By Nikelle Fesperman
Kids are growing up in a world that is almost unrecognizable from what I knew. Back in my tween years, my favorite things to do were jumping rope outside, riding my bike, reading Word Up! magazine, making friendship bracelets, going to Kates Skating Rink and hanging out with my friends at Eastland Mall. Over the years, the technology monster has slowly taken over people’s lives, and it has definitely changed the way kids are spending their free time.
As of late, my husband and I have been faced with the tough decision of buying our son a smartphone. He gives us gentle reminders every birthday and Christmas (or just on a random weekend), that he is the only middle schooler in the universe that doesn’t own a phone. Please understand, he is not living in the dark ages. He has a tablet he uses at home (no internet though), a PS4, and a smartwatch that lets him call or text me whenever he wants.
According to Common Sense Media, 53 percent of children own a phone by the age of 11. My son will be 12 this year, and while most moms I know have caved in and gotten their kids phones by this age, I still have my reservations.
Here are a few of my concerns:
Maturity — Since school started this year, my son has lost a jacket, water bottle, remote control to our TV, and left his science notebook at school for several days. At 11 years old, I’m not 100 percent sure I can trust him with such an expensive, breakable device that he will carry around in his back pocket.
Health — I have read so many articles about how excessive use of technology, especially phones, increases the rate of childhood anxiety, obesity, depression, behavior problems and poor sleep.
Inappropriate websites — I’m afraid the innocence of childhood will be lost as soon as he can freely access the internet. With just one click, he will be face to face with porn, violence, news and disturbing images.
Addiction — Studies show one out of every 11 children aged 8 to 18 are addicted to new technologies – a very alarming figure that may increase as years go by. When used compulsively, it ends creativity and limits social interaction. Kids become more separated from their parents, family and friends.
While my husband and I are feeling the pressure to give in, we’re holding back as long as we can. Even Bill Gates didn’t give his kids phones until they were 14, so I don’t feel too guilty for wanting to wait. I did, however, make a deal with him last summer, that if he gets all A’s and B’s on his report card this year, we will consider buying one. Now the ball is in his court.