Three Reasons Not to Buy Your Kid a Brightly Colored iPhone (Sorry, Kids)

Along with the new iPhone 5s,  Apple released another iPhone, the 5c that will feature plastic backings, which makes them a lot more affordable and accessible to a broader audience. As cool as that is for some of us, a lot of parents who’ve been playing the “we can’t afford it” card with their kids in order to keep them at bay, will be out one more excuse to put off buying their youngsters a smart-phone.

So what are parents supposed to do? Do you get the kid an iPhone? You’re kind of apprehensive because it’s been such an adult thing, but, I mean, all of their friends have them. They feel excluded. Also, the colors are pretty. It’s kind of the way the world works now, and you know, you had a Gameboy when you were a kid and you turned out fine. Plus, they’ve got to have a phone so you can get a hold of them. I mean, why not? What’s really standing in your way?

Three Reasons To Wait

Before you give in to your child’s pleas, the zeitgeist, and Apple’s competitive pricing, let me just give you three reasons to slow down on that purchase:

1. Delayed GratificationYour kid needs to learn how to wait. You need to be okay saying “no” to things like this. It’s not an arbitrary thing, but it’s alright for your child to realize that some things are good, but they’re good later. That’s true of parenting in general, but particularly the case with tech like smartphones. Smartphones like iPhones are like instant gratification training tools. The fact that Google will tell them whatever they want in an instant on these things has an effect on the way they perceive reality. It trains them to believe that life should be instantly responsive to their whims and demands. This is not good for a 9-year-old’s soul.

2. Social PressureYour kid lives with immense social pressure in almost every area of their life. When they’re at school, or sports, or church, or whatever, there are a million eyes watching them, demanding that they conform to whatever expectations their peers have to compete, be popular, etc. Giving your kid an iPhone just gives them one more way to compete and one more reason they can never relax. In the past, the home was a haven from these pressures, but when you have a Facebook or Instagram app with you every waking moment until you go to bed, you’re under scrutiny 24/7. Do your kid a favor and give them a break, even if they don’t realize they need it.

3. PornYou do realize that they can find porn on these things, right? Like, with the search apps, or just on accident? You know that porn distributors make content just for phones now too? So, if your 8-year-old has an iPhone, or your hormonal 15-year-old has one, they can find naked people doing “stuff” and they can watch it in miniature on their handy-dandy smart-phone. And it’s very hard to stop them, or know how to track that. There is software for tracking that, but most parents either don’t know or just aren’t thinking about it. Let’s be honest, most parents barely know how to cope with the fact 90+% of their kids have seen porn on their computers before the age of 14. They would be blown away by the fact that I’ve had students ditch their smart phones because they couldn’t stop looking at porn on them. All I’m saying is that this is just one more way for your kids to run across or access pornography, and in this case, do it with less chance of you knowing and being able to step in to gently correct and counsel them.

Are You An Expert? 

One final question: ”Are you an expert?” That’s what my friend Katie asks parents whenever they talk to her about technology for their students. Or, to paraphrase, “Do you know what Snapchat is, and the 351 terrible uses it could be put to?” In essence, unless you’re an expert in knowing how a piece of technology works, your child will figure it out faster than you and leave you in the dust. While that’s fine, and even healthy later on, when your children are young, and under your care, it’s just not an option for there to be a limitless online world at their fingertips that you are unprepared to guide them in.  You are charged by Jesus to bring them up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, ESV). In a digital world like ours, part of that means training them in the responsible use of technology.

To sum up then. Should you get your kid an iPhone? It can probably wait. And when you do, make sure you know what you’re handing your kid. You wouldn’t hand them the keys to a car if you hadn’t made sure they know how to drive safely—treat technology the same way.

photo credit: gilipollastv via photopin cc

About Derek Rishmawy

Derek Rishmawy is the Director of College and Young Adult ministries at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Orange County, CA, serving college kids for the gospel. He’s been graciously adopted by the Triune God. That God has also seen fit to bless him with lovely wife named McKenna. He got his B.A. in Philosophy at UCI and his M.A. in Theological Studies (Biblical Studies) at APU. His passions are theology, the church, some philosophy, cultural criticism, and theology. He has been published at the Gospel Coalition, Mere Orthodoxy, and Out of Ur blog. He writes regularly at his Reformedish blog. You can connect on Facebook and can also follow him on Twitter at @DZRishmawy.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Excellent article Derek. I appreciate every point you made here. Well said. One misprint: “When their at school…” should of course be “When they’re at school.”

  • Stuart Blessman

    Sure I had a Game Boy when I was a kid…and I bought it with my own money. I saved up, used Christmas and birthday money, and it was a huge deal. In fact, every console or handheld I’ve own, I’ve bought. The parents rule was simple: we’ll buy you a game, but that’s it.

    It’s that monthly contract that’s the issue. How many kids are willing to give up over $100 of their own allowance/paper route money toward a phone service plan? I remember my own meager money growing up went towards comic books, maybe a new GameBoy game ever four months or so, and towards two missions trips to Mexico I took.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Another excellent point.

  • http://outin2thedeep.wordpress.com/ Wesley

    Good word bro, even to a dad like me who is probably better at saying “no” than i should be. The “why” behind the “no” is important to discern for all parents in order to continue to foster trust in our relationships with our kiddos when appropriate. The “no … b/c i said so!” may work for a bit but kids catch on pretty quick that, many times, you just haven’t thought it through.

  • Ed Green

    Our kids are 20 and 18. Neither of them had a phone before they began driving. It was tough, because, as you said, “all of their friends have them!” For awhile I thought that was an exaggeration until I realized, that yes, all of their friends did already have them. Most had smart phones. Our kids’ first phones were “dumb” phones and we turned off the data access. Yes, sometimes it was inconvenient because they weren’t always “in touch.” They turned out just fine and they survived without one throughout high school. Our daughter just got herself an iPhone this summer before she headed off to college. Our son, who is older, has still to get one. And when he can afford his own data plan…he will.

  • kane1970

    I like the idea of my kid having a cell phone simply for safety purposes (i.e, friend’s mom is late picking them up from somewhere, someone scary is following them, etc. etc.) That being said, all of that can be accomplished without a Smartphone (and it’s monstrous bill). I’ll be happy to buy her a phone made specifically for KIDS (i.e., restricted e-mail, no or severely restricted Internet, etc.) If she’s not cool with one of those, then she can go without. Case closed.


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