Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Does My 11 Year Old REALLY Need a Phone?

I am struggling.  My daughter is about to enter middle school and she feels that she needs a phone.  I on the other hand have told her that she doesn't but I'm not sure which of us is right.

Let me give you some background on the situation.  The school she is going to is right behind our house.  In fact, she doesn't even need to cross the street.  99% of the time I'll be home when she gets home so I really don't see why she NEEDS a phone.

She feels she NEEDS a phone because all her friends have them (not sure this is accurate) and she may go somewhere after school and need to call me (hello - can you say "pay phone") or call me when she does arrive home.  My smart alec remark to that was that if she calls me from our home phone when she arrives home then I know she is safely home because it shows on my call display but if she calls from her cell phone she could be kidnapped and half way across the world for all I know.  Okay, I get that's a little drastic but I really am struggling with  this whole decision.

I think a big part of my fear is that I know a cell phone isn't just for calls, it is for texting, she'll soon want a data plan, and instagram, etc.  I know that we are laying down strong morals and values with our kids but the internet and technology are hard to navigate for even the best of kids.

I found this great resource from Telus that helps parents guide their decisions regarding a child's readiness for a smartphone.  In it they talk about it not being about the child's age as much as their maturity that should be the determining factor.  Here are their 4 guiding questions to determine if your child is ready.

  1. Have you set limits for use of iPods, tablets, computers, gaming consoles?  If yes, does your child understand and respect these limits?
  2. Does your child need a phone to stay in contact with you in case of an emergency?
  3. Can your child be trusted to not use their phone at inappropriate times? (i.e. in class)
  4. Have you laid the foundation for responsible smartphone behaviour and talked with them about sharing inappropriate pictures and posts?

I found these questions really helpful.  Instead of it being an emotional decision (me freaking out "no" and her freaking out "yes")  that we are making, it becomes a decision based on needs and readiness.

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