I’ve been told by Chloe that right now I’m the meanest mother in the whole world. Despite denying her perpetual pleas, I’m sure that she was convinced that I would give in and buy her the cell phone that was on the top of her Channukah wish list. But I didn’t. Since that time, in an effort to convince me that a cell phone is one of the mandatory electronic devices for any tween, she has provided me with a list of all of her eleven year old friends who already have cell phones (and there are many), as well as “The top reasons I need a phone.”
Below are Chloe’s top reasons for needing a phone and my response to each of these.
“If I want to play with someone after school I don’t have to wait to ask you.”
My response: Whatever happened to delayed gratification? To waiting for mom to pick you up after school to request a play date? I know you’re used to ‘googling’ questions and getting answers within seconds, but not every question receives an immediate response and sometimes waiting for something makes it even more meaningful.
“I can walk home feeling safe.”
My response: Since you’re not yet walking home on your own, why do you need a cell phone as protection? And even when you are walking home alone or with a friend, please remember that a cell phone is not going to keep you safe. Cell phones cannot replace knowing what to do when you are approached by a stranger or in any potentially dangerous situation. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds for a stranger to grab a cell phone out of your hand and if you’re counting on a cell phone to keep you safe, then you may have a false sense of security and not be working on developing important safety proofing skills.
“Sometimes I don’t feel included when my friends are on their phones. I need one too.”
My response: I know that you may feel excluded when you see one friend texting or calling another to arrange a play date or just to chat, but that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to have a cell phone yourself. There are so many other ways to feel included. Perhaps you can tell your friends how it feels when they spend time on their cell phones when you are together and ask that they focus their attention on you and your activity instead.
“It can be very fun and I’ll be happy.”
My response: I understand how cell phones can seem like fun, but they are not toys. They need to be handled responsibly and spending too much time on a cell phone can even be dangerous to your health. Of course I want you to be happy but it would make me sad to think that a cell phone is what it would take to make you happy.
“If I’m really bored I can talk to my friends.”
My response: “Talk” is an interesting choice of word since texting is not really talking. My fear is that you may “lose your voice” (or ability to converse comfortably or spontaneously) if you only talk through text. If you’re really bored, let’s think about the many things that you can do to occupy yourself, in addition to talking to your friends.
“I can stay in touch with family – especially my mom!”
My response: Do I detect an ounce of manipulation! Of course I want you to stay in touch, but at eleven years of age, when are you ever so far out of reach!
Cell phone companies are increasingly targeting their marketing towards children as young as ten and eleven years old and parents are increasingly being pressured to give in.
No doubt Chloe will have a cell phone at a younger age than her older sister was given hers, but it won’t be because her friends have one, because she needs it to feel safe, because she’s bored or needs it to be happy. She will get one when the time is right and when she does, I will no longer be the meanest mother in the whole world. I will be lavished with hugs and kisses and told that I am the best – for that day, anyway!