21st Century Lie #1-We Bought our Kids a Cell Phone So We Can Always Reach Them

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I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, "We bought our child a cell phone so we can always reach them." Oh my god, that statement in and of itself sends me into a frenzy! First of all, for most families (of course not all) it does not matter what age your child is when you buy them a phone, nine out ten times they will not answer your call or immediately respond to your text. Buying a cell phone for your kid guarantees you only one thing; a higher phone bill.

But in reality when phones are purchased for children it is because the parents do not mind paying for a phone, the phone bill, buy into the tale that every one else has one, or the belief they will always know where their kid is as all times via the phone.The smarter thing would be to not comment on parents who do buy phones for their little kids, but honestly, you people are making it incredibly difficult for parents who do not buy into the bullshit that their kids under high-school age "need" a phone. By my calculations and the definitions from the dictionary, there is a huge difference between "needs" and "wants".

First off, I really do think kids have too much too soon. I know this sounds like my parents talking, but let us get something straight. Just because they said similar things, does not make them wrong! If our seven-year olds start out with a Smart phone, where do they have to go from there? Is there anyone else other than me who is thinking we are creating self-entitled little monsters? I am honest enough to say, that I think we have and are continuing to do it. Just the other day, I was listening to talk radio and the topic being covered was that cell phones have taken the place of teenagers getting their driver's licenses as the "coming of age" event. Driver's licenses used to be a very important "coming of age" event that all teenagers strove to reach. Now, teens are not even interested in learning to drive, let alone getting their license. What is worse, what use to occur when a teen turned 16 or 17 now occurs regularly at 7 and 8 years old. Again, my question stands, where do the 7 and 8 year olds go from here?

Many kids under 15 do not have a phone. I know that for a fact. They, however, just feel like they are alone, you know, the only kids without one. When people say it does not cost that much more to add another phone to the group, I think they must have the data plan from heaven. I mean, these kids do not have flip phones, they have Smart phones. With Smart phones comes increased data packages for Internet, YouTube, Email, Games, Apps and the list goes on and on. So, it might be true that it only costs $10 or $20 to add a new phone to your plan, but the data packages, the phone itself (and the ever present bigger and better version), accessories and insurance start increasing the bill substantially. We have fallen into one of the biggest advertising and consumer traps-ever!

Let's not forget to mention that we are creating our own Social Media nightmares, by allowing unfettered 24-hour access to a phone with Social Media, chats and games. We are doing nothing but inviting Social Media addiction. Think I am full of it? Try taking the cell phone away from your 12 year old for one week. I'll tell you what will happen, they will have your phone within minutes or you will give them their phone back because they are driving you nuts!

Something I mentioned in a previous paragraph that really ticks me off and goes right alongside the "if I give them a phone I can always reach them," is that 7 and 8 year olds are getting phones for exactly that reason. It did start off with high-school students but it has graduated downward. That statement makes me so angry that I could spit fire! I mean, WTF? What do you mean you don't know where your 8 year old is at all times? I have had family and friends who try to argue this point, but still my question remains, "what do you mean you do not know where your 8 year old is at all times?" To date, no one has sufficiently answered that question. The only answer that kind of peeks through is that they are busy and they let their kids run all over by themselves and a cell phone gives them (the parents) peace of mind and a FALSE sense of security.

I've got news for you folks, if you think some crazy person can't pick up your pretty, sweet little 8-year old and properly dispose of the phone and the child before anyone knows they are missing, you are really kidding yourself. Sad, but true.

Now, back to where we began. "If I give my kids a phone, I can always reach them." We have a pretty responsible Freshman college student, and he was a pretty responsible high school student, but giving him a cell phone his Freshman year of high school did not and still does not guarantee that he would take my calls and/or use his phone responsibly. Excuses range from, my phone was dead, I had the ringer on silence because I have to keep it on silence during class and I forgot to turn it on later, the wifi wasn't working, it was in my backpack, oh, I forgot to turn it back on, and the excuses just get more creative from there. Truth is, he rarely missed a text or call from his girlfriend, but for us, it was most of the time.

In my opinion, kids really don't need a phone until they are in high school and are busy with events. Even then, parents should have a pretty good idea of where they are and even check in on them from time to time. Truth is, whether they have a phone or not, there is no guarantee you can reach them when you need to and if what all kids say is true, then certainly one of their many friends will have a phone with which they can use to check in!

Maybe what this boils down to is not just phone usage, but parenting skills. Maybe I am just a little ticked to know so many parents who buy into the whole phone charade are doing it because it makes their jobs as parents a little easier? How many parents do you know make their kids plug in their phone in their parent's room each and every night? How many parents have gone onto their phone plan and placed child restrictions, i.e. shut off after 9:00 pm or 10:00 pm for phone calls or texts? How many parents know the kid's phone pass code and if they do know it, how many of them actually take the time to review it's contents? I know I have polled all of my friends, and not one of them has done any of the above mentioned on a regular basis.

Kids of all ages who have unrestricted access to their phones are on it day and often all hours of the night as well. Parents go to bed and think that when they are done so are their kids. More times than not, that is simply not true. Many are up all night texting and playing games. Kids generally do not self police themselves. It is up to parents to step up and do their jobs. And, unfortunately, that just might mean you need to do the unpopular thing and take their phone away, or better yet, not buy one for them at all. Your phone company will not like this and neither will your kids, but I have to ask, would it be such an unpopular trend to start?

Ursula Neal

Ursula is a grief coach for mothers who have lost children helping them to move from crappy to happy again. She is also a personal growth strategist helping individuals reach their goals. She may be reached at 602-400-4423 or ursula@CompassReset.com. Facebook Google+

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