by KATE HUNTER
I’ll put it straight out there:
I can’t see any reason for a kid under the age of 15 to have a smartphone.
Why is 15 the magic age? Because that’s when a child is old enough to have a job and pay for it herself. Smartphones are expensive time suckers that get kids (and adults) into trouble.
Children in my orbit have them – my nephew loves his iPhone, and my sister is happy to pay for it. I’ve told her my position and she’s told me to get stuffed. Sisters can do that.
I’m not Amish. I have my own iPhone to which I seem to be grafted. We have laptops and desktops and an iPad. My nearly 12 year old son has a mobile phone – a Nana-Nokia I bought at the newsagent for $19 with a nice long pre-paid SIM. He can call or text if cricket training turns into game or he’s invited home with a mate. It sits in the bottom of his schoolbag, too daggy to be used for anything other than essential communications.
Still, I realise I’m a voice in the wilderness and my son could be crippled socially, but there’s no evidence of it just yet. When it happens (my sister predicts will happen before Easter) – I plan to enforce a code of conduct similar to that of Cape Cod Mom Janell Burley Hoffman.
In a Christmas letter to her 13 year old son, published on The Huffington Post, Ms Hoffman outlined the conditions surrounding young Gregory’s shiny new iPhone under the tree. Those rules have been shared a bazillion times on Facebook, but in case you missed them (maybe you lost your iPhone) here are some of Ms Hoffman’s best rules:
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.
4. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
5. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Some day you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.
I love all these (and you can read the rest of them here). I especially love that Mum retains ultimate control.
Janell Burley Hoffman sounds like one tough cookie and by her tone, you’d think that Gregory would not dare step out of (on)line.
But I wonder in the real world (where most of us mums already feel our kids are already racing ahead of us) if such strict law enforcement is possible? It’s a bit like when you get a dog and announce that Rusty will ONLY sleep OUTSIDE, and before you know it he’s tucked under the doona with your husband.
Life is busy – do we really want the added job of policing a kid’s smartphone use? These rules for smartphone use by kids (that many adults struggle with) is enough to put me off for a while yet.
Do you think kids should have smartphones?