When do you give your child a cellphone?


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But sometimes we just want to share a thought, a question, or an insecurity. Something we don’t know the answer to, but something we want to talk about and hear your thoughts on. So we’re going to start a new series called ‘Thursday Thoughts’, and we hope you will enjoy and join in (and we hope we will learn and grow from it)!


Sara is now 10 years old, and the inevitable question has come up — when does she get a cell phone? Some of her friends (including her best friend) have been given a cell phone for their 10th birthday, and apparently about a third of the children in her class now have of a phone of their own.

We are not big screen-users in our family. It seems that there are roughly two routes to take when you are raising children — you are either relaxed or restrictive about screens — we lean toward the latter. Our kids do not have an Ipad or Ipod, and hardly watch television (they do watch the occasional dvd though). But, when we are having dinner and one of the kids has an interesting question or insight that we can’t respond to accurately, we tell them to search for the Ipad and look up the answer. And, now that it’s getting colder and wetter and it’s dark early, we sometimes like to cosy up in the living room and watch a fun film together. So I guess we don’t ban out screens completely, we’re relaxed restrictive about them.

With that in mind, I always thought the age of 12 would be a good age to give my children a mobile phone. They are then in the last year of primary school, and they will have started to cycle to their school, their friends and their after-school activities by themselves. An age, I imagine, when they will need (and get) more independence, and a mobile phone might make sense. They are hopefully responsible enough by then, plus, it could come in handy at times.

As a child, I had to cycle 8 kilometers to secondary school every morning, and back every afternoon. ‘Through rain and wind’, as we say here in the Netherlands. On a few occasions, cycling was impossible — a lot of snow on the way, or a flat tyre, for example — and I would have to find a house on the way, ring the bell, and ask kindly if I could make a phone call to my mum so she could come and pick me up. I sometimes wonder, do children nowadays have a chance to develop the (social) skills to deal with these sorts of little problems in life, when they get a mobile phone at such an early age?

A friend of mine has 3 children, 2 teenage boys and a tween girl. His wife passed away a few years ago, so he has the tough job to raise his kids all alone. He has always been extremely relaxed about screens; he feels that they are such an integral part of our lives, that it’s only natural to let children grow up with them. He gave his daughter a cell phone (no smart phone though) when she was seven, so they could reach each other on the days that he was working outside the city. When she was ten she got a smart phone, and he says it’s all good.

I was talking with Courtney about this (who has even stricter views on electronics) and she nearly fainted (half joking) when I mentioned it might soon be time to give Sara a phone. She said that this is a parenting decision that is still so far away for her, that she hasn’t really even thought about it yet, but she guessed it would definitely not happen before her kids were 16, and then certainly no smart phone!

So many parents, so many opinions.

But I think I might have to reconsider mine. I wonder if maybe the age of 12 is a bit late in our Amsterdam way-of-life. If, next year, most if not all of the children in Sara’s class have a phone, should I still keep her from getting one? Even if we wouldn’t allow her to bring her phone to school yet, she could still join the class WhatsApp group, and send messages to her friends, and use it on occasions after school?

It’s a difficult decision to make, and I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about it to help me shape my own!

xxx Esther


Comments (29)

November 26, 2015

I think that, as with so many things, there are so many different scenarios, based on different school system, family situations etc. From what I understand here in France the kids are now getting phones at the beginning of middle school, as classes are sometimes cancelled and there is no after school club, so kids head home alone or go to their friends houses. To be able to send a quick texto in those cases is useful. Now middle school in France starts at the age of 10/11, hence why French kids get a phone around that age. I do believe that kids need to be able to deal with sorting themselves out without a phone. I want them to be able to navigate out neighbourhood without a phone and figure out what to do if I am have been delayed and they are standing in front of a locked door. It is important to be able to be independent enough to be able to knock on the door of our neighbours so that they can reach me or run into a café to call (as Esther so rightly describes, these are fundamental social skills). I think the difference for me is the phone as a useful communication tool versus the phone as an entertainment object. I think I am ok for Coco to have a phone in middle school so that she can communicate, but I am not down with her using the phone as a entertainment centre – for that she is too young and there are way to many good books to be read, crafts to be made, walls to be climbed and games to be played with other actually human beings.

November 26, 2015

Great post, thank you: ) We’re having exactly the same dilemma in our house too. From my research it seems kids in London are given a phone when they leave primary school at 11. I would be a lot happier knowing my son has a phone on him when he’s having to make his own way to and from school and I won’t be with him *sob*

November 26, 2015

My kids are still too little for me to have to decide thankfully! I think I will probably veer more to Courtney’s end of the spectrum. It sounds like part of your concerns is more about what Sara’s classmates have than about what your family needs. Kids definitely don’t need something just because their friends have it (i say this as someone who grew up without a tv in the house and survived unscathed). I try to make choices based on what feels right for our family and not let the choices of other parents decide for us (how many of them gave their kids phones just because “all my friends have one!”, I wonder?).

November 26, 2015

Was JUST thinking about this as I am terrified of them having phones. I am terrified of them sitting in their own worlds on their phones texting; being bullied, sending or receiving naked photos; looking at porn (and was
Also talking about how I wanted my son to only discover vintage porn of soft natural women with hair (you can see I have thought way too much about this hahahaha!!!!!!)

It terrifies me so much. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks!!!!! Right now I’m thinking 16 but my husband says I’m crazy! I have a few years to go 😌

November 26, 2015

Ah I just discovered we can get a phone that only dials like five numbers or something. So they can have that when they’re 16. 😏

November 26, 2015

I’ve always felt with issues like these that you do what is right for your family. My kids are not old enough for phones, but my 6 year old son does use an iPad. I’ve always felt that I should be responsible for teaching him how to use technology responsibly and how to keep it in balance with his other interests. Like it or not it’s a part of life now. I also teach grade 6 and last year 100% of my class had a phone of some type, mainly for checking in with parents when walking home and to after school activities.

November 26, 2015

Hi Esther, thank you so much for the great post. We are very cautious about giving our children too much technology, as I don’t feel it’s a good thing at any age! We have always encouraged play, art, crafts, games and time together, the only television my children watch is one documentary or film on a Friday evening. I have a 7 year old and an 11 year old. However, with my 11 year old daughter starting secondary school last September, and with a little more independence, we felt the time was right for her to be able to make contact with us should she need to. So we decided to give her my old iphone. I am not sure if her upbringing has helped, but she really isn’t very interested in it at all, and would much rather spend her free time sewing or making something. It seems to be a real struggle for so many, I speak to parents who can’t seem to get their children off their phones! I remember listening to a parenting podcast where the person (teenage expert) said that parents must remember that they were the ones who actually gave the technology to their children, and they mustn’t be afraid to have very clear boundaries about their use. I thought that was a helpful reminder as sometimes we as parents can feel quite powerless. Good luck!

November 26, 2015

Hi Esther, thank you for your post, I think it is a dilemma that a lot of us parents face and I do too wish that it was a topic we did not have to think about at such young age, however it is unfortunately the way of the world, I agree with Pippas comments above that it’s the setting of boundaries that is the important factor – my daughter will be allowed a phone when she is 11 (I am from London) I’m sure my parents wish they could of given me a phone when they set me loose in the big wide world, it will be for my peace of mind and not a luxury item for her – my concerns however will be regarding cyber bulling which seems so common and not screen time as I will impose strict boundaries on that X

November 26, 2015

That’s a good discussion, I think! Well, my oldest son is still 6 years old, so I haven’t thought about that yet. I think it’s funny that children and teenagers want so much to get a mobile phone these days (you would think that they would find it such a pain to HAVE to answer your phone because your parents want to know about your whereabouts). Anyway, maybe you should ask Sara why does she want a mobile? What does she need it for? What could she do if she didn’t have one on that occasion? Rules if she gets one…? I think if you talk about those things, it might help you to make a decision you are both happy with!

November 26, 2015

Hi Esther, thanks for bringing this topic up for discussion. I think, in this instance, the advice of other parents is not going to be all that helpful for you because you know your own daughter best, her maturity and responsibility and the circumstances of her life. I’m years away from thinking about this as my own son is 3, but I do teach young children and middle schoolers and most of the latter bunch have cell phones, even smart phones. They are used for What’s App groups with friends and a way to keep in touch with their parents. Most of the parents of these children do not let their children download Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or any of these other applications so I suppose that would fall into the category of ‘relaxed restrictive’ parenting as well. I guess in the end it all depends on why you feel your daughter needs a phone (or why she does) and how she expects to use it.

November 26, 2015

This is such an interesting topic and one I have also struggled with myself. My daughter just turned 11 and desperately wants a phone as about 70% of her peers will be getting them as they too turn 11 if they don’t already have them. I am not keen on screen time apart from the odd film. Her Dad has a completely different view and would give her any device under the sun if he could (he even wanted to buy her a lap top 😱).
We came to a decision that she will be starting to walk on her own places very soon and would like a way for her to keep in contact with us therefore we gave her an old iPhone with a pay as you go SIM card and limit her time on it until she really needs to use it. Since her birthday (October) she has hardly used it and has said she actually doesn’t really need it but likes being able to listen to music and make occasional contact with friends.

November 26, 2015

Hi Esther
I really thought to write something about screen-time for Babyccino actually. I totally admire yours and Courtney’s views on Screen-time and have such ‘angst’ about allowing my kids time in front of any screen but I have to say that screens will most likely be part of their lives and in moderation (and with some careful editing) I even think screens can be good. Also being dyslexic, Elias’s perception on paper is more complicated then on a screen – dyslexic people often ‘see’ things more 3-dimensionally then we do so paper can be a confusing medium – kids who are dyslexic are often ‘freed’ by using a computer to type their lessons, he is taught to touch-type at school and computers will be a saint grace for him as an adult when things like voice-recognition is better developed. Using a screen will literally allow him to reach whatever potential he wants to. We bought Elias an iPod touch recently – it was way way way earlier then I thought we would and I was so worried he would become glued to it (like I did my Gameboy when I was 11!) but he has 2 hours on a bus everyday to school and at first we thought to buy him an ipod to listen to stories on but the iPod touch was only £30 more expensive and we thought maybe it would be good for him to be able to send messages, FaceTime and even have access to some apps and cartoons for his journey. We have strict rules that his iPod is just for his bus journey and he’s pretty good at sticking to that. He is also allows to use it to FaceTime with his friends and Granny – he has 4 contacts in his address-book so he couldn’t FaceTime with anyone but those guys. He now ‘facetious’ with my Mum and Tobi’s mum a couple of times a week – he would never have picked up the phone of his own accord to them before. I love that. We loaded some really sweet apps on his machine – all of which are fun buy educational (I wrote a piece ages ago about how I think there is a role for apps which can be really good for kids – it encourages a more active involvement with media then merely telly) – there are some brilliantly illustrated educational apps which allow kids to explore subjects that may not come up otherwise – Elias has a lovely app called Starwalk – where he can literally take a walk around the galaxy and see star formations and learn their names and facts about space. Another game is a maths-game where he builds a rocket and has to solve maths puzzles to launch the rocket higher into space, There are also some nice montessori apps and the nosy crow story-books are fabulous. He also has Uno, the card game. which we all love to play (as a real card game) and so he sometimes enjoys to play that by himself on the bus. He doesn’t have any typical computer games and I will never allow any games that glamourise violence. As for telly. I like telly and Tobi works in telly but we (Tobi and I) watch very little (I guess about 1/2 hour a day on average). However I think it would be somehow hypercritical to not allow my kids to watch some tv – I really enjoyed it when I was a kid (and watched a lot EVERY day!!!). My kids tend to watch about 1/2 hour a day in Winter, when we are more indoors and more likely to bounce off the walls a bit!!!! In Summer we don’t watch telly every day – we are normally outdoors. But if we do, we do. Again, I think it is all in the editing – I particularly like old cartoons – we love Snoopy, Ivor the Engine, Maulwurf (from Czech), Peppa Pig, Charlie & Lola – we don’t watch much Disney (too scary) and Im picky about the style of animation (you know I”m a snob right?!) and the pace – some animation I find hectic and too loud – I find these things can get my kids all riled up and I notice they have any impact on how they play after (not in a good way). If my kids watch too much telly they are in foul moods, so we have to watch the parental temptation to enjoy that 1/2 hour when they are all sitting quietly without causing any harm, trouble or mess and not let it slip into much longer – that can be hard, especially when you have jobs to do, a conversation to be had, an e-mail to finish … it can be hard and I beat myself up (a lot!!!!) if I let it slip.
As for phones … I think there can be a safety question – I got my first mobile when I was 17 (obviously they hardly existed before then!!!) and starting to drive – it was essential as I drove an old Mimi and often had to call for someone to come and collect me from where I had broken down. My niece (who is the same age as Elias) goes on a public bus to school – her parents gave her a phone (normal not smart) so she could let them know if the bus was delayed or she missed it etc. Those things make sense. The smart phone thing I think is terrifying when it comes to social media – I find social media a hugely complex world for young people – a place where they learnt o communicate who they are in a really strange and unreal way – I think social media is far more terrifying then a bit of tv. I worry for that time already. Elias is so incapable of using his device – entirely clueless. It is very sweet and it allows me to be in full control of it – we choose what to put on it together because he wouldn’t be able to do that for himself – I’m not sure how it will feel when he organises it all for himself. Super interesting and massive subject!!!!

November 27, 2015

I love this comment Mo. I’m conducting a big research project at the LSE (a university in London) on parenting and technology (we have a research blog at if anyone is interested) and one thing we have seen a lot in the research is how different families – how much each family makes decisions around screentime in relationship to their own child/ren, any particular needs they might have (learning differences or disabilities, religion, cultural/language learning, distant relatives) and also their own values and interests as parents. Its something I think about a lot with my kids as well, my husband and I love films so we’re excited that our kids are nearing the age where we can share that with them as well.

November 26, 2015

I think here comes in, to make your own judgement call, and not just blindly stick with the blindly no electronics ideal. I can see your delemma. I think might come to a point where it is either setting aside your ideals or having Sara being left out of her group of friends. I do think it also depends on the character of your child.
I always thought with my boys 16 would be the time to give them their own phone, but I am very conscious that I might have to change this over time. For now luckily our school has a strict no electronics policy incl for homework, which is still all done by pencil and paper for all ages, apart from some test and it lessons. And it is only some older boys (13) who travel by school us to school who have their phone in lock up in reception.
I do also think that it takes way more parenting skills to allow technology in small amounts than to exclude it completely and it will play a very integral part of their future, way more than it has ever done to us. Also who are we as adults to tell our kids not to use them at all, while we are all guilty of using our phone iPads more than ever. I am sure you will make the right decision for you and Sara and will then juggle with her to use her phone wisely😬 I in the meanwhile I’ll hold to my dream to wait till they are 16 years old….while I still can😜

November 26, 2015

This is so personal. I really think following your own heart is best. Something that inspires me still was said by a friend of mine years ago. She’s a dentist and told us how she noticed it was the kids with the parents who had strictest no sugar policy at home who tended to wind up with the most fillings as teenagers… Simply because on becoming teenagers the parents naturally had less control over what their offspring consumed at school and after school and the kids themselves were rebelling even more strongly than the ones who had been allowed some sugar as children and thus tended to wind up needing more dental work. It’s only anecdotal of course and not about technology but still offers a message at least to me!

Computers and technology are part of our lives now and are becoming even more so. There’s always a flip side to everything in life. But I do feel there’s a positive way to do this if you feel it might be the right thing and empowering our children to use technology in a responsible way seems one of our generation’s tasks wherever we stand on when and how it should be introduced. It starts with how we model that behaviour ourselves. For all the potential awfulness of the internet in a child’s hands I for one am so grateful for it and technology overall. Your daughter is loved and has grown up with confidence. That is the best protection at the end of the day. You know deep down what the best thing to do is. Great conversation!

November 27, 2015

I totally agree with Mary’s comment: “It starts with how we model that behaviour ourselves”.
Great article, Esther, thank you!

November 27, 2015

I completely agree with this comment.
I think as with everything in life, you have to have balance.
Computers are a huge part of our lives.
Personally my eldest loves computers (of any kind) and I can see him going into programming, app developing or something of that nature! He loves technology/maths. (We’re currently loving this ….
At the same time we do lots of nature walks, painting and drawing, crafts, reading (all my children love paper books).
So it’s finding a balance.
I can only see computers becoming more of an integral part of our lives in the future. So if they don’t know how to use them will this affect their chances of getting a job??? Who knows.
My 11 year old has a phone but only uses it for whats app and iPhone messaging with a friend. But we homeschool so he doesn’t have the interaction with a larger variety of school children.
Good discussion though!

November 27, 2015

I have read your blog for a few years Esther and I get a sense that you have instilled strong family values into your children; time spent together as a family, interest in the arts and nature and interests personal to your individual children. I have a teenager and my advice to you would be to strongly encourage continuation of her extra curricular activities, the phone so easily becomes a toy and social lifeline for a teenager – think how much time we as adults spend on Pinterest and IG, it’s fun. If your child has other interests the novelty of a phone will soon wear off. Do however lay ground rules. Phones have to be surrendered by 6pm for example, definitely not allowed to go to bed with it and I’ve found the threat of confiscating the phone is the only bargaining chip parents have with an out of line teen.

I have a 13 year old and you may find that any old phone just won’t do, it has to be an Iphone 5 or above, that will be your next battle !

I’m really interested in reading about anyone who has delayed giving a phone until the child is 16. Is that actually possible ? With the greatest respect to Courtney it’s a noble idea but I’ve never met a teenager whose opinion and will wasn’t as strong as their parent. I’m not really convinced what anyone is shielding a young person of 15 from that they haven’t slready been exposed to. They will have had sex education, read newspapers, had talks on cyber bullying, computer science classes, trips to Google or some other tech and all with their school. Once they become teens they learn so much about worldly things with or without phones. Phones and other apps do open up what your child is exposed to but I firmly believe they would learn this stuff anyway, certainly as a teen. It’s our responsibility to explain what they see so they understand right from wrong.

November 27, 2015

Such an interesting can of worms to open and I’ve found all the comments inspiring, particularly because my eldest at 11 is now asking regularly for a phone. My view has always been “everything in moderation” although my husband and I think that 11 year olds do not need a telephone. Saying this, my son now walks 10 minutes to secondary school and as school starts early in France, he leaves alone at 7.30am when it is still dark outside. On the other hand, my eldest 2 have tablets which were bought by grandparents and my kids watch television. They speak fluent French and English (thanks to Cbeebies), do well at school, love sports and are sociable, respectful and polite kids. We limit screen time but the “relaxed restricted” time they are allowed has never harmed them. In the future when they are older, we won’t have any control over their use of internet and I just hope we can teach by example. My husband rarely uses his phone and I came off Instagram, Pinterest and various blogs as I noticed the negative effect of social media on my own self-esteem (which worries me esp. for my daughter). I figured that if I stopped posting pictures of my children on IG, removed my camera from their faces and limited my own screen time then I would be more credible and less of a hypocrite. I don’t think we should hide away as parents so the kids think we never use phones, tablets, watch television, wear make up and drink the odd glass of wine but I do think we should study our own habits before we preach to our kids.

Susan M.
November 29, 2015

Love this discussion. Thank you for bringing up the subject. Very multi-faceted because it so obviously depends on family situations, living locations, and so on. We tend to be more the more restricted side; I think 16 sounds right for a phone. Our neighbours’ teenager had a simple cell phone for the last 3 years of high school — texting and phone calls only. It is probably hard to say that one is ever in total control of anything, but there are ways to avoid how these devices are terribly abused, especially by teens. Our kids can eat some kind of sweet thing every day; they can have a little bit of technology, too. But they need not be overwhelmed by screens and endless choices. It’s ridiculous how much adults have to navigate and judge. I think developing other social skills, such as being able to approach certain strangers for help, is as vital, if not more. A while back, we were trying out a 21-year-old babysitter who did not show up for a babysit appointment. We went the whole day without hearing from her. Then at the end of the day, a big email and apology because her boyfriend had taken her computer and phone for the day, and so she had been “unable” to contact us. She lived in a populous area, with several shops and gas stations in the area. But she had zero skills to handle this everyday problem. And it wasn’t just the device; she didn’t know how to ask someone else to use a phone, nor how to look up my number (which had not been written down, only stored on her phone and in her email exchange with me). I don’t want my kids to become that kind of clueless, device-dependent, limited adult-child.
I’m a professor, and there are always some college-age students who let the devices rule them, and don’t have skills of communication, storing information, applying knowledge.
But back to teenagers: some schools severely restrict cell phone use during class time. And in many places, kids are expected to leave them in the locker out school is out. So perhaps parents can also use some of the schools’ cues about how much or little to rely on phones.
We don’t want to bend to social pressures of the argument that “everyone else” has one. The tween age is very awkward for girls; apparently there have been studies of girls’ use of Instagram which go down to details of exactly how the girls look, how their friends all react to the outfits, and so on, leaving a whole array of pressures for the tweener to have to respond to (or feel obliged to respond to in some way), and reducing one’s identity to physical appearance. Can my daughter be left out of those exchanges for the most part? I don’t see why she can’t miss that. I myself would want to miss it.

November 29, 2015

Hi Esther, I am an 18 year old girl and as much as it seems nice for kids not to have mobile phones until they are at least 16, is that realistic?

I know when I have children, that I would want them free of mobile phones and iPads (not so much TV), for as long as possible. I also agree with you, that 12 years old does seem like the “right” age to give your child a mobile phone, especially as here in England a child would be at secondary school at this point.

I think parents can only judge this kind of circumstance based on their child. For example, are they feeling left out and sad that they are not part of the “Mobile Phone Crew” at school, or are they just aware of the other kids having mobiles, but feeling ok about not having one themselves?

I believe the parents know best (and I’m not even a parent yet!)

Good luck!

November 29, 2015

I don’t have anything valuable to add to the discussion, just wanted to share a phone that I came across while ago and really like the idea of it. The only option it has is to call, no camera or texting. It’s called John’s phone:

December 1, 2015

Hi Esther,
I never really join these discussions, I just love reading them and reflect on how I/we would handle but on this one I couldn’t resist.

I’m a mother of 4.
Boy, 12, Girl, 11, Boy 9,5 and a Girl 8. And where we live it is the same. From group 6 the kids get smart phones. We were really strict on this with our oldest. We decided that he would get his smart phone when he started high school. Some parents thought we were to strict and sometimes i was in doubt about our decision. But my son has his smart phone for 6 months and is very relaxed about it. He went on his own to another high school because of the lottery here… (a lot of tears) but very naturally he ‘left’ his old school life and started fresh and new at his new school.
He doesn’t feel the pressure to keep in touch with all his ‘friends’ because he sees them on whatsapp. It’s like the old days, when we were young, it naturally finds its balance and what a real friendship was wil stay a real friend.
Also, whatsapp groups are in my opinion not something a child needs to join. I rather would protect my children from that! Children in group 6, 7, or 8 do not know what it is for. And 9 out of 10 times it is not being used in a nice way. (bullying, bad language and attitudes) And we live in a very neat neighborhood. (doesn’t say a thing i know)
My 11 year old girl is not involved in the gossip. So she doesn’t take part and therefor she is found a safe girl in the group.which is a positive thing. She is also very happy about not having a phone. She knows she will get one this summer and that it is part of an new season in her life. High school. I am really strong in my opinion that you do not need to worry about Sara being left out. It will not happen i truly believe that.
Good luck on your decision and if you feel like it, please let us know what you’ve decided!!

December 4, 2015

“The Learning Habit” come up with interesting results regarding screen time. If I remember correctly: If your child spends more than 4 hours per day in front of a screen (any screen), it is pretty much a given that they are not an ‘A’ student. That sounds like a lot but all the phone usage, gaming and tv time add up quickly. On the other hand, children who do spend half an hour per day in front of a screen outperform those who do not spend any time in front of a screen. There are lots of studies out which concluded that screen time actually decreases vocab and concentration span. I am also not a fan of the radiation a phone gives off.

So I am on the pretty radical side of the spectrum as well. My children are allowed to watch a DVD about every 3 weeks. Since they are 8 and 9 now, we soon might get a bit more lax on that. They will get a phone when they are in secondary school the earliest, preferably a few years in.

December 9, 2015

I have two dozen nieces and nephews and no children of my own yet. The ones who are not subjected to screens (except in the classroom) are much more creative and imaginative. The ones who are given screens seem bored more often yet are very quick and well adept at computers and gaming, which I think does have some real world applications. Toh-may-toh, toh-mah-toh 🙂

Gilly porter
February 25, 2016

A little late in the day to be joining this discussion but somehow I missed it when it started. My age 10, year 6 boy (last year of primary in the UK) has just got his first phone. No camera, just calls and texts. Like you Esther I would say we are on the relaxed side of restrictive re screens in general. We have one iPad because it is useful and I’d rather we have that than any type of gaming machine in the house. We bought him the phone so that he can get used to it before high school where he will have to be more independent in his travel to and from school and I felt that if he starts to get used to using it, charging it and generally making sure he is reponsible for it now, it will be one less thing to worry about in transition time which already requires so many adjustments. Re a smartphone – very much aiming for a few years away yet. But we are in the massive minority – he has peers who’ve had a smartphone since aged 9. A police officer who I got taking to a while back said that smartphones are at the route of almost every school related problem that they (the police) get involved in because parents think they are giving their children a phone with Internet access, whereas in fact they are giving their child a personal computer that is capable of making phone calls. These words seemed sound advice. Very very difficult though when peer pressure is stronger than ever and parenting is harder for us this time round (we have boys aged 26 and 24 already) because of today’s technology Gilly X

September 28, 2018

Hi Esther
Just wondering how your family manages smartphone use? I just gave my 12 year old daughter my old iPhone, and already it starts with wanting to download apps (like houseparty). Does Sara have an iPhone and if so could you please share with us any guidelines you may have in place ?

Esther in Amsterdam
October 7, 2018

Hi Rebecca,
Thanks for your comment. Both Pim and Sara have a smartphone. Here in the Netherlands, children cycle independently to school and sports, dentist appointments etc from the age of 11 and it is thus handy for them to have a phone (both for communication as navigation). They also both are in WhatsApp groups of their class. In Pim’s case, this is not overly serious yet, but in Sara’s case, this is how the class mentors (teachers) communicate with the children. Also, her horse riding team communicates this way etc. So they mainly use it for communication purposes. They also both have a private (!!) Instagram account, which they mainly use to follow me, Emilie, Courtney and Babyccino, haha! They both have a Pinterest account too. Sara uses it for hand lettering and inspiration for her bullet journal. Lastly, we have a family account on Spotify so they can keep their own playlists. I think that’s it! Pim’s phone is not allowed to leave the house unless he is cycling to the manege for horse riding or to his tennis class by himself. Sara can take her phone to school but it is pretty useless there as she is not allowed to have it in class (obviously!). She uses it to check her school schedule and sometimes listens to music (they are allowed to do this during drawing class, she told me), or she sometimes show photos of the weekend or vacations to her friends. And of course she can contact me in case she has a schedule change or wants to go to a friend’s place after school. But she forget her phone most of the time, haha.
Both of them are not allowed to bring their phones upstairs, to their bedroom, at any time.
I hope this helps! xxx Esther (
PS I haven’t heard of houseparty yet!)

October 8, 2018

Hi Esther
Thanks so much for your thoughtful message. It helps a lot! Here in Brooklyn the vast majority of families in our neck of the woods have their
tweens with phones always, with no boundaries in place and free to use however and whenever. (I know this is totally fine for many families, was just not sitting right with me). Checking in with you and reading the Babyccino blog posts are incredibly helpful to remind us we are not alone in thinking differently. So thank you again for taking the time to reply, xo ! Enjoy these cosy days!

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