again and again, until it becomes an unhealthy habit that literally impacts their brain function.”
Do smart phones affect childhood psychology? “Technology and screen time had rewired their brains. It appears that increased screen time neglects the circuits in the brain that control more traditional methods for learning. These are typically used for reading, writing, and concentration.”
Child brain development and cell phones.“Multiple studies link addictive relationships with mobile devices to mental health problems in teens, including depression, anxiety, and disrupted sleep. “