My daughter rides the bus home after school every day. She rides a bus that is specifically for third graders, and she only rides it for about five minutes across our little town.
It was on this typically safe and uneventful bus ride that my daughter was shown inappropriate content on a cell phone.
One afternoon after I had loaded my children up and were headed home, my 8-year-old daughter informed me that while she was on the bus that day, a little boy showed her a meme that said the f-word and she was also shown a (non-sexual) picture of a butt on his cell phone.
I was appalled and horrified. However, at the same time, I couldn’t shake the feeling of slight relief because in this day and age she could have been shown much, much worse.
My daughter and I talked about how important it is to be careful what we see on people’s phones. We also discussed that she needs to immediately tell an adult if someone is showing her something inappropriate or doing something dangerous on a phone.
Conversations about cell phones are a reoccurring topic in our household. I remember the first time my daughter begged me for a phone and informed my husband and I that EVERYONE had their own phones.
I thought she had lost her dang mind. Surely no one her age really has a cell phone? Right?
As it turns out she was pretty much correct. It seems as if many kids in her age group do indeed have their own cell phones. Despite the fact that “everyone” has one, and much to my children’s dismay, my kids won’t be getting their first shiny new phones anytime in the near future.
Even though my answer to my child’s phone pleading has always been a resounding HECK NO, my persistent daughter still tries her darndest to persuade me.
“What if I’m at a friend’s house and I’m ready to come home? If I had a phone I could call you!”
“Call me from your friend’s phone since, remember, everyone has one.” BOOM.
Now I will say that I definitely understand that some circumstances do warrant a child having a phone. My daughter has friends who have health concerns, and some of her friends have parents who both work or go to school. I definitely get it. Every family is unique and every child’s circumstances are unique.
I will even say that there have been many times when it would have been very convenient for my child to have a phone, so I definitely get it.
However, phones make me nervous. Social media and children make me beyond uncomfortable. Why would I give my child access to Facebook during these critical years when her self-esteem is growing and developing?
The thought of my child having a smart phone with access to the internet and a camera is terrifying. It’s not terrifying because my child is a bad kid.
It’s terrifying simply because my child is a kid.
And, like all kids, her judgment isn’t always the finest. It is my job as the parent to protect her. It’s my job to guard her from the hazards that she doesn’t see or know exist.
Even if children aren’t dangerously posting personal information, they still have the ability to access material that they aren’t mature enough to process. How scary is it that children now live in a day and age where access to the evils of the world are at their finger tips? Information and inappropriate content is literally a click away.
Besides the obvious safety hazards, I also want to protect my children from becoming too overly reliant on using cell phones as entertainment. I don’t want my kids to be staring at a screen all day. I want my kids to be little and I want them to play and use their imaginations.
Ultimately, we’ve decided to wait. I don’t know what the magic age will be or when we will decide to bite the bullet on this issue, but for now my 8-year-old will remain cell phone free.