Kids and Cellphones – Three-Minute Thursdays #9

Welcome to another edition of 3 Minute Thursdays, where, in three minutes or less, I try to say something useful, maybe even helpful, about a subject that’s of interest to people like you and me. Today I want to talk about our kids and their cellphones. Really, I want to talk about when should we as parents get our children their first smartphone.

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(Here’s the Circle device I reference.)

Transcript

Welcome to another edition of 3 Minute Thursdays, where, in three minutes or less, I try to say something useful, maybe even helpful, about a subject that’s of interest to people like you and me. Today I want to talk about our kids and their cellphones.

Really, I want to talk about when should we as parents get our children their first smartphone? So we’ll put three minutes on the clock, and we’ll get to it.

There is a lot to consider under this banner of our kids and their smartphones. Now, underlying all of it is our job as parents. Our task as parents is to prepare our children to live in this world. It’s so important we understand, our job is not to prepare them to live in the world that we grew up in. It’s not to prepare them to live in some fanciful world that we’ve concocted in our minds, a world as we would like it to be. We need to prepare our kids to live in this world. The reality of this world is our kids will grow up in and live in a world where they will be surrounded by electronic devices at all times. In fact, they will probably, through most of their lives, within arms reach at most times, have access to a little glowing rectangle, or whatever the future iteration of that is, through which they’ll have a window to the world. We need to prepare them to live in this world.

Now as we consider, when would we buy them their first smartphone, we need to carefully consider our individual context. There’s a lot of wisdom principles that will apply very differently from person to person, situation to situation. Let’s say you’re a homeschooling family who live out in the country and mom stays at home with the kids. This may look very different than, let’s say a family where a single mom is living in the city and she’s working full time, sending her children to public schools. The way she applies principles, the way she prepares them may look very different.

So what do we do? How do we think this one through? Maybe the best thing to do is just tell you what Aileen and I did for our family. Which is, between eighth grade and ninth grade when they were through primary school and heading into high school, that’s when we decided we would get them a mobile phone. We bought them their first phone, actually, we gave them one of our older smartphones, and that was how we got them started. But we didn’t just give them a fully featured phone. We took away some of the capabilities of that phone. We allowed them texting, we allowed them some emailing, but we didn’t allow them browsing. We allowed them to do some things, like play games, but there were others things we locked out. We didn’t allow them any app they wanted. And the joy of that, the helpful part of that was we could have them prove themselves over time. We’ve got a device called Circle in our home, which I highly recommend that helps monitor what they do. And over time we monitored what they did with their phone. Were they using it well? Were they using it with wisdom, or were they using it foolishly? When they proved that they could use it well, we allowed them to have more access to it, and more capabilities. If they proved they weren’t using it well, that’s where we started to strip away some of those capabilities.

So you see, we’ve been trying to train them by giving them a phone when they’re still under our jurisdiction, and we’re still able to monitor them. Give them a phone, over time monitor how they use it. The more they use it well, the more we believe we are training them to use it well throughout the course of their lifetime. Maybe that’s something you’d do in your family? Get them a phone while they’re young enough, and then over time give them more and more access until you can set them free with it when they’re just about all grown up.

Maybe that’s helpful, I hope it is. We’ll see you again for another edition of 3 Minute Thursdays.