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Listen To Your Gut: Don’t Get Your Kid a Phone

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

Your insides are right. Your 10-year-old won’t die without a device glued to their palm

Little boy lying in bed looking at phone under the covers
Photo by Kampus Production:

The time is ripe. Parents everywhere are losing their minds over cell phones.

Susie has one, why can’t I? whines your eight-year-old.

Johnny’s parents can see where he is all the time. If I get a phone you can do that too! negotiates your 12-year-old.

Gimme da pone! I WANT DA PONE! The toddler in the grocery store tantrums at her embarrassed mom.

Most parents don’t want to succumb to getting a cell phone for their younger kids, so why do they? Pressure all around.

Our rule around cell phone ownership was two-fold with our three kids. They had to 1) be sixteen and 2) they had to be able to pay for it themselves. That’s it. Simple.

We set that out as a clear and finite boundary for them. Our kids didn‘t go to high school until grade 11 so it was a little easier for us to say sixteen since they weren’t away at school until then. Had they gone in grade 9 we may have changed the age to fourteen.

Do we sound like militant parents? We’re actually super chill. That was likely the most precise law we ever laid down.

There wasn’t a particular age when our kids were all of a sudden allowed to go to the movies or the mall with their friends. We didn’t tell them they had to be a certain age to start dating or a set curfew.

We discussed things as they happened.

Who’s going? How will you get there and back? What time will you be home? You have that thing in the morning, don’t you think 1:00 is too late to come home? How about 11:30?

If I could trust them to go to the mall with their friends and then to be in front of the Starbucks at 5 pm like we’d agreed to, then no problem, have a blast hunny-bun! It didn’t matter if they were 12 or 13, it mattered if they could be trusted.

Same idea with dating. And with curfews.

One of the reasons we never put an age on anything was because while one of our kids may have been mature enough to go to a movie with a crush at 15, the other one…no waaaayyyyssss!

Lots of discussions and ‘where are you at’ conversations happened with each kid for each of those milestones.

Back to cell phones…

I honestly think there are way more parents who feel the same about those f-ing devices. They want to hold off on buying a phone for their kid but the pressure is real. We need to start a movement or something — #dontbuyyourkidaphone.

We could flock together. Share success stories. Encourage each other how to not lose our minds through slammed doors, tantrums, and hissy fits.

A couple of weeks ago when my husband was at the airport about to go on a business trip he looked around in alarm when he heard a 6 or 7-year-old wailing. It echoed throughout the airport corridor. He soon realized it was whining, in wail form.

It went on and on. And, you guessed it, as the device was laid in the tot’s sticky palm, all was peaceful again…as peaceful as a boarding gate in Toronto can be.

We get it. For the nerves of all the passengers around them, those parents just wanted to hush the kid up. Thank you, parents, we’ve all been there.

But imagine if #dontbuyyourkidaphone members who happened to be in the airport that day stepped forward. They surround those parents as their matching capes fall out and drape over their coats. Gripping Mom and Dad’s shoulders, they cheer them on.

Don’t give in! Let him cry! We’ve done it too, it’s hard but he’ll thank you later!

Strength in numbers…

A friend gave her eleven-year-old daughter a cell phone after a moving to a new city. Away from all friends and family, school was rough, and ‘all the other kids have one’. Maybe this was a good way for her daughter to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Guilty mom syndrome in all its glory. Completely understandable.

Her daughter’s mood began to change, she became sullen and distant. The mom discovered that her daughter was on that phone into the wee hours of the night playing games with strangers, watching videos, and who knows what else. It’s been about a year.

She’s a good girl and her mom is a wonderful, loving, invested mother who wants to take the phone away but doesn’t know how. All the other kids have phones, her older brother has a phone. Her daughter will lose her marbles and all sanity will be lost at home if Mom goes through with it.

For a while.

Yelling, tears, and withdrawal are bound to happen. But by taking the phone away, she’ll get her daughter back. Not overnight. Not even over many nights. But there will come a day that sweet little girl will thank her mom, I’m one hundred percent sure of that.

Parents, say no to your kids in regards to cell phones. It’s so ok for them to be bored. Boredom is when creativity kicks in. Oh, the woes you’ll hear as they lie on their bedroom floor with ‘nothing to do’.

Being bored can be good for kids by helping them develop planning strategies, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and creativity. It also helps kids build tolerance for not-so-fun experiences, preparing them for life. Child Mind Institute

They won’t be bored forever.

Whether we want to deal with it or not, strong parenting is what it’s gonna take when it comes to the rules in our homes about cell phones. No phones during dinner or while driving or while visiting Nana. All phones must be on the kitchen counter by 8 pm.

Whatever works for your family. Write it down, put it somewhere in plain sight so no one can forget, and then stick to it!

Find other parents going through the same thing and prop each other up as the complaining begins. They are lots of us out there…let’s don our capes, parents of desperate cell phone users!

The idea is to grow our little humans into community-minded, healthy, contributing adults. Less phone use will lead to better conversation, greater interest in their surroundings, more self-awareness, and so much more.

Parenting stretches us, sometimes beyond what seems fathomable. But keep picturing your kids as happy, fulfilled adults — the end goal.

A few days, weeks, or months of I-want-a-phone tantrums may seem incomprehensible from where you’re standing right now. But we’re leaning in behind you, all of us I-hate-cell-phones parents, supporting you all the way.

Stay strong and #dontbuyyourkidaphone!!

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YES!!!!! Its ok for kids to cry when they dont get their way! Especially when you know in your heart it is best for them. Thanks for great article to empower parents! They need our support and prayers!

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You know it mama. Thanks Em! xoxo

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