Why I Won’t Buy My Kids A Cell Phone

At different points, both of my older kids have wanted a cell phone for their upcoming birthdays on which they will turn 12 and 13. They also would like their own Mac laptop. Christine and I have been wrestling with whether we should get them either of these. Right now our answer is “No.” But it isn’t necessarily an easy or obvious decision. After all both kids are reasonably responsible and have good track records with their siblings, school work, and church. If I was going to make this decision based on whether they are “good” kids, I’d probably say yes. But is that the right criteria to base this decision on? I’m not sure that it is.

I’ve noticed that my kids, who are both in Middle School, are entering an age where it is easy for them to develop a private life disconnected from the rest of the family. Up to this point their evenings and weekends have primarily consisted of doing things with other members of the family whether it’s sports, playing games, or general family activities. I realize that as they transition into full blown teens they will need the space and freedom to develop apart from mom, dad, and their little brothers. And I think that’s a good thing. But the question (at least in my mind) is whether it is wise to let them develop a technology aided private life now.

Just like having a television in their room (another idea that I haven’t gone for) inevitability leads to watching more television, I believe that having a cell phone leads to more texting and conversations with friends and having your own laptop leads to more web surfing, game playing, and instant messaging. Are these necessarily bad? Of course not. In fact they can be very good. Again, that isn’t the issue. To me the issue is whether at their age I want to help them become more isolated from their family, have more access to media, and be more influenced by their peers.

For now the answer is no. But am I 100% sure that I’m right? No. Is it a bummer that they are one of the few in their classes that don’t have a cell phone? According to them it sure is. Are other parents making a poor decision by buying their kids a cell, or a computer, or letting them have a television in their room? I’m in no position to make that kind of judgment. I have a difficult enough time trying to navigate the best path for my family. I have no desire to take on that responsibility for others. And I’m sure that the feeling runs both ways.

So yes there is coming a time when I will get my kids cell phones and computers (but I’ll probably never go for the television in their own room). I just want to make sure that when I get those things for them that they are helping my kids become the right kind of people and not hindering that process.

Feel free to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. My kids sure have.

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