Parents often wonder what the appropriate age is to get a kid a cell phone. Some kids beg for one, claiming all their friends at school have them. Some parents feel it’s a safety thing – kids can get hold of them when necessary.
My three “biggies” are nine, eleven and twelve years old. While I can certainly think of times it would have been convenient for them to have cell phones, we haven't gone there yet.
Interestingly, the reason my kids don’t have a cell phone is the reason most parents give for wanting them to have one – so that they can call in an emergency. But what constitutes an emergency? Most kids are actually calling their parents when they want a ride somewhere, run out of money at the mall or crash on their skateboards. Here’s the thing – I don’t want my kids to call me every time things go a little pear-shaped. I don’t want to always rescue them. Yep, in other words – solve your own stinkin’ problems once in a while, would ya?
Believe me, I understand how tempting it is to be just one quick phone call away to swoop in for the rescue. There have been occasions where I’ve handed mine over. I really do get it, but for my gang, I don’t feel like I would be doing them any favours. When would they learn to problem solve the old- fashioned way – by relying on each other, putting their heads together to come up with a new plan, or asking someone (other than mama) for help.
My two tween girls were recently skiing together when one fell and got hurt. The injured sister was left with “friendly strangers” while the other skied off to report the injury, first to the ski patrol, then to her aunt who was in the chalet. Some people might cringe at the thought of “friendly strangers”, but my kids have been taught to identify these people – usually those with kids or community helpers. I’m proud of how my 9-year-old dealt with that situation. Being independent (yet together) helps my kids bond, create memories and have fun. Most importantly, it provides them with opportunities to rely on each other and not me.
Some argue giving kids cell phones will keep them safe. For now, I feel like the best way to ensure their safety is to give them problem-solving opportunities. But every parent is best positioned to make these decisions based on their family situation and comfort levels. Not everyone can send their kids out with a bunch of siblings to rely on. Who knows how I would feel if I only had one tween.
So – cell phones or no cell phones for your tweens?