What to Do When Your Kids Are the Only Ones Without Cell Phones

“But, Mom! Everyone else has a cell phone!” Are you getting a bit tired of hearing this complaint? Giving your child a cell phone is a big decision that you shouldn’t have to feel pressured into making. But when it seems like your kids are the only ones without cell phones, it can be hard to stand your ground.

Common Sense Media discovered that 43% of 8-to-12-year-olds in 2021 owned their own smartphones. Yet, these phones are an obvious distraction at school and home, creating mental health issues and symptoms of addiction.

What can you do, though, when your kids continue to beg and plead over the phone issue? How can you include your children in the decision process and prepare them and yourself for the ensuing peer pressure?

1.  Let Your Child Present a Case

Your kids are much more likely to accept your decision about having a cell phone if you’re willing to give them a little respect first.

Next time they beg to have a smartphone like the rest of their friends, ask their reasoning. Ask your child to present a case for why they should be allowed to have one. You can even offer to give them a while to prepare before they talk to you about it.

They may have some valid reasons for letting them have a phone:

  • You could reach each other in an emergency.
  • They’d be able to contact their friends and stay in the social loop.
  • It could help them learn responsibility.
  • You get the ability to check in on them when they’re exploring increasing freedoms.

It may be a good idea to take some notes while they talk to you, so you can seriously consider their ideas before reaching a decision. After they finish, repeat what you wrote to make sure you understood them correctly. Then, no matter what you decide, your kids will know you took the time to hear them out and you listened carefully.

2.  Take Time to Think and Research

You took the time to actively listen to your child’s thoughts on the phone issue. Now you need to be willing to think it through from all angles and talk it over. Come to a decision as a parental unit before taking your decision to your child. No matter your decision, you’ll want to present a united front with no room for them to work on the other parent in secret.

While you talk it out, discuss your opinions and dig into some research so you can make an informed decision. What are some reasons to prevent your child from owning a phone?

  • On average, kids spend between six and nine hours a day in front of screens.
  • Phones are too expensive for kids to be responsible for keeping in good condition.
  • Exposure to cyberbullying and social media on phones increases the risk of mental health problems in kids and teens.
  • Social media and countless other apps leave kids exposed to contact with inappropriate content and predators.
  • Having your smartphone in your presence reduces your cognitive abilities even if it’s turned off.

3.  Explain Your Reasoning

Once you’ve decided, you should sit down with your child to let them know your answer. If you’ve decided to let them have a cell phone, you should include your house rules for phone ownership and use. Then you can move on.

Parents who’ve decided not to allow their child to have a cell phone right now should be prepared for backlash in all directions. Luckily, your child will be likelier to listen to your reasons because you listened to theirs, but they’ll still probably do it with a fuss.

Ultimately, as a parent, you don’t have to explain your decisions to your children, but understanding the “why” usually makes it easier to swallow.

4.  Offer an Alternative

If your child is in activities or spends any amount of time at home alone, you may need a way to get a hold of them or vice versa. Also, you’re not entirely deaf to your child’s desire to interact with their friends when they’re not around.

Many companies make smart watches or “dumb” phones designed to limit what type of contact your child can have. Typically, the parent gets to set boundaries on the device.

5.  Introduce Phone-Free Activities

Reducing your own smartphone usage is an excellent example for your kids and will give you more time for all of you to spend together. Instead of a room full of zombies starting at screens, limiting phones allows you to truly enjoy each other. Get out the board games, go for a hike, plant a garden, and just soak up every moment.

6.  Hold Your Stance With Naysayers

Finally, you’ll want to discuss with your kids how to deal with criticism from peers. Talk to them about how you plan to deal with other parents’ questions and comments. At this point, you’ve had a very clear discussion about the reasons for not getting a phone, which you can share with naysayers. Your kids can either share those reasons with friends or simply blame your no-phone rule.  Eventually, their day will come at the appropriate age and they’ll finally have their own cell phone.

Be Willing to Revisit Your Decision

No decision ever has to be set in stone. Every year will bring new developmental changes for your kids, and life circumstances frequently change. Keep an open mind to changing technology and the needs of each child individually. Be upfront with your children that you mean what you say, yet you’re willing to be flexible if the need – not any amount of begging – arises.

Cora Gold - Editor in ChiefAuthor bio:  Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She strives to live a happy and healthy life with her family by her side.
Follow Cora on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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