How Young Is Too Young? And Am I Setting My Kids Up For Social Suicide?

A friend shared with me her shock and dismay that her niece had an Instagram account. First of all, her niece was constantly on her phone, fingers in motion. Second, the child’s mother spent the weekend saying things like “Ohhh, such a cute shot. You should send that out!” and “Six more followers! Good job!” Third, my friend’s daughter was now begging for an account because all the cool kids had one.

And last, her niece is 10 years old.

Ten.

As in, one and a zero.

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So, I ask. Why does a 10 year old need a phone? Why is her mother so concerned about the number of followers her daughter has? And are my kids uncool because they don’t even have a phone yet?

Social media is difficult enough for an adult to navigate, and I’m talking about the emotional aspects, not the mechanics. Cyber bullying is now addressed in high schools and middle schools. Must we address it in elementary schools, as well?

Of course we must. But that doesn’t mean I want to.

I don’t see the need for my child to have a phone just yet. Knowing what I know about the dangers of the world and how close our technology can connect my child to these dangers is not appealing. Call me a worrywart. Call me over-protective. I don’t care.

My children are at an age when I am having to address this issue and I don’t want to. I want to keep my kids young and innocent and pure. I want their phone conversations to be supervised by a long cord tethered to the phone in the middle of a common area, oh say, like a kitchen. I want to know who is calling and at what time. You know, like it was when we were kids.

I’m struggling.

How young is too young?

Am I setting my kids up for social suicide because I want to prolong their innocence?

What do you think? And how are you handling this tricky, yet common, new century conundrum?

 

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10 Comments

Filed under Growing Up, Motherhood, parenting, Ponderings

10 responses to “How Young Is Too Young? And Am I Setting My Kids Up For Social Suicide?

  1. Nope. My kids aren’t getting one. Thankfully it’s a long way off since the oldest is only three, and who knows, things may change between now & then. But I think a lot of parents have a lot of poor excuses for buying them for kids. I didn’t own a cell phone until 2006. I was a junior in college & finally broke down & bought one. Until then, I just came home on time, used pay phones & answering machines, and didn’t feel the need to be connected to the Internet ALL the time. It was fine. And my kids will be fine too. If it makes them unpopular…that’s fine as well.

  2. AH

    I remember reading about it once, and a psychologist said that at ten they could have an ipad but without internet or something like that. So I guess they should enter the world of social media somewhere after that…maybe 13.But the dillemma is as you said, Everybody around them are online so they’ll probably feel left out.

  3. I think that’s one of those awkward situations where you rapidly conclude that the parent isn’t on the right planet. It shouldn’t be about feeling left out, having possessions or a connection should never be a status symbol. It has to be a decision based on need and maturity and the individual concerned. We all survived before, hard as it may be to believe, and I’m sure that today’s children and teenagers can also survive unplugged. There are more important connections that they should develop first and learn to appreciate and cherish. :)

  4. Firm rule: no phone until 13.

  5. We got my son a phone this year when he switched schools to a 7-12, and had to take the city bus (he was 12). He texts me every day to tell me if he’s on his way home or going somewhere with friends or staying for music help. I really like having the line of communication, and he puts the phone away when I tell him to. I let him get a Facebook account at ten just to play the games, on the condition that I had access to it. He talks to friends on it now, and it’s all pretty innocuous. It’s a tough line to navigate.

  6. My daughter is twelve. She wants a cell phone because “all her friends have one.” And tey do. But I mentioned to her that she’s free to use our phone whenever she wants. She and her friends never even call each other. She did, however, save her money and bought her own ipod. She and her friends text each other and I read through them all the time. I know that things are still perfectly innocent, but there are dangers out there. We’ve learned that the hard way with my 14-year-old niece. Some really scary stuff. When I mentioned it to my daughter-in-law (20), she said the same thing had happened to some of her friends. I don’t think we can be too careful.

  7. I am a little older, so we didn’t face the phone dilemma at so young an age. However, mine got phones when they could drive or were being driven around by friends. For us, that worked.

    There isn’t a hard and fast age for children to have a phone. It is what works for the type of activities and schedule you and your children have. A working mother might want a younger child to have a phone, but a stay-at-home mom wouldn’t see the need.

    A child does not need a phone just because they want a phone…..

  8. This is tough. There are no easy answers here. I don’t exactly like to run with the pack so when my boy was trying to grow up, I strived for us to live by certain standards regardless of what was “in.” I’ve always loathed the urge to conform. Even a simple rule, like no ice cream after school, would become a huge exercise because my son’s friends could all have mid-afternoon ice cream for snacks and he could not. I guess it could have very well been too much for him to take. In the end containment was not possible and I did what I could. Now it’s up to him to complete the dots (or not) and grok some higher meaning. I wish him luck. Societal pressures are fierce.

  9. Is it wrong to be glad other parents are having to navigate this before I do?

    I love the above answers about withholding until the children need it. Like the boy who takes the bus and texts his whereabouts. Or the driving teens. When the kids are distant enough or in public situations enough that you need to know about their safety, phone makes sense.

    So really, it’s all about you, Jane. When do *you* need your boys to have phones?

    Social media? Nope. I’m all for them having reading access to an account, but the stories I’ve heard from friends about bullying based on what you post, how you post, when you post, what you like, how you like, when you like…metrics that are simply ludicrous measures of a person’s worth have made me think that high school or college are the appropriate time to be thrown into those shark pools.

    Until then, I’m getting myself on facebook and twitter and blogging and tumblr. Because I need to know what they’re all about before the kids do.

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