One Week With A Nine Year Old And A New Smart Phone

Du da doop! I awoke to a text message at 6:00 a.m. and rolled over sleepy-eyed to see who was contacting me so early on my day off. “Good Morning Mom” insert big emoji smiley face. My nine-year old son had been given his first cell phone about 48 hours earlier, an iPhone 6 none the less, a ginormous Christmas gift from his father. Big decision, huge, life changing actually! The second I found out all this power was put in his little hands, I had immediate concerns. Just read my previous blog about Taking A Digital Detox! However right now at 6:00 a.m. I was straight up gushing at his thoughtfulness, beaming with a smile, and felt just a little closer to my boy who shares his time in two households, where the luxury of a simple morning greeting is not a daily occurrence. It felt pretty darn awesome!

Soon I was convincing myself that the cell phone concerns could be out-weighed by this new access to communicate and be a little closer in his absence. Ok this could be a good thing right? Maybe? Twenty-four seven access to mommy (and daddy) no matter what. Wait… HOLD THE PHONE!

On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012.  And although this put’s my son less than a year away from the average, I made the choice to hold off. One week was all it took to conclude that the con’s far out weighted the benefits. Already using a google chromebook, kindle, email account,  and actively communicating with friends and family the kid had plenty to choose from! Although trustworthy and responsible even on current hand-held devices the entry of the phone into our space was different, and above all felt more like an intrusion. Here is what I learned in one week..

  • More Gatekeeping and Managing– If you think you are managing a lot now with current devices, this is another one to add to your list to constantly check.
  • Ground Rules Required – Although it was only a week, ground rules were set around when to use the phone, how often and for what. 
  • Constant Distraction – The phone was put out of sight, and at times left on vibrate to eliminate distractions. Every time a “du da doop” sounded it would jolt him from whatever he was doing. “Who is it?  I thought I heard my phone? ” “No buddy that was mine!” 
  • The Need to Respond Real Time – At nine,the stressful responsibility to hurry up and respond to messages became very apparent and created a level of worry if he didn’t right away.
  • Intruders – You can not control the behavior of others who have the phone number, that send inappropriate messages at odd hours of the day. Without the ground rules this can be an ongoing issue.
  • Security – The phone arrived with all the news feeds and social apps turned on. If you choose to get a smart phone here are some tips how to set up parental controls . The last thing I needed was for him to catch wind of the worlds hot mess of current events. 
  • Data Suck – Need I say more. Back to point #1 more to manage.
  • Video Selfie–While hilarious, and impressive the need to stop and take a selfie video to post on uTube or Musically was all too often. Playing with the dog, wait let’s record this, having a toss, hold on let’s record this! Hold up I need my phone I just capped this water bottle, let’s record this! 
  • Case = Perception of Being Indestructible – “It’s water proof, I can hold it under running water.” “Ok honey well let’s not test that out.”

The most important thing I learned from the seven-day experience was once the phone was removed from the house it was not even missed one bit!  Just goes to show that at nine why open that door so soon. Now to talk to me in a few years when responsibilities increase and independence, then I may have a different opinion. Until then……HOLD THE PHONE!

At what age do you think kids should be given their first smart phone? Any tips or experiences that worked well for you?

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