When to get our child a phone…

I don’t typically like to give specific advice. I enjoy learning and writing about general philosophy – the kind of philosophy that can help us, with our unique personalities and perspectives, make wise practical decisions about our parenting. We mothers are the most practical of philosophers. However, this “Cyber Week” I thought some of you might appreciate a specific recommendation as we make our Christmas gift decisions.  Don’t worry – I am not “sponsored”. I just found something that has worked for us, and may for you as well.  

Modern philosophy seems to say “more is better” and that we should let our children guide us as their desires count as much as our own. This philosophy often determines how parents answer the question of how and when to introduce children to technology. Why not give your kids a phone? Why not trust them to figure it out? Better to learn young, right? Loneliness and depression are rising as technology use increases, it seems unreasonable to have a technology free-for-all.  Children don’t have the proper perspective, knowledge, or self-control to act as adults. (Adults themselves aren’t thriving with this technology). Technology is increasingly addictive and social media platforms are divisive and damaging to young minds.

An unlocked smartphone opens a world completely independent and most often contrary to the values and traditions of a loving home.  We have worked hard to teach our children – but the voices shouting through a smartphone are louder than ours. Children are not developmentally or morally ready to face this world.  We don’t throw our kids into a raging river to teach them to swim and we can don’t give our kids an unfiltered cell phone and expect them not to drown. 

We modern parents face a tremendously important decision, one of our most important decisions as a parent – should I get my child a smartphone?  The consequences of this decision are real and potentially life-altering for our child, and our relationship with him/her. Through research, observation, and prayer, my husband and I have made a plan for our own family.  It is important to develop a plan – a tradition – that we adhere to so that our children know that no amount of complaining or anger will change. Our traditions should not be based on the prevailing philosophy of the world or our neighbors, but on what is true, right, and beneficial for our family. 

While we know that phones are often damaging, we practical mothers know that existing phoneless in a phone-obsessed world can be a real disadvantage, even for middle schoolers. One opinion often expressed is that kids will be “weird” if they don’t have cell phones. To which I say, Good! – who wants to be normal in a destructive society?  We can teach our kids that social costs are often worth paying – pointing out that “being cool or accepted” is often a poor long-term metric for happiness. And yet, unfortunately, schools, sports, and church activities increasingly rely on using cell phones for communication. Therefore it can be a challenge for parents and kids not to be connected through phones.

With all these thoughts in mind, we developed our plan.  We wait until 8th grade to add personal technology to our children’s lives. They do not have any technology of “their own” until they are in 8th grade, at which point they will get a “dumb” phone. My son, almost 14, became our first child to get a phone – the tradition begins.

I am so grateful that now concerned parents have options. With all the data on the damage smartphones can do to kids, companies are popping up with “dumb” phone options. These phones vary but generally, they usually remove games, social media, and internet access, which seem to be the most destructive elements of smartphones. They give parents access to, and control over, what is on their children’s phones and when they are able to use them. I have written extensively on the “devouring mother” and advised against over-controlling parenting.  But limiting our child’s access to technology that is known to be destructive, body and soul, is not controlling –  it is parenting.  

I have yet to meet a parent who has given their preteen, or even teen, a smartphone and not regretted it in some way. I am happy to say that I do not regret giving my son his Pinwheel phone. He texts his friends uses Duolingo to learn Spanish, checks SportsYou to hear from his coaches, and occasionally pulls up Google Classroom at school. That’s about it. He has not become addicted at all and it is nice to be able to tell him I will be five minutes late or send him a text wishing him luck on a test. His phone does the things he actually needs – not all the things he may come to “want” if supplied. He is satisfied with his phone and has not expressed a wish to have “more”.  My tendency is to assume technology is bad for kids, but I  am now willing to admit that technology, at the right time and with limits, can be a great tool. 

At the moment there are Black Friday deals on Pinwheel and Gabb phones. There is also another option called Troomi but I don’t know much about it. 

For all you parents out there, good luck as you develop your family technology tradition!



Video comparing the 2 phones:


Jordan Peterson full interview on the rise in mental health and narcissism related to smartphone use

2 thoughts on “When to get our child a phone…

  1. Ours was 16, with a flip phone. It still had YouTube on it, which defeated the purpose of buying a dumb phone. He wants a smart phone now (understandably), so I’ve been lookin at Gabb.


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