In my work with Parent Cue, I often advise parents on all the awesomeness and awkwardness that comes with raising kids in a technology connected culture.
As a parent myself, I am keenly aware that we are the first generation of parents in the history of mankind to deal with this unique opportunity.
My parents didn’t have to navigate the troubled waters of sexting when I was a teenager.
Your parents didn’t have to give you tips about properly using Snapchat.
No one’s parents had to sit down with their kids to talk about the dangers of texting and driving.
We’re the first generation that has to do that. There are no precedents. We’re the pioneers!
That’s exciting and a little terrifying, but until recently I thought I had one part of the conversation covered. In my head, I was adamant that my oldest daughter would not get a phone until she was at least thirteen. I say “at least” because in some particularly prideful parent moments I would declare, “No child of mine will have a phone until she’s in high school!”
Statements like that were very easy to make when my oldest daughter was in the second grade. (Is there anything more annoying than a parent with elementary school kids trying to give you advice about teenagers. My apologies.)
My views on the phone took a significant hit a few weeks ago. I might be getting my daughter a phone a lot sooner than I expected. Why?
My oldest daughter is in an amazing small group connected to our church. She is learning how to be in community with ten other girls her age. She’s learning about the Bible and life and hope in a really fun way. One night, as we discussed this awesome small group, my wife said to me, “I wish L.E. could get the group text.”
I asked her what she meant and she said, “Well, most of the girls in the group have phones. During the week they have a group text to encourage each other. They send Bible verses, silly jokes, photos, etc. And L.E. misses out on all of that.”
Dagger in my heart.
As a parent, you tend to get obsessed about how horrible phones and social media are for kids. You tend to buy the hype that the Internet is just one big porn machine hell-bent on destroying our children. Then you realize it’s also a place of community and connection. It’s also an encouragement for pre-teens in a small group.
The second thing that changed my view of the cell phone for my daughter was the death of the home phone. I used to say, “She can just call people on the home phone like I did! They can call her on our home phone.” There’s only two problems with that:
- No one has a home phone anymore.
- Kids don’t call your home phone even if you have one.
To prove my first point, just go look for one in your own house. Chances are it’s gone. To prove the second point, just wait until your kids hit middle school. When I was a teenager, I called Dave Bruce on his home phone because that was the only option I have. Now, most kids won’t even call a cell phone. They’d rather text, so if you don’t have a cell phone, they don’t think to call you on a home phone. The idea of calling a home phone is so quaint this entire paragraph is feeling like an antique.
We might be getting my daughter a phone when she enters the 6th grade this fall. We’re not sure yet, there are a still a lot of questions to answer first. I can’t tell you exactly when you should get your kid a phone, I think each kid is different. I do know this though: You’re going to have this discussion earlier than you thought. Make sure you don’t only consider the bad things that come with a phone, consider the good too!