“… do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
~ Ephesians 6:4
I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones.
I’m thankful for the many conveniences they afford, but I despise the potential temptations, distractions and dangers associated with them, especially as they pertain to children.
In conversation with parents…involved parents…I’ve been alarmed to discover their naïveté.
Smart parenting demands intention; it’s all too easy for parents to frustrate children with “Because I said so” even when sometimes that IS the answer! Because I’ve seen one too many heads in the sand, would you allow me to to be a Titus 2 (ahem) “older woman” for you, to offer a few practices and safeguards to consider if you’ve made the decision to allow your children to have a cell phone? Let’s agree up front this choice is debatable, but rather than argue the benefit of either side, my intent is to offer advice for those who plan to (or already) allow their children cell phone use.
There’s no magical age a child is ready to assume this privilege, but take into consideration his levels of maturity and responsibility, and your need to communicate when apart. Having a cell phone is a privilege not a right, and although your child will at times guilt you into believing “everyone else has one,” they don’t.
Mama D’s recommendation: The older, the better. Ours bought theirs the summer before their freshman year in high school. Which reminds me, it’s good for them to work for the privilege; when they have a financial stake in it, you’ll see a difference.
Set boundaries and expectations prior to purchase
It is much easier and better to begin with strict standards rather than trying to scrape that toothpaste back into the tube. For instance, require them to hand over their phone at bedtime; read their texts frequently and do not allow them to delete until you do; talk to friends with older children and solicit their suggestions.
Mama D’s recommendation: Cell phone use is a no-no when in face-to-face conversation and around the dinner table, and if we find out they’re texting and driving? They lose driving and cell phone privileges!
Porn in the palm of your hand
I am absolutely, positively against smart phones and picture messaging. I cannot stress this enough: even the best of kids, the ones you’d never suspect–YOUR CHILDREN–are capable of beginning a pornography addiction or sending or receiving nude images with a mobile phone. The consequences are devastating and even could land you in prison.
A wonderful, Christian friend shared her son’s story through tears; he admitted his addiction that began with a hand-held game, that then continued with his phone. After my own son was offered topless pictures from a girl two years older than him, we canceled picture texting (sending and receiving) for all of our children’s phones. While they initially protested, they understood our decision and accepted it (which goes back to them understanding cell phone use is a privilege not entitlement). They’re still able to take phone pictures, just not send or receive them.
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~ Proverbs 22:6
As a mom to three teenagers, I’ve found it better to say “yes” to them when possible and to avoid imposing hyper-strict boundaries. They’re more inclined to respect the “noes” when that’s the answer because they’ve learned we’re balanced and reasonable. In a culture and age when the internet proliferates much of life, smart parenting demands that we remain Christ-focused, diligent, consistent, informed and aware…and to realize Christian kids are just as susceptible to temptation as those outside the faith.
To give a child a cell phone with internet access and without instruction is tantamount to handing over a loaded weapon.
Your thoughts? Am I being overly dramatic? What suggestions would you offer to parents? Do you have experience that illustrates my perspective?
By PENSIEVE author Robin Dance, who would love to hug you in person & isn’t always this insistent :).