I never thought I’d be writing this, but I love my cell phone. It’s become a vital part of my life and my job. It’s to the point where I’d have a hard time doing without. Considering I only entered the game 18 months ago — I was a proud technological holdout prior — this is a significant admission.
My love for connectedness and the realization of the importance of the technology does have its limits. I’ve found a point of no return and it’s time all parents take a stand with me. No child should have a cell phone until high school. That’s right, I’m calling for a complete ban on cell phone use for those under the age of 15.
I have two children, my son is 13 (Grade 8) and my daughter is 11 (Grade 6). Since school began in September, it seems not a day goes by where I don’t hear about so-and-so and their cell phone. It escalated after the Christmas break when far too many parents bowed to the ridiculous notion that kids in junior high “need” a cell phone.
The answer in our house is simple. There is no logical reason why a kid needs such a luxury item at such a young age. No rationale — and trust me, my kids have thrown out every one in the book — will ever convince me to sign the kids up for a cell phone plan. Cell phones at such a young age cause more problems than they provide solutions. It’s a battle my kids will never win and though they fully understand it, they continue to bring home poor examples of why they need it.
To call my parenting style strict and old-fashioned would be a total stretch. I find value in video games, our family gathers around the television to watch our favourite programs many nights of the week, I encourage computer use and I’m an advocate of exposing my kids to as many different experiences as possible in hopes of giving them the tools for a future I can’t fully comprehend. My parents think I spoil the kids and I have a hard time arguing. But when it comes to cell phone use, I’m uncharacteristically stubborn.
As more and more parents cave, my resolve strengthens. And it seems the more parents I talk to, the more strange justifications I hear for why they decided to bring such an unnecessary device into their child’s everyday life.
The main reason I get is that a cell phone enables the parents to stay in touch with their kid. More than ever parents and kids lead busy lives. Many families are forced to have both parents working full time to make ends meet. The extra curricular activities children engage in keeps them humming along steady. Having a cell phone helps bring comfort during these busy times.
I don’t buy it.
My wife and I both work full time. Our kids play hockey, soccer, basketball, curl, baseball and sing. The calendar on the fridge overflows with ink on a daily basis. I can’t think of a time when our children were abandoned or stranded. If there is a change in plans while they are at school, they use the office phone. If there is something important to tell us, it can always wait until we see each other in person. I survived junior high without constantly keeping in touch with my parents, my kids will emerge unscathed when they leave Trafalgar.
A couple years back when my son was entering Trafalgar, I attended a parent orientation. One of the topics was bullying. One of the principals told parents that a huge issue the previous year was text bullying by Grade 6 girls. I was stunned. Not so much about the bullying — kids will always find ways to be mean — but that the school did not institute an outright ban. I raised my hand and expressed as much. They seemed receptive, but indicated parents might express harsh opposition. It was clear such a ban was not going to happen.
Kids are going to have plenty of opportunity in their lives to use cell phones. They will utilize them to become better at their jobs and to enhance their social lives. I get that and have no problem with what the future holds. While they are still at this tender age, however, there are far too many other things kids can be doing than texting their buddies. Have snowball fights, read books, play street hockey, even talk with one another without the use of a keyboard. The options are the same as when I was in junior high, in such a cluttered world we don’t need to provide them with even more unnecessary distractions.
I’m tired of hearing about how parents have “lost the battle” or justifying why their kids “need” a cellphone. They don’t. It’s time for all of us to draw the line in the wireless sand. Who’s with me?
Bob Hall is the editor at the Nelson Star. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BobbyHall10