Thursday, December 18, 2014

Flavored Lip Gloss Doesn't Cut It Anymore, I Guess

"Mommy, Alison got an IPhone for her birthday!" Susie informed me while we were out shopping.

"Alison?  As in 12-year-old Alison with the really sensible parents?" I asked, my heart dropping at the thought of yet one more of my girls' tween friends walking around with the Internet in her pocket.

"Yup! Isn't that neat?"

"No. No, it isn't. Not at all."

I know these people well.  They're wonderful parents - loving, strict - and their kids are great.  And now even they are handing out smartphones.  Which says to me that this - IPhones for teens and tweens, that is - has simply become the new norm.

Look, I'm not a Luddite, and - 23 years into this parenting gig - I am certainly not at all idealistic about raising children; I am all too aware that, no matter how you raise them and what rules you may enforce, those kids are going to do what they like the minute they leave your house (and sometimes before that).  Hey, my only prayer now is that none of my children grows up to be an axe murderer. Seriously.


But why does a tween need a smartphone in the first place? I know access to a phone is somewhat of a necessity now - my kids all have dumb phones with talk and text so they can stay in contact with us or with their friends. Heck, a dumb phone is what I use myself, although I certainly wouldn't turn down a better device if someone were to hand it to me (with a free data plan, of course).  But a tween?

Maybe what bothers me is that kids (mine included) act so entitled these days (yes, I just wrote "kids these days" - so sue me) - I mean, don't they have to wait until they are grown-up for anything anymore?  And if you give them an IPhone at age 12, what can you wow them with when they are 16? You know, I remember being excited about tangerine-flavored lip gloss when I was 12. Granted, I was a simple child, but still...

Or perhaps my real problem is that a 12-year-old (and my kids, when they are with her) has unsupervised access to the Internet - do people actually bother to restrict that anymore?  Or is that just too 2010?  Have we all simply given up, what with the Internet being so darn ubiquitous these days?

And how can people risk giving their kids expensive electronics, anyway? Is there special insurance for these things? I'll have you know that, last summer, my 14-year-old managed to jump into a pool with his (luckily cheap) cellphone in his pocket.  I would have killed him if he had done that with an IPhone.  Is there some secret place where all the other parents are buying these things cheaply and no one has told me?

In short, is there something everyone knows that I don't?  Do all your kids have smartphones now? Am I the lone tightwad holdout here? And what IS up with kids these days, anyway?


21 comments:

  1. You can get insurance for your phone. I've had friends who were amazed that I didn't get it for my older son's phone. It was roughly a $100 semi-smart phone. But insurance was $5/month and if his phone had broken, I was going to have him replace it or he could go with a $10 dumb phone.
    And you aren't the only holdout. My 15 (16 next month) year old son has no phone at all. And about once a month I'm someplace with him where one of the other kids is asking to borrow a phone (thus not having a working phone on them for whatever reason).

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  2. My 15 year old has a "dumb" phone, my 12 year old has no phone. You are not alone, sister, I share all of your reasons and more. Fortunately, the rural kids in Wisconsin are always a few years behind trends, so we can get away with our backwards behavior. I think city kids live with more pressure with this sort of thing.

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  3. I won't bore you with all of the details, but my kids started off with a voice-only phone. My son got his when he started high school; my daughter got hers in 8th grade because I started working and I felt she we needed a cell phone as she was relying on other people for rides home from school.

    I upgraded them to cheap android-system phones that could text but wasn't paying for internet access.

    When my son was 17 and my daughter was 14 they both decided they wanted unlocked iPhones. They saved their money and paid for them -- full-price -- with the agreement that I'd pay the cheapo $25 per month ATT GoPhone rate, which covers unlimited texting and 250 voice minutes per month, but which still doesn't include internet access.

    In the end, they don't need to pay for internet because they have WiFi at home and at school.

    I know that's a long answer, but the short one is: no, I don't think a 12-year old needs a smart phone. And if my kids were homeschooled (I believe yours are?), I'd hold off until they're driving to get them a phone.

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    1. I think Larry and I would tend to approve the smartphone for older teens if they were paying for it. We try to keep them broke enough that they won't be able to. It still begs the question of the Internet supervision, though. I really don't know what to think about that anymore, now that they can hang with any of their friends and essentially see anything they want.

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  4. I'm with you - tweens don't need smartphones. They can wait until they're in front of a real computer to have Internet. Why do they need to carry it around with them? They can get into enough trouble on their home computer, let alone a portable version. And having the teens pay for their data plans is a good idea too. My kids had dumb phones until they could pay for their own smartphones and they were out of school by then.

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  5. My kids don't have smartphones either. They get dumb phones for Christmas their 8th grade year, because once high school activities begin in the summer, they really do need a phone. (Mostly because there aren't any pay phones anywhere.) They are in the small minority of kids in their high school who don't have smartphones. It baffles me, too. I have had a post sitting in my draft folder about why my kids don't have them for months. And what baffles me more are the schools that allow phones to be used all day. But that's a whole 'nut her topic for another day. Stay strong!

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    1. Exactly - our high school has a rule that they cannot use them in class. Yet no one enforces it. How hard would it be to collect the phones in a basket or at least take away the phone of a kid who is breaking the rules? No one will do that. It's weird.

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    2. Our school goes even further. If a teacher sees a phone, it's a one day suspension. If it rings, it's three days. It's enforced and the kids and parents know it. I have heard of lots of schools who have given up the fight.

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  6. Courage is realizing that something is wrong and doing something different. ROAR.

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    Replies
    1. Is it wrong, though, or just something I personally do not like? And, even if it IS wrong, if you have a kid going to school and EVERYONE around them on the bus has the Internet handy, is it a moot point? I mean, I know it is good that my kids aren't sitting around their own home staring at a tiny screen - mainly because of all the other activity it would be replacing. But maybe other parents have strict rules at home for smartphone use? Or do they really let their kids hang out on the Internet all the time? I guess that is what I am trying to find out.

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  7. You aren't alone - up until one week ago my 20 year old didn't have a smartphone. Truly, they don't need one (I guess, really, none of us "need" them...but I'm not giving mine up!).

    And yeah, just what IS it with kids these days?

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  8. My kids have cheap tracfones or net10 phones. Hubby has an LG android on tracfone. I buy minutes for him when needed. I could see an android phone for my teenagers, with tracfone/net10. I will not buy them anything with lots of data, though it would be nice to have android phones for all of them capable of accessing our wifi. I have the router set to not allow internet access for any device except my work laptop from 9 pm to 7 am school night (11pm to 7 am weekends). My kids are informed they get X number of minutes, when they are out of minutes on their phones, they don't get more until I decide they need them. Cheap tracfone, triple minutes for life, I buy them 120 minutes ($30), which should last for at least 2 months, or they can buy more themselves if needed.
    I'm the only one in our house with a real smart phone. My cousin gave it to me after she bought a new one when this one was lost, and then I found her old phone. I have the $45 a month plan from verizon, I may down grade once this phone dies to a cheaper provider. As long as I can text and call unlimited and access wifi, I don't need a lot of data time.

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  9. You're entering the zone of need vs. want, one that all too many adults of my acquaintance don't seem to grasp. They don't need smartphones. Heck, I could easily afford it and I don't have one because the value to me does not exceed the cost.

    Kids? Certainly don't need them. And frankly, until they're mature enough to moderate their own internet usage- or buy their own smartphone, whichever comes first- I don't think they ought to get them. *insert wheezy ancient ranting about how we didn't have any $%#$%# cellphones in my day* .

    I do think that internet is so ubiquitous that realistically keeping more than only occasional tabs on your kids usage is probably impractical. But there's no point in going out of your way to give them 24-7 unsupervised access either.

    Of course, I don't have kids, so what do I know? But opinions, those I have!

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  10. My kids don't have phones at all. (Hell, the phone my 13 year old uses in her room is a rotary! We really live in the past.) I have a dumb phone that is never on and rarely charged. I don't really think it's the necessity people make it out to be because we somehow, weirdly, continue to function. I'm not pretending smartphones don't look useful or fun, but I really detest the way I see people around me using them. They act addicted in a truly not charming way. I'm putting off becoming that as long as I can, and at the moment my kids are with me.

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  11. I am 100% with you. My oldest got a smart phone two summers ago, but he was 22 years old and married. The rest of us all have dumb phones (even the 15yo). If we could get smart phones without data plans, to use only in WiFi situations, the 19yo would jump the dumb phone ship tomorrow. However, none of us are ready to pay those kind of prices, and I'd never buy one for a younger kid.

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    1. I should clarify that we do not have a land line, so we did finally get the youngest a phone when he was 13 years old.

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  12. In answer to the question about unlimited internet usage (or how to possibly keep the internet usage under some semblance of control), I really wouldn't want my tweens and young teens to have free access. Just take a look at bullying online, and you'll know where I stand. I've been very lucky in that none of my boys have been enamored with facebook. The youngest i still doesn't have an online presence, and only the 22yo seems to have an internet addiction, visiting forums about permaculture and flunking out of college.

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  13. You're not alone. We got our now 19-year-old a smart phone for his HS grad present, and we pay for it still. The 17 year old twins have phones that their auntie got them for their birthdays, but they usually don't work since they have to pay for their own monthly fees and they usually don't have money. However, the same auntie gave them each an old iPad when she and her husband upgraded--this was also for their 17th bday. We weren't thrilled at the internet access but as they're seniors we figured it was good for them to learn responsibility while still at home. We haven't allowed computers in their rooms.
    So that's how we've done it. I really don't think it's good for young kids to have smartphones. However, you're right--that's the way the world's going. I have a friend with a 2 year old who goes on youtube on the iPad and watches cute kid videos of nursery rhymes, all by herself. Our best hope is to instill good values and have the kind of relationship where the kid comes to you with problems. Easier said than done.

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  14. my kids don't have phones either, but the oldest just turned 13. However, most of the kids in his grade have one. I think handing over a pocket-sized internet (attached to a camera!! for crying out loud) to someone whose current stage of brain development leads to difficulty making good choices is not responsible. Yup, I said it. Not responsible.

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  15. Our kids were older when smartphones became ubiquitous. Interestingly, my oldest son rarely uses his for anything but phone calls, but he does use the gps and that type of thing.

    You raise good questions; have you heard of this book? The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. I heard her speak--you are right.

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