This morning I received an email from the middle school principal where Number 3 and 4 go to school.
In the email, the principal was asking for parents’ help in a number of areas. One was with fidget spinners. They’ve become quite a distraction at school.
I’ll admit I contributed to this problem. Number 3 and 4 both have (fucking) fidget spinners. I sincerely regret getting them for the kids, especially since they don’t use them for the purpose they were originally intended. They don’t need them. At all.
And if I hate them, I can only imagine how teachers are feeling right now.
So the fidget spinners have been relegated to home. And we have already completely lost one. Thank God.
The next thing the principal was looking for help with was cell phones:
Our goal is to minimize distractions during the day. To do this, we ask students not to be actively on or looking at cell phones during the day unless they are in the cafeteria or a classroom where teachers allow it. We also ask that you refrain from texting your child during the school day.
These have also become a distraction at school.
Okay. I’m just gonna come right out and say two things.
First, middle schoolers should not be allowed to have cell phones in school. There is absolutely no reason for them. None.
They still have those “old fashioned” phones there. You know, the ones with cords attached to them? I can attest that they work. My kids use them to communicate successfully with me all the time.
Second, your middle schooler doesn’t need a phone not just in school.
Your middle schooler doesn’t need a phone at all. Period.
I said it.
Your ten/eleven/twelve/thirteen/ and YES, EVEN fourteen-year-old kid doesn’t need a cell phone.
But I’m divorced and my ex is an asshole and I need to be able to get in touch with my kid.
Perhaps in some cases, this is true. There may be some situations where you must be able to get in touch with your child on a cell phone because your ex prevents any and all communication otherwise.
If that’s the case, then sure. Get your kid a cell phone.
But not a smart phone.
YOUR CHILD DOES NOT NEED A SMARTPHONE.
In fact, nobody NEEDS a smartphone.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stay on top of my kids as it is. Once I put a smartphone in their hands, I’ve got a multitude of new responsibilities.
I’ve now got all sorts of shit I need to monitor in addition to the non-smartphoney stuff.
There’s You Tube. Google. Those are bad enough.
Then there are a billion apps.
There are the ones I know about. Like, say, Snapchat.
Your kids are supposed to be 13 to open up a Snapchat account. But your kids aren’t stupid. They can lie, make up an age, and open an account very easily. They know this.
I know because my kids have done it. On an iPod.
But then there are the apps I’ve never even heard of.
Did you know there’s an app called Private Photos (also called Calculator%)? I just learned about this one today. Here’s the description:
Private Photo (Calculator%) app is private photos and videos hidden behind calculator. Anyone who starts this application looks at a calculator but if you put in passcode it will open up private area. All files are securely stored in the App and remain completely private and confidential.
That’s fucking scary.
I also learned about a new challenge circulating around social media now called the Blue Whale Challenge. This challenge is basically a list of fifty dares encouraging kids to do participate in risky behaviors (like sitting on the edge of a roof) with the final item on the list asking participants to kill themselves.
This is a real thing.
A real fucking scary thing.
If you are putting a smartphone in the hands of your children, then you are opening up Pandora’s Box. And if you aren’t prepared to deal with the shit that’s gonna come flying out of that box, then don’t put your kids in a position to be exposed to it. Because once your kid finds out about it, she’s gonna tell my kid about it.
And I don’t want my kid finding out about stuff he or she has no business knowing about because you don’t want to say no to your kids.
I know it sucks to say no. I know kids are relentless.
Trust me, I know it’s no fun to hear But I’m the ONLY ONE in the WHOLE SCHOOL who doesn’t have a cell phone/Instagram-Facebook-Twitter-Musicly account.
I guarantee you are not the only one whose middle schoolers don’t have cell phones.
I guarantee that because my kids don’t have them. And they won’t have them until they are mature enough and responsible enough to own them.
When will they be mature enough and responsible enough to own them?
When they can pay for them.
If my kids are not responsible enough to earn the money to buy their own phone and pay the monthly bill, then they are not responsible enough to deal with the contents of Pandora’s Box.
We so easily confuse wants and needs with our children.
Your child may want a cell phone.
But your child does not need access to Google twenty-four hours a day.
Your child does not need to be able to text her friends constantly.
Your child does not need Snapchat or Musicly or Instagram.
In fact, your child does not need any apps at all.
What does your child need?
Your child needs human interaction.
Your child needs to learn how to hold a conversation.
Your child needs to learn how to make eye contact.
Your child needs to learn how to communicate with their friends and people in general the old fashioned way.
Coming from a 19 year old who has had a phone since my 13th birthday and a smart phone since my 16th birthday, I don’t think making money at a job is the way to declare if a child is mature enough to own a cellphone. I respect and understand that you are not going to pay for your children to have phones (because eventually you’d be paying for seven bills and you already are not in the best financial situation). That is a good choice. But, if people are able to afford to buy and pay for a cell phone for a child they know is responsible and able to handle themselves, why is it a big deal? If you trust your kid, and can afford to buy one, I don’t see a problem with letting a middle schooler have a phone, although I agree having a sixth grader with an iPhone is a little young, there are little flip phones that work. I never did anything I wasn’t supposed to do on a phone, always asked permission, and never had any weird apps. I have a very open relationship with my parents and they knew I wouldn’t abuse it. I did text friends on it and you know what, that was fun! Kids don’t need to be on it all the time and shouldn’t be on it at school, but to text your friends on the weekend isn’t really that big of a deal. I’m sure you called your friends when you were your kids age, now texting is the way we communicate. Just food for thought, I do understand what your concerns are, and am not saying you should buy your kids phones, I’m just saying maybe you shouldn’t make a such a blanket statement.
This is very reasonable
Doesn’t it seem a little hypocritical of us parents to say all this and then constantly be texting or on facebook? I agree with what your saying, but then I think to myself, I enjoy texting a buddy sometimes, it makes me laugh. I like seeing what my friends are up to on Facebook. Why shouldn’t my 13 year old (who has always shown me reasons to trust her) be able to do the same (with my monitoring of course)? I agree there’s no reason to at school and it is a distraction, but also then why do we bring ours to work? Not to say that we are the same as our children, it just makes me think. How much do I accept times have changed and the world is more technological than it was in my day, and how much to I try to stop it.
Feeling Snarky says
James, reread the last 5 lines. Then put some rules on yourself and your house. It’s called #adulting, being a good role model, and a good parent. 🙂 Your buddy can wait till your kid is grown up and out of the house.
You know why I enjoy texting friends and keeping track of friends on Facebook (and don’t feel guilty about it)? Because my kids demand my attention every waking moment of their day. They actually have the ability to interact with their friends. Parents don’t. Because we’re completely consumed with raising them!
Mary Rose says
I see all that parents have to be concerned with today. How to hire babysitters who will not harm their children is only one. The bottom line for me is that I would like children to have communication devices on them at all times for their own safety. I also realize that children have to be trained to use their devices for only that, and they will surely ignore those directions at times. But to have a way for them to communicate wherever they are supersedes any interruptions the cellphones provide. I think of my childhood growing up in the fifties and there were times, even then, when I needed to contact my parents or other trusted authority immediately. It’s even worse today and I don’t believe parents can be too concerned about the safety of their precious children.
Christine S says
I used to think the same way until my youngest started middle school two years ago. And guess what our school “rents” to each student (and it’s not optional)? A Chromebook. Because as the “next technological generation they have to be familiar with and able to succeed in a world that is almost entirely online”. Yes, it runs through the school’s network so it’s locked down pretty tight, but do you know how hard it is to monitor what your kid can see on YouTube when YouTube is one of his “textbooks”? Everything they do is done online with the exception of math. All classes are run through Google Classroom, and Google apps. So yes you can be forced to have your kid subjected to all the scary shit on the internet and have no say in it at all. And we live in a small town, so ay least that actually helps.
One of the biggest parenting challenges today is judgment from others. How about we respect the choices others make for their children? If you don’t want your child to have a phone, don’t get them one. Children use computers during and after school. They can access anything you mentioned with a computer/tablet, just as you indicated with an iPod. TVs now easily link to YouTube. You’re correct they don’t need them; actually, there are few things that children need. Are we really going to pretend that most of what fills homes is needed rather than wanted? Use of a cell phone is no excuse to lesson human contact which, again, is up to the parent. We cannot presume that a child without a phone will develop essential social skills.
Mom of a type 1 diabetic says
While I agree with most of what you are saying, please don’t judge. My middle schooler has had a smart phone for a couple years now. She has type 1 diabetes, and by keeping the phone near her, I am able to remotely monitor her blood glucose levels, which are transmitted from a continuous glucose monitor to her phone. I can then text her teacher or school nurse (or her, but she refuses to look at her phone during school, despite being told by the school that she can) if I see a potential problem, and then someone can intervene before it becomes a problem. It has kept her safer, healthier, and given her more independence.
Fantastic article. Agree completely with every point.
The lure of smartphones is very great for adults and children alike. If a parent decides to give a child a cell phone, they just need to know that they are allowing many people with very poor judgement (no matter how trustworthy the child is) to influence their
child. If a parent does allow their younger children to have phones, they need to train them very carefully what to do in the many dangerous situations that may arise. And that training needs to be continuous. Don’t assume that once you’ve broached the subject – you’re done. You’re not. Stay in communication and check in on a regular basis.
What about kids that walk home from school? Go home to an empty house that doesn’t have a landline. That also has after school sports or clubs. These are all things you are greatly forgetting about and that start during Middle School. Let’s face it, in most families both parents work and middle school age children are old enough to walk to and from school and stay at home after school alone. They have more going on then I did when I was in Middle School. There is also more dangerous situations than when I was a in middle school. I have received emails about people in cars stopping and talking to kids walking home from school. Just another reason why if you have a walker it would be a good idea for them to have a phone. Not only have the phone but a phone that you can in fact track. Then there is all the school shootings. Thank god some kids had cell phones. They have been able to use them in those situations not only to tell their parents what is going on but to also communicate with the police what is going on inside.
Now when my oldest came to me in second grade talking about friends having cell phones I was very big on her not having one. She didn’t need it. Her friends could call my phone if they wanted and she came home to me being at home. But when she started middle school and having to walk to school and back, playing sports, being involved it other school clubs it became more important that she did have a phone.
Also there is a great thing you can do with smart phones and that is put it as a child account. That means they can not download any app without the parent giving consent. Meaning any app she wants it will send me a notification and I must approve it in order for it to download. Just because they have a smartphone does not mean that they can download any app they want to. In fact my child know she is not allowed to have any social media account. First because adult can’t even be nice to one another and second she isn’t old enough to even have the account in the first place to make the account and I know I won’t be lying for her saying she is old enough. I also have to know her password and be able to check her phone whenever I want to. It is a conversation that we have constantly.
Jasmine Naidu says
I keep going back to one thing, how did we survive middle school, high school AND college without cell phones? I walked to and from school, came to an empty home (yes we had a landline but that option is still available to parents if they like, we have Google voice at home which works fantastically). I feel the society is putting ALL the pressure on parents these days (make sure your kids are responsible, mature, monitor them at all times, know every second where exactly they are…so of course you need to give them phones) in order to justify children having cell phones. Parents have always had the most difficult jobs, especially working parents, and now we want to make it even more difficult, why? So that the kids can always be within their reach (and their friends)? Whatever happened to saying “No, just because ALL your friend have it and are doing things does not mean you will do it, too”. Stay strong parents, if you don’t think your child should have a phone then that is the BEST thing for them. My personal opinion is that parents are doing it for their own convenience AND to not have to deal with their constant nagging. They just don’t have the time and patience…PERIOD!