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The Smartphone Dilemma...

As a parent of a tween/pre-teen, I'm sure you have also been through the: when shall I get my child a smartphone, phase. Or perhaps thats where you are now, or will be?

It's a question our parents didn't have to ponder and one I certainly wasn't prepared for - especially when my daughter went into year 5 and her school friends started to get them. It wasn't easy at all. We had lots of pleading from our daughter about us giving her one of our old smartphones that we had saved, we were told we were "horrible parents" when we refused, despite explaining our reasons. When I asked other parents, they didn't seem as concerned or wanting to delay introducing them as I did. I searched online and for books about introducing smartphones to children with not too much luck! AHA parenting had a good article which helped.

My daughter is 12 now, so I thought I would share with you what we did (for better or worse) because, lets face it, we're all just figuring this out as we go along and we really are stuck between a rock and a hard place as parents, knowing the difficulty it is for grown adults to part with our phones and the draw of social media, let alone giving them to our children whose brains and self-control are still developing.

I'm now changing my mind about quite a few of our decisions and so this may change when my middle daughter is ready to have a smartphone (I want to delay it as long as possible and try other options first), but with our eldest daughter, here's what we did:

  1. We agreed on a time for giving a smartphone that we could stick to for the younger siblings too. We decided Christmas of year 6 (regardless of when they turn 11), so they can have it for 6-months before secondary school.

  2. It remains OUR mobile phone as we pay the bill and can access it at any time.

  3. We have to approve any apps, games, etc.

  4. Games go off after an hour (I've set this up on her phone so it disables after an hour.

  5. Her phone disables at 7.30pm and doesn't come on again until 7am the next morning. We allow certain people that she can contact in downtime - again, this is set-up on her phone, connected to my iphone family account, and she does not know my passcode.

  6. Strictly NO social media - this we have stuck to, despite her being one of the very few friends of hers without snapchat/instagram/TikTok, etc. She does have whatsapp, but I have been able to stop her being added to whatsapp groups without an invitation and I monitor it as and when I need.

The benefits of her having a smartphone:

  1. I can see where she is, where the bus is, etc through find my phone.

  2. I can text her and contact her to arrange pick ups (or sometimes to remind her to do homework as she's often on her phone, yet ignores me when I shout up to her! ;D )

  3. She can ask her classmates about homework etc on whatsapp, plus arrange meet-ups easily.

  4. She can access her bank account online.

  5. She can tell me she loves me (or HATES me - that's often in capitals!) on text! :-))

The down-sides:

  1. She often retreats to her room to chill out on her phone and is gone hours if we don't nag her.

  2. She leaves homework til the last minute and as her google classroom is on her phone, she often wants it to use for her homework so it's hard to disable it for her to do it.

  3. She get's FOMO or feels left-out (and so do her friends) if they've posted what they are doing on whatsapp.

I hope this helps some of you who might be wondering what to do yourselves, although please don't see this as advice, or a judgement or to induce guilt or shame if you have done different. It's literally just our experience, opinions and choices as a family. I have already changed my mind about a few things and had some regrets about usage so I am learning as I go along. I had to take Pinterest off her phone recently because she was watching TikTok videos on there. She wasn't happy and again called me a "horrible mother" in her anger at me, but later after I explained again my reasons for not allowing social media of any sort, she said to me:

"I know, Mum, you don't want me to to have it all so young, because - really - you want me to have it ALL in life!"

I got quite emotional at that, because I couldn't have put it better myself.

She gets it really! :-) xxx

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