You just upgraded to the latest and greatest phone model. What do you do with the old one? Stylish paperweight? Junk drawer filler? Your tween’s begged for a phone since she could talk. Is this the time to make her dream come true?
First and foremost your relationship with your child will start to change. Parents can’t compete with the draw of a smartphone. Your daughter’s attention will be divided. She will spend more time looking at her phone and socializing in a new and uncensored world than chatting with you and helping with dinner.
Where you used to be her go-to-person for advice and life lessons, she will now have access to a thousand voices vying to give her guidance via YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Messenger.
Smartphones introduce kids to an uncensored world and pressure them to become a part of it.
Jesse Weinberger, author of “The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket,” surveyed 70,000 kids over 18 months and discovered:
Parental guidance is necessary to navigate these dangerous waters. Handing kids phones makes them vulnerable 24-hours a day to bullying texts, social media cliques, and requests for illicit pictures.
Even innocent internet access can affect your kids’ mental state. Imagine your son checking Instagram and seeing photos of a birthday party he wasn’t invited to. Or your daughter posting a photo of her new pet and getting zero likes. The pressures are constant. They reach kids during breakfast in your kitchen, on the ride to school, and in the safety of their bedroom.
When you announce your old phone will not be making its way into the eager hand of your tween be prepared to face an argument worthy of the Supreme Court. Kids will accuse you of not loving them, not trusting them, and not being as cool as their best friend’s mom.
But that’s ok. You can share with them that you refuse to set them up for failure.
When kids get unfettered access to a smartphones too young, we as parents set them up for failure. They are not developmentally ready to control the technology.
A brain’s prefrontal cortex develops until age 25. This is the area required for impulse control and good judgment. Without a developed prefrontal cortex kids are compelled to do what gives them the greatest pleasure. A normally well adjusted child will watch YouTube instead of working on homework, text friends instead of taking a shower, and scroll through Instagram trying to raise their status in the “like” economy rather than show up for tennis practice.
If your family agrees that it’s important to be in touch when you’re apart, opt for a basic phone. The Nokia 225 4G and Sunbeam F1 are both highly rated by PC Mag. These phones may not be as cool as a smartphone, but they will keep your family connected if there’s an emergency.
Take the device back. Everyone makes mistakes. We don’t have to live with them. Explain to your kids that you don’t want to put them in a situation where they find themselves over their head and unable to cope.
Be ready to suggest a few activities that kids can do instead of developing tech neck looking down at a phone all day.
Fear not. There’s no shortage of options for a retired smartphone. Repurpose it. Old phones make great video chat devices, home security systems, TV remotes, and baby monitors. And when you forget that fancy new phone at the office, it’s a life saving back-up phone.
Alternatively, you can donate your used phone to a worthy cause. Orphanages, retirement homes, and non-profits are always on the lookout for free phones.
Kids have the rest of their lives to be tethered to a smartphone. Let them be carefree as long as possible and increase their chance for a balanced, healthy future.