Our Children Don’t Need Phones (Even If They Want Them)


Kids sitting on a couch on their cell phones.Our children might want phones, but that doesn’t mean they need them.

Next year, my oldest heads to middle school, and I’m bracing myself for the argument that everyone has a phone. Everyone but her, that is. I’ve talked to other moms. I know I’m not alone in holding out. And even if I were, I’m still not in a huge rush to cave into the pressure.

Before you roll your eyes and scroll on, thinking I’m just naïve and will cave and get a phone once middle school starts, I ask you to hear me out. 

I understand why parents get their children cell phones. Some do the research and find more safe options on the market than ever before. Others see the convenience of a phone for their children and believe that there are positives to owning a phone that outweigh the negatives. They find a phone, and a system of using it, that works for their families.

I know people like to argue that getting a phone is inevitable and that we should teach our kids how to use phones responsibly. I also realize that phones are a huge way that kids are now communicating with each other and that my daughter will feel left out sometimes.

Despite all the reasons for potentially getting a phone, I’m still aiming to hold out on getting a phone for my preteen. In my mind, there are still too many pitfalls of owning a phone- especially at a young age.

Reasons Against Getting a Phone

  • When a phone comes out, everything else in the room stops. It is so frustrating to me that a group of kids could be playing around, laughing, and having a fun time, but then a phone comes out, and whoosh, everything stops. All of a sudden, all heads cram together to stare into the black hole that is a smartphone. They crowd around to watch someone else play a game or watch a video, and the spell isn’t broken until someone steps in and takes the phone away.
  • Kids and cameras are a dangerous combination. This one doesn’t need much elaboration. Kids in embarrassing situations can easily be recorded. Girls (and boys) can pose for inappropriate pictures that are easily shared without permission. Even something as innocent as group shots can make some kids feel left out or encourage staring at yourself and noticing all your flaws (your weight compared to others, whether you have zits, how your hair looks bad…).
  • Kids will find a way onto the apps and websites we don’t want them on. You can put every control and firewall on your kids’ phones, and I guarantee they will find a way around it. If they can’t, they will easily find someone else with a phone that doesn’t have controls, and they are on to content you don’t want them to see.
  • Chat and texting are not ideal ways to communicate. Having a cell phone of their own opens up our kids to never-ending contact. Texts and chats will be waiting for them all hours of the day (and night). Texts are also a form of communication that is easily misconstrued. When we communicate solely through writing, it is easy to take things out of context, write hurtful things that can’t be taken back, and say things we would never say out loud. It’s also possible to send along conversations to others without permission.
  • Kids don’t have to take on the responsibility of making a plan and sticking to it. Parents talk about how phones enable them to communicate with their children and make plans. Do plans need to change that much? When we were growing up, if I told my mom I’d be somewhere at 5 p.m., that’s where I was. There was no negotiating or changing plans on the fly. We can teach our kids boundaries and responsibility by making plans in the morning and sticking to them.
  • The phone cost may be a bigger responsibility than our kids can handle. It was a big deal when I started driving and was only allowed a car phone for emergencies. We only had one phone line in my house, no call waiting. And if someone was on the internet, that tied up the phone line so that you couldn’t be on for long. Now we get our kids’ smartphones and phone plans? My own phone is so old it can’t hold a charge because it can’t keep up with system upgrades. Its screen is shattered in two places. Can I expect my child to be more responsible with a brand-new phone than I am as an adult?

I know we must prepare our children for a world in which smartphones, social media, and even AI are a reality. But does that mean giving kids access to a crazy world when they are at their most impulsive and emotional stage of life? Don’t we also have a responsibility to teach them that they can survive without constant connection to a virtual world?

Getting a phone because “everyone else is doing it” is not a good enough reason. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. To read more, check out Wait Until Eighth.

Do you feel pressure to get your kids a phone? What will you decide?


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