Whenever I see a kid with a smartphone, I cringe a little.
I’m talking about kids younger than 12. I just don’t get it. I don’t get why 11-year-olds need smartphones. Do they need to check their email in the carpool line? Consult the calendar when making doctors appointments? Boot up the GPS when heading to a sports event in an unfamiliar city?
You may think I’m old fashioned, and I guess I am but I’m also cheap. Our monthly wireless bill is currently unwieldy, and of the five of us in the family with phones, only two have smartphones.
I wanted to give my husband a smartphone for Father’s Day, but it would have cost an additional $30 a month. He said he preferred his dumb phone, thanks very much. Though I wanted him to have access to our family calendar at all times — I couldn’t really argue with him. We could do a lot with that $360 — feed the homeless maybe?
My oldest got an iPhone for Christmas last year. The phone was actually free with her upgrade — her present was the additional $120 a year for the service. Don’t ask me why we were paying more for her dumb phone than my husband’s — I have yet to figure that out. Meanwhile my nearly 15-year-old twins are angling for smartphones, and they will probably get them eventually. Every where I look, kids younger than them have smartphones so it’s hard to argue against it.
My 10-year-old doesn’t have a cell phone at all yet, much less a smartphone. He has no need for one. He’s got no one to text and nothing to say anyway. Sure he wants a smartphone. What 10-year-old doesn’t want to play games and watch Youtube whenever he wants, wherever he wants? But do I really want that for him? He spends enough time on the screens we have in the house.
Besides, I really want him to learn how to communicate verbally before I launch him into the world of texting. I’ve seen enough teenagers texting each other when they should be talking. One night last month my daughter texted me from bed asking if I could bring her a Tums because she wasn’t feeling well. Needless to say, I didn’t get the text until morning. If she’d just called out, I’d have heard her but that didn’t occur to her.
We are all addicted to constant communication these days and constant access to information. But it seems to me that kids need to focus on the world in front of them instead of a little screen. I guess this could be said for all of us. I’m going to hold off on a phone for my 10-year-old as long as possible. But with the way the world is going, it probably won’t be as long as I’d like.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 16, Lilly, 14, Adam, 14, and Jonah, 10.