By DENENE MILLNER
There they were, a restaurant table-full of 11-year-olds in their glittered shirts and multi-colored sneakers and dangling neon earrings, holding their cell phones at arms length and making googly faces as the built-in cameras took goofy shots. Honest to goodness, to me, it was like a tween cell phone convention. But to my daughter, Mari, it was a deliciously brutal form of tween torture.
Mari, you see, is not allowed to have a cell phone. Oh, she’s begged, pleaded, bribed and prayed to the Good Lord Above for one, but yeah—no matter how much she claims it’s “just a gadget” and promises not to glue it to her hand and dial up friends willy-nilly, her father and I refuse to budge on this simple rule: no kids of ours shall have cell phones until age 14.
There is a method to our madness. First off, we see absolutely no good reason to add upwards of $200 in annual fees to our already out-of-control cell phone bills—particularly for a kid who makes, like, $6 a week for getting straight A’s. Second, we have a house phone. It works just fine—especially for 11-year-olds who just have to talk to their 11-year-old friends.
However, most importantly, we absolutely refuse to put a gadget that doubles as a ticking time bomb into our daughter’s hands. Sure, she can take pictures with it and call her girlfriend to talk about the start of school or even download a couple of games to play when she’s bored, but she could also unwittingly share her number with people who shouldn’t be engaging an 11-year-old, leaving her vulnerable to receiving explicit photos and having inappropriate, unlimited conversations with folks her parents don’t know, when her parents don’t know it.
I believe one of the biggest parenting responsibilities of kids this age is to slowly allow them more freedom, all-the-while controlling the risks. For example, they’re old enough to go to play dates and sleepovers sans their parents, but only at homes that have been properly vetted; they’re mature enough to go to the mall with their friends, but only with a parent close by; and, they’re savvy enough to surf the Internet but only when an adult is in the room.
What tweens are not ready for—at least not in our book—is a world in which they can talk to anybody, give their number to anyone, take pictures of anything anywhere and do all of that without our knowledge or permission. I think they simply don’t have enough common sense to detect situations that might be bad for them.
Of course, Mari’s girlfriends’ parents seem to disagree.
Still, Mari knows that even if she argues this until she’s blue in the face, we’re holding firm on our rule. After all, she’s the kid and we’re the parents and it is that way for a reason. One of these days, she’ll understand. Until then, call her at the house, thank you.This post was written exclusively for Unilever's Don't Fret the Sweat campaign. For tips, confidence-building tools and stories about how moms are helping their tweens navigate those sweat-inducing "moments," check out www.DontFrettheSweat.com.