Why Trusting Parents May Not Buy Their Kid a Mobile Phone

Apr 13

A cell phone can hamper a child's leap toward adulthood

My soon-to-be 12-year-old son periodically pleads for a cell phone when he grows weary of watching his classmates constantly text on their cell phones as he twiddles his underused thumbs.

“Everyone has a cell phone EXCEPT me!” he exclaims with desperation.

“No,” I respond, my cold mono-syllabic reply cutting deep into his soul (I know this because of the ensuing tears and accusations of how cruel a mother I am).

While I prefer to leave the conversation right then and there, my son will ensue with the false hope that I will recognize the breadth of his suffering. But, here’s the thing. Buying my son a cell phone isn’t like buying an iPod, that, by the way, was also essential to his very survival as a tween (and once purchased, quelled the pleading for, um, a few weeks).  The cell phone is an ongoing gift that keeps on taking (from my wallet). But even more than the financial drain, the cell phone has the potential to undermine his journey toward independence.

If I were to purchase my son a cell phone, it would enable me to send him texts.

All. Day. Long.

u forgot ur math book :(

Don’t take bus I pickup :)

Bringing pizza 4 lunch :D

Having a good day? :)

Going to buy u underwear 2day :D

What pants u want me to wash? :)

Going on run. txt u when im back :(

I’ve spent the past 11 years fostering my son’s independence. Slowly disconnecting the figurative umbilical cord (of which he’s been more than happy to oblige). Yet a cell phone seems as though it would, to some extent, re-build that connection with a digital umbilical cord that is no less potent than the figurative one.

When I think back to my own childhood, my memories are a treasure chest of parent-free experiences where I strengthened my bonds with those outside my family, made decisions that – good or bad – I learned to live with, and in essence, prepared myself for the bigger decisions I’d one day be making. By the time I was 12 years old, I’d think nothing of heading straight to my friend, Erica’s, house after school without calling home to check in. I knew dinner time was at 5pm. So, that’s when I’d scoot back home. On weekends, I’d hop on my bike and take off to the park with Erica and Joanne, then hit another friend’s place for lunch, ride to the convenience store for some packs of Rainblo, find another friend’s house to make crank calls. Go home for dinner. All with nary a thought about my mom or dad. They didn’t worry about where I was. I didn’t worry about telling them. Pure golden independence.

I understand that many parents (including myself) worry about the safety of their kids, and hence, see the almighty cell phone as an assurance of safety. They may say, “I always know where he is. We text all day long so that if he’s at the park, I know. If he goes to friend’s house, I know. I never have to worry.”

Funnily enough, my mom never had to worry either. Because she trusted me. “It’s not a matter of trust,” many parents will argue. I get it. Yes, there’s a possibility that a child may be kidnapped – every parent’s biggest fear. But the chances of that actually happening are slim. We all know that. So, maybe it is trust?

As I observe my sons grow increasingly independent, I feel great pride in their ability to make smart decisions. They know how to keep out of trouble. They are respectful of adults and one another. And, I especially love that they are learning through their own mistakes. For a child entering in his tweens, I think there is no greater reward than having freedom from, well, Mom. For the millions of kids who are equipped with smart phones, that’s impossible as good ol’ ma beeps them every fifteen minutes:

Where r u? Having fun?:D

Making ur fave dinner :) Come home soon.

And, what should happen to a child who ignores Mom’s beep? Probably a lecture when he returns home to NEVER ignore mom’s messages.

When my son begs for a cell phone, I don’t think he understands the full ramifications of what he is asking. He is a naturally free spirited boy who’s been working diligently toward full independence since he was about two years old. As much as I love his company and could very easily fall into the trap of wanting to ensure he is 100% safe 100% of the time, I recognize that a cell phone will encourage me to grow increasingly attached to his every decision, every worry, every moment. Conversely, my son will likely grow increasingly reliant on my approval and permission when he really should be moving in the opposite direction.

Twelve years is, truly, a transformational age for kids. When their youthful creativity and sense of independence swirl together to create magical experiences that straddle the world of childhood and adulthood. Experiences that will help them become the amazing adults they are meant to become.

Mom’s constant presence, whether digital or real, will hamper that from happening.


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One comment

  1. I am sure there are other similarly “raised” parents in the world. Why do we all give in to the marketing pressure,and the paranoia that the media has created? I am going to try and stand strong – my thirteen, almost fourteen year old daughter still does not own a cell phone and until she can afford the monthly payment she will not be getting one.

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