I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been up to my eyes in it at uni but an issue came up this week at home, though, and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it.
At what age should I allow my daughter to have a mobile phone? Despite her being nearly 11, I hadn’t given this much thought, simply because she hadn’t asked. I was vaguely aware that a few of her friends had them but in the way of a person who is not affected directly by something, dismissed it with a throw-away “well, they’re too young in my opinion”. And the subject was closed.
Last week though, I asked my daughter what she wanted for her birthday and she said straight off, without a moments hesitation “a phone”. My face dropped. We’ve previously told her that she could have one as a starting secondary school present and I assummed that had placated her – obviously not!
So, the thing is this. Do we (not just I, because my husband is with me on this one) give in, make her happy, out-do her expectations and just live with the misery of a zoned out kid? Or live with the misery of a truly pissed-off kid, happy in the knowledge that we haven’t capitulated on our beliefs?
My argument against phones at a young age are as follows:
- Group chat! At best, wasting precious hours of childhood conversing in banal conversation with kids you have seen all day. At worst, becoming the victim of peer bullying and intimidation through your presence/not presence in the group.
- Game Playing. Again, wasting the last hours of childhood staring at a screen rather than playing out, playing with friends or siblings, cooking with me, reading, arts and crafts. Etc etc. You get the picture.
- Security and Safety. We’re asking a lot of our little ones to say ‘here is a phone, access to a world that I’ve previously scrupulously monitored for you and shielded you from. You can carry it with you wherever you go, in fact you will spend more time with the phone than with me, but hey, be responsible and use it wisely’! My daughter isn’t even responsible for getting herself dressed properly in the mornings, yet I think that having a phone will allow her to think, use reason and apply logic in an responsible adult manner! (as an aside my daughter does function better than some adults I know!)
- Damage and loss. Insurance is a must, right? But who pays for the insurance? Who pays the insurance excess when the phone is dropped on day 2? Who consoles the distraught kid because she’s lost her precious lifeline after only a month? Who reports (read hunts down and thrashes) the little bully who steals your daughter’s phone because she flaunting it here, there and everywhere?
- Mine is better than yours. So we all know there are some twonks out there who buy their five year old kid the latest iphone, but in the main, most of us know that that is not necessary and teaches them nothing about worth or the lesson of working hard to achieve something special. But on the other side of it, who wants their child to be the one with the shit phone? As we all know, some children can be horrid beasts and will find any crutch to ridicule and humiliate another for a perceived inadequacy. On the flipside, there will always be someone who has the top model and latest shizz and as adults we can process that and try not to let the green-eyed monster take over our lives. (although I do confess to fairly frequent bouts of house/car/holiday/life envy) but as a child how do we make sense of feelings of envy or jealousy?
There is so much more to it than the few points above, but these are the main ones concerning me. I confess, with the thought of her sad face in my mind, I did ago and do a bit of research on handsets and tariffs etc. yet I can’t shake off the nagging feeling that she is just too young.
Obviously, I can see that by excluding her from ‘that group’, I could be inviting the victimization and isolation that I talked about above and, of course, I don’t want her to feel that we are deliberately being ‘mean’ but something about the finality of it is making me unsure. Its not like we can say “well we had all these reservations and look they all came true so I’m afraid you cant have a phone until your 18” is it?
I don’t think there’s an answer to this except to hold on to what your gut instinct tells you. Its got me 11 years in, it can’t be that wrong!