Monday, August 9, 2010

Tweens and Cell Phones—A Lethal Combination

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.
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  1. We have a similar rule in our house, but the age is 13 years old. I don't think we should rush to make kids like adults. It is okay for them to enjoy their childhoods. My 13 year old just got a facebook account, and that was because we moved away from her friends. We also have nail polish and ear piercing rules too. They have too many things encouraging them to toss aside their innocence. I refuse to participate in this activity.

  2. I so agree with you. My daughter just turned 15 a week ago and has had a phone for a little over a year. She can't receive or send picture email and she can't get online. I explained that the cell phone was for my piece of mind (after school programs. When she walks in the door her phone is turned into me or my husband. She makes phone calls on the home phone. At this age, everyone that has contact with her should come thru and be screened by us, the parents.

    Thanks for a great post...glad to know I'm not alone.

    Kim S> Godfrey

  3. Hi, I'm a 16 year old girl and I was wondering if you would consider me being in your blog? I am about to do a step by step post on how to get your hair curly with oil, braiding and without heat. I start by undoing the twists in my hair, then washing and conditioning, braiding hair when wet and when dry with gel. I'd like to link your blog to mine. Here's my email: I would really love to be a part of your blog. Thank you!

  4. My 12-year-old keeps needling me about a cell phone. All of her friends have one, and if you ask her, depriving her of said phone is tantamount to water-boarding. I was about to relent when I heard you would monitor text messages via your computer, but backed away once I learned your child could simply delete suspect messages. Children simply don't have the brain capacity yet to fully process the consequences of their actions, and frankly, I have no desire to see some pimply boy's man parts on my daughter's phone! :)

  5. You are spot on Denene. As parents, we can take nothing for granted, and if we do, we do so at our own peril (and the potential harm to our children). I'm a few years away from even considering our eldest having a phone, and best believe it will be one of those I-can-see-you-wherever-you-are types of phones.

  6. WOW, I was thinking closer to the age of 15.


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