How Young is Too Young?

So, a couple of posts ago I created a poll about how much cell phone use my readers planned for on a weekly basis. I was saddened to find out that there are still so many districts that ban cell phone usage in school. I don’t understand this rule. I understand that if it is not monitored enough it can become a problem, however, it can also be one of the best tools used in the classroom. I, for one, would love more training on how I could incorporate them more frequently into my lessons.

Now, in saying all that….as a parent, I was against allowing my kids to have a cell phone prior to the age of 16. My reasoning was that up to that point my husband or I  would be the one driving them here and there. We would know their location, who they were with, etc. But I was convinced when my son was 11, and entered the sixth grade, to go ahead and let him get a phone. My best friend taught in middle school and said it would/could be beneficial to him. So, I caved and allowed it. It has become a precious commodity and therefore is an awesome bargaining tool. I take it when he doesn’t act right, at home and/or at school. The good side is if he has football practice and gets out early he is able to call me easier.

Here is my question, at what age would you allow your child to have a cell phone?

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18 thoughts on “How Young is Too Young?

  1. I love your post Jaci as I am dealing with this issue right now. I am wondering if I should take the plunge and get a cell phone for my 14 year old son. He is starting high school next week and will be involved in a lot of activities including the band. I think it may just make it easier on him and us if he has some way to get in touch with us, especially if pickup times change and that sort of thing.

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    • I won’t lie, it had made life a little easier. He is 13 now and understands that he is to respond right a way and answer the phone when we call. The down side is that he is constantly playing games on it, but I’m glad he has it now. =)

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  2. I don’t have any children, but I would say between 13. I remember that was the time that I started to become more ‘independent’ that required easier communication with my parents. But I can say that when I have children that this will be the case. I feel like it depends on the child, their personality, behavior, and necessity. For example, I got a cell phone at a younger age than my older sister because when she left for college my parents had to go back to driving me to school and needed a way to get hold of me.

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    • That makes sense. I have noticed, just with my son, he does more after school activities. I have found that it is also nice to be able to leave him a message and not have to go through the school; sometimes the office personnel get busy and forget.

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  3. Thank you for this post! Though my own girls are young (the oldest is just starting Kindergarten this fall), I think about this topic a fair amount, because I teach 9th-12th graders and coach at the middle school level and wonder about a fair age to eventually introduce cell phones to my kids (even more so, because by the time my oldest is in middle school, I’m sure technology and all the toys that come with it will have advanced that much further). I used to be dead-set against allowing cell phones until high school, and part of me still is, but I can also see the advantage, particularly if my girls are active in clubs/sports after school and/or enjoy hanging out with friends (provided all are acting trustworthy). Seeing the prevalence of dependency in my high school kids, though, has me balking – at least at phones that offer all the bells and whistles. Our school tends to pull from a wealthier area of town, so many of the kids have the latest and greatest iPhone with endless data, etc. And though they love their phones, they have admitted to being stressed because of the feeling that they “need” to be constantly online to interact with / respond to everyone. According to an article in Psychology today regarding the same issue,

    “This dependence on cell phones and other methods of communicating often leads to a “double-bind” with users feeling stressed over needing to be available at all times as well as feeling disoriented when that contact is no longer available. This “cell phone lifestyle” can create a psychosocial trap for young people and adolescents that affects health and well-being. In a 2005 Finnish study, for example, Finnish adolescents showed a strong link between cell-phone use and potentially life-threatening behaviours such as alcohol use and smoking. Other researchers have found that texting behaviour is linked to measures of physiological arousal such as increased heart-rate, respiration, and muscle tension. Frequent cell phone use has also been linked to sleep problems and symptoms of depression over time” (Vitelli, R., 2013)

    I know for myself that I feel this pull, because I keep my plans online and am attempting to digitalize all the materials for 5 different levels of German. That plus this M.E.T. degree plus social media (which does have an annoyingly strong pull) makes me want to go Amish at times and just live.

    Anyhow, we’ll see what the future brings. Since I lived on the cusp of technology myself – I grew up free of it, but it eventually existed, so I learned to use it (and I worked in IT in high school and college, coincidentally), I am both “old school and new school”. I just want to make sure my kids don’t end up dependent on it (and, therefore, stymie face-to-face social growth) like so many of the students I see every day.

    References

    Vitelli, R. (2013). Stress, texting, and being social. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201312/stress-texting-and-being-social

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    • Kerri,

      I am like you, I’m also “old school and new school.” You mentioned all of the negatives that go through my head as a parent. Kids do not socialize the way I did growing up, by actually talking to a friend face-to-face. I find it disturbing that our youth would rather talk to someone through the use of a “middle man” (the device) versus in person.

      However, as a teacher, that would like to incorporate any and all technology, do I stay away from using them in the classroom or create lessons that use them? I guess what I am asking is what grade level should a teacher “expect” to be able to use cell phones in the classroom?

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      • Interesting question…..I know elementary schools employ tech devices in classrooms (iPads, namely), but haven’t heard of any teachers at that level “expecting” cell phones. Middle schools either, really, because of the inequality. High schools, on the other hand, are a different story. I don’t “expect” all my 9-12 graders to have cell phones, but I sure employ cell phone usage where I can (and if a student doesn’t have a cell phone – which many of the younger ones still don’t – people generally share well).

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  4. I love your post. I have a 5 year old who is already working on me to get her a phone. A challenge we have is that my stepdaughter received one from her mom (a brand new iPhone 5S) when she turned 8. I am definitely not ok with an 8 year old having a phone, nor do I have the money to buy the phone or pay the monthly costs. Like other issues, it is difficult to navigate this with my young daughter. She thinks it is not “fair” and she is right from her point of view.

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    • Wow, I have a friend that is having to deal with a similar situation. In my case, my daughter is 9 and we have told her that her brother had to wait until he was 11, therefore she will have to also. Now, this doesn’t mean she will get one at 11, it just means that will be the earliest opportunity for her!

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  5. Great topic as always. 🙂 We do not plan to let our son have a cell phone until he’s at least 11 or 12 years old. I’d say this plan is rough because the iPhone is only 10 years old now and my baby boy is only 8 months old this week. Who knows what the tech world is going to look like in 10 more years. It may be unavoidable by that point.

    At the present moment, I say 11 or 12 because they are still young enough to teach good habits but old enough to use a phone more responsibly. We will definitely have rules for its use. If the idea of a “digital native” is true, kids may grow up thinking there’s nothing special about tech. I kind of hope that’s the case. Our job as educators is to bring out the creativity anyway. Tools are just tools — and some of them have displays.

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    • Hey Todd,
      Congrats on your baby boy!!

      I think some kids today already think there is nothing special about tech, it’s just a part of their culture. This is good and bad for an educator who didn’t grow up with technology. To that educator, all tech is important and special, at least to me. I like your statement, “Tools are just tools — and some of them have displays.” When you put it like that I can look at the use of cell phone a little differently. =)

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  6. Wow, you’ve generated a great discussion, Jaci. This is a topic of interest, isn’t it?! I haven’t had to make this decision yet, but I’ve thought a lot about it and watched how other parents handle cell phones with their kids. My personal philosophy sounds similar to how yours started out. Getting cell phones for kids who are young opens them up to a world that complicates their lives and exposes them to things that I would have a tendency to protect them from. Of course, there are glorious benefits to technology, but the worst end of the spectrum reveals pornography (which is monstrously prevalent,) games that are addicting, and social media can be mentally degrading. Why would I hand my child a device that had so much potential to harm?

    My sister-in-law recently shared this enlightening thought: if you don’t teach them to manage it while you can have a positive influence on them, how will they learn to control themselves with technology? That’s a great point I think. If you simply avoid giving your child a phone, you’re missing out on the opportunity to teach them how to be a healthy participant in a technology rich world. I don’t know if the argument is strong enough to change my position, but it certainly got me thinking! Thanks for a great thought provoking post.

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    • “if you don’t teach them to manage it while you can have a positive influence on them, how will they learn to control themselves with technology? I LOVE THIS, and I agree whole heartedly. We have everything password protected and do not give it out. I know a lot of teaching falls into an educator’s lap but I firmly believe this is one area that needs to begin at home.

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  7. My kids are both pretty young right now, so I admit I haven’t thought much about when to give them cell phones. My brother who is 11 recently got a phone because my parents found there were many times they needed to be able to get ahold of him as he is involved in sports and other activities. They also decided to get rid of their home phone, so his cell phone is how they communicate with him when he is home alone. His phone does not have texting capabilities nor does he have any data. I think I would consider doing something like this with my children, but I have a few years to see where technology goes and to make that decision.

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    • We don’t have a home phone either and that was one of my worries. What if something happened and he needed to make an emergency call? When we first gave him an iPod we took off the texting app, however when he received his phone we left it. But I have all passwords/codes and check it frequently.

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  8. A relevant post, Jaci. As with anything, I think it’s most important that before the privilege is extended, expectations should be set for use. Our students (and children) won’t learn “best practices” if the technology is off-limits entirely. We need to teach and model how best to use their cell phones and continue to guide them as they learn. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. It’s so hard to imagine what the world will be like in a decade. My son is only 11 months old, and I wonder what will be the “phone” of 2027. Wearable tech? Subdermal chips? It’s both exciting and terrifying to imagine a time when people look back at today and scoff at how little we could do with our phones.

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