Why I Won't Be Giving My Teens Smartphones

Updated on January 12, 2017

Does my sixteen-year-old need a smartphone to drive?

I have decided the answer to my month long internal debate is: No. Although my son is turning sixteen in six days, I will not be getting him a smartphone. I will purchase an old flip phone that I can load minutes onto for him to carry with him when he is driving in case of an emergency, but I will not hand him a smartphone.

No, I don't live in the dark ages; I am actually the family tech guru. I typically troubleshoot technology issues any time I go to visit relatives or friends because they know that I can fix their problems. There are even lists awaiting my arrival at times, and my son does have an iPod.

However, thanks to some answered prayer or twist of fate his iPod doesn't have an internet browser, a glitch that I consider a tremendous blessing, which explains why I've never tried to correct it. I am pretty sure the defect is the result of my mother bargain shopping and running up on a "deal" without realizing that it was a prototype as the lack of a browser is not its only issue.

Why am I thankful for a defective iPod and planning to only provide a flip phone for driving? I am a high school teacher, and I have watched the impact these devices have on our teens. It gives them too much freedom to interact with one another outside of parental supervision because many parents don't know how to properly monitor their children's texts or purchases. There are even apps to hide inappropriate apps, and apps that let your children send inappropriate pictures of themselves to others with the benefit that it disappears quickly. In addition, I have noticed how dangerous it has become to drive myself down the street these days with people weaving all over the place because they are looking at their phones. My son's iPod requires Wi-Fi, so he won't need to look at it while he driving.

I would love to say that I have managed to do what I consider to be the right thing with all of my children, but my son is actually my middle child. I, like many others, allowed my oldest daughter to get a smartphone when she was fourteen because her iPod died and my mother insisted that the phone would be great as a two in one.

I quickly saw the error in that decision because my daughter was now connected, and unlike the flip phone that I could put on the refrigerator unless she was going to be somewhere without me or her dad, her smartphone was also what she used to listen to her music and play games.

She had a FB and Instagram before I realized how much kids at that age measure themselves by the number of likes they receive, and I do believe that having these things had a negative impact on her despite the only iTunes account being mine, which means that nothing could or can be downloaded without my knowledge.

Honestly, I think that the home should be a place of rest where the stress of social and peer pressure can't reach you, but smartphones let that stress follow your child into their bedrooms. Luckily, my daughter and I have managed to wade through these unpleasant waters and emerged on the other side. She is twenty-one now, a junior in college, and we have a pretty great relationship, but I know that she suffered more because she was connected too young.

How have I gotten away with not giving my younger children smartphones when my eldest had one at fourteen? I tell the truth. I have apologized to my first born on many occasions for not realizing that my decisions were wrong, and I do this in front of my younger children; I also tell my younger children that I am working to not make the same mistakes with them. I call my first period class at school the guinea pig class, and unfortunately, the oldest child is always a guinea pig who must endure the parents' learning curve. I don't feel any guilt for doing the right thing with my younger children. I do, however, feel sorry for not figuring it out earlier.

© 2016 Angel Neal


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