When Is The Right Time to Get Your Child a “Phone”
I get asked this question a lot. My simple answer is “you should get your children a phone when they know how to be in and move through the world without one. From the moment smartphones came out, people have been using these devices for security. I really can’t imagine a less secure way to look at the dangers that the world presents to us on a day in day out basis. I will explain this idea with a simple story I told my daughters as they started to ride the train by themselves to get to school, meet friends, and even go to the orthodontist by themselves.
I shared with them, if they are riding the train and someone starts to creep them out and make them scared, they SHOULD NOT OPEN THEIR PHONE FOR HELP. This action is a distraction and gives the creep an upper hand. What I taught my three angels to do is go sit next to the closest adult you can find. Let them know that the man on the train is making them nervous and you would like to sit with them until it is time to get off or while you call one of your parents. People are good and not everyone is a stranger danger. WE need to teach our kids to trust their gut and not some electronic supervisor that probably does not have their best interest in mind.
Two of my daughters are old enough to drive. I have taught them that they need to know the grid system in Chicago. They also are familiar with and know how to read paper maps. Stopping at a gas station and asking for directions is also something I have taught my daughters. Now they probably will never need this as the world has indeed changed and the vast majority of the time we don’t need to ask for directions because our cool mapping software works really really well. But for the time off in the future that nobody can see coming, my daughters will have knowledge and skills to hold onto and get themselves out of almost any jam.
Teaching my daughters these skills has given them a level and confidence and self reliance that is not seen very often in other children their age. This of course is a constant battle. Teenagers are more attached to their phones than we can ever imagine. It is their life in much the same way that the kitchen phone with a long cord was our connection to the outside world. It is a day in day out effort to remind children that these devices need to be handled with caution and care. They are not toys, but rather tools meant to help us along not hammer us down. I am going to make sure that my girls understand that the world is an awful beautiful mess meant to be soaked up and relished not to be lived full of fear and anxiety. I use this line on my daughters when I am frustrated with their screen time… “remember when you were little and you would bug me to get off my phone because you wanted my attention or to play…? Well I sort of feel like that now with you and your phone…” They seem to understand this idea and are usually willing to put down the device and be in the moment with each other… because at the end of the day that really is all there is, that moment with each other. DIDO!!!