Recently, my ten year-old has been asking me when he can get a smartphone. It kind of threw for a loop since I didn’t get a basic cell phone until I was sixteen and driving. There was a reason for it–safety. Even still, I see a lot of my son’s classmates with a smartphone in hand. I know each family has different reasons for allowing, delaying, or forbidding the use of smartphones, but I tend to fall in the “delaying” category. Here’s why:
1. My kids already get enough “screen time”.
I’ve read numerous articles from a variety of sources on this subject, and all of them state that kids are getting more screen time than ever these days due to the various types of devices that are at their fingertips. It’s not uncommon for a child to be sitting in a room with the television on and an iPad in hand, while talking on a smart phone with the other hand. Sometimes our kids ping-pong devices…watching a TV show, to playing video games, to playing an app on the smartphone or iPad, and back to the TV…for hours at a time. According to most recent studies, this is very much the norm. Many classrooms are even starting to incorporate iPads into the daily curriculum.
Dear Reader, I’m NOT sharing all this information with you because I think that smart phones or other devices with screens are inherently BAD; I just think that we, as parents, must be keenly aware of how much screen time is too much for our children. And, we will know this by how it affects their emotions and behavior.
2. Too much screen time has dire consequences.
Many of the articles I’ve read on this subject state that too much screen time often leads to children having anxiety, depression, disrespectful behavior, lack of exercise, and social isolation. Again, I think that we, as their parents, have to determine how much is too much for our child. Personally, I think it’s better to err on the side of caution. Less screen time is a good thing.
I’ve seen these negative effects with my own boys. We only allow our kids to play video games (on any device) on the weekends as long as they have completed their chores and done well in school that week. The minute we pick them up from school on Friday, all they want to do is get on a device as fast as they can. After gaming for an hour, my two older boys start to argue over who gets to play certain devices or games. It certainly brings out their nasty side, and they often say things to one another that are hurtful. Eventually, I end up taking away their gaming privileges because of it…which causes angst between the kids and me. And, you can feel the disappointment on all around.
For more on dealing with situations like this one, check out “How NOT to Yell at Your Kids,” by clicking here.
So, when my kids ask me about getting them their own smartphones, I definitely have my reservations. Sure, my husband and I will still be the gatekeepers of their phones, but I’m afraid that the desire to play more would be more pronounced. And, then there’s the pressure of social media.
3. Social media is too much for children.
I love social media and how we can use it to connect with long distance friends and family. I also love how we can use it to encourage one another and even learn something new. But, when it comes to kids, I think social media is just something else for them to worry about.
A few months ago, I shared a video of my son playing his instrument on Facebook, and I had lots of friends and family commenting on how great he sounded. I made the mistake of telling Cooper how many people “liked” his video and commented on his performance. For the next few hours, he kept asking me how many more people had liked his video and what else they said. Regardless of the positive response, no amount of likes were enough. He was disappointed. He even started to doubt his musical ability because a hundred people hadn’t liked it yet.
This behavior confirmed my stance on waiting as long as I can to allow Cooper to have his own smartphone or social media accounts. It’s too much pressure! I struggle with this as an adult, so I can’t even imagine the affect it must have on children. Kids MUST learn how to deal with bullies and negativity at school and extra-curricular activities–it’s an essential part of growing up. However, they don’t need the extra pressure to perform or “be cool” on social media. Whether positive or negative, I don’t want my kids to define themselves by what someone says about them on social media.
4. Smartphones interfere with a child’s education and emotional well-being.
As a teen, I remember talking on the landline phone for hours with my friends. Eventually, my parents would tell me that I needed to get off the phone and spend time with my family. And, I did so…sometimes begrudgingly. Now that we are in the age of the smartphone, kids have their phones with them at ALL times–even at school. Many times, they are texting with friends throughout the school day and browsing inappropriate websites.
When I taught eighth-grade, I saw this every day. Our school tried to limit cell phones and smartphones, but parents insisted that students have them in hand in case of emergencies. I’ve heard of some schools asking kids to place them in a basket at the front of the room, but this received some backlash because some kids and parents were worried that phones would be lost or stolen.
Smartphones in school are a HUGE problem not only for the teachers but for the kids and their emotional well-being. I’ve seen girls fall to pieces over a text they receive during the school day and fights breaking out because of it. I remember one incident when a young girl succumbed to the pressure of her crush asking her to send a sexy pic of herself to him, and then he sent it out to all of his friends throughout the school for everyone to see. That poor girl didn’t want to come to school anymore due to the shame she felt over one private picture.
This is a prime example of how most kids don’t know how to properly use a smart phone and that what they send, post, and write is online forever…for everyone to see.
Reader, this is why I believe a smartphone is the LAST THING my kids need in their lives right now. I want my kids to know how to talk face-to-face with someone. I want them to be excited by the endless adventures they can have outside. I also want them to know how to use technology to their advantage…not to their detriment. I don’t want them to feel like they have to be connected to a device at all times. Real life is so much more important and interesting.
One day, when my husband and I think they are more mature and ready, our kids will get some kind of phone…probably a basic cell phone at first. But, I’m going to delay that time for as long as I can and join my kids in embracing the innocence and wonders of childhood.
Thanks so much for reading, responding, and sharing. Be blessed!
Also, check out my husband’s NEW book, “The Seven Laws of Love,” by clicking here, for some amazing tips on how to really LOVE your family the way that God loves us.