TEENAGERS

The big phone debate

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Apologies for another post on the mobile phone debate. The thing is – it is at the forefront of our minds as our eldest kids are approaching the equally feared and anticipated teenage years. It is also triggered by a recent survey that found that in the UK the average age for giving a child a tablet is two and the average age for a phone is seven.

This survey found that one of the main motivations to give a child a phone is because all the other kids had them and it was not “fair”. An intriguing argument, I feel.  Peer pressure is a strong motivator and it is horrible to be left out of a group just because you are not part of a social app, be it What’s App or Facebook. Being a teenager is hard enough. But there is a dark side to smartphones. Some kids in our school were using skype to communicate and had their account hacked into and received horrific threats. Devastating for the children and also the parents. A psychologist friend mentioned that cyber bulling, especially on FaceBook, has become a huge issue amongst teenagers. It is so much easier to bully virtually than in person. The bullying also does not just happen during the day within the confines of the school, so it is harder to escape.

My situation is the following: Coco is going to middle school next year, which means she will be going to school alone, either walking or by metro, and her schedule will change all the time. This was actually not enough to sway me to get her a phone, but then I realised that due to recent events in our neighbourhood (terrorist attacks), I started thinking that it might be good to be able to get hold of her during the day. She also oscillates between her father’s flat and mine, so being able to catch up when there is a change of plans could make all of our lives easier.

So funnily enough, my motivation of getting her a phone is for my own selfish reasons. Coco will be getting a very simple phone with no internet access. Interestingly, because of the Skype incident, she has decided that she absolutely agrees with this.

This is what we do in my little household. I opened up an email account for Coco when she turned 9 on a site called Zilla Dog, which is a child friendly site, where I have to approve all the mails she gets from new “buddies”. It felt like the right balance between her being able to communicate with family all over the world and not receiving ads about penis extensions. We have a desktop computer that she can check her emails on and also do research for school projects. As a search engine we use a site called Qwant Junior, which is a site developed for children and tries to make sure that the search results are suitable for children. We have an ipod that we use to listen to music, mostly on Spotify. But we only have one account, so I can check what the girls decide to listen to. It means that the good people of Spotify believe that I am a big fan of French and American teen hip-hop and so send me the most ridiculous suggestions – I hope that this is all done virtually and no one is judging my terrible music taste.

I think that everyone’s situation is different. Some children spend 45 minutes on a bus travelling to school, so listening to music is a great thing to be able to do (I will never forget my first disc-man, remember those?), others are super interested in photography.

As with so many debates, there is no right or wrong. Our children will not suddenly turn from angels to monsters because they have a phone, I think we can trust them enough for that not to happen. If it does, the phone will surely be the symptom not the cause…

Emilie


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Comments (21)

Sarah
June 2, 2016

I love your posts Emilie – maybe because are kids are similar ages, they always strike a chord!


Emilie in Paris
June 3, 2016

Thank you! It is such an interesting age, I find. I am learning something new every day


Simone
June 2, 2016

Thank you Emelie for that great Post. I have the same feeling about cell phones.


Kristina
June 2, 2016

Thank you, that’s very helpful. Especially Qwant Junior is really good to know, I’ve never heard about it before! I take away a lot from your posts too.


Nainde
June 2, 2016

How about a non-Smartphone from the old days, that’s what my children take for rides or when there’s need to get in contact.
Liebe Grüße from Germany,
Nainde


Christine
June 2, 2016

I was 15 when I got my first mobile phone and now, over five years later, I am ‘still’ on my second. Even if all my friends already had mobile phones at that age, they did not seem interesting to me at all. Without WhatsApp and other social apps and Tetris at maximum, we just had SMS to write each other. Because I come from the country side, I had to ride the bus to get to school since fifth grade and was therefore in constant contact with kids from 10 to 19. With the years, the kids got mobile phones earlier and earlier and with the new development of technical abilities, the younger kids grew more and more obnoxious. There are also always some quiet kids, to tell you first, but there is nothing more annoying for older pupils than 10 or 12-year-olds that do not know the boundaries of using a mobile phone on the bus. They play games with the music on full volume, listen to music halfway through the bus, or are discussing how many mobile phones they already had (highest number I ever heard was 7, the lowest 3. The kid with ‘only’ three got laughed at.). And also those “WhatsApp class groups”, where constantly one kid was bullied or even thrown out. Teachers and parents had no control over it because it happened in this virtual class room.
To end this rant of mine, I will tell you the moral of my stories: You do not have to hold off mobile phones from your kids until they are 15, but if you consider giving them one before they reached any age of some maturity, make sure they know the boundaries.

I am currently studying to become an elementary teacher and hopefully until then, kids do not receive phones in their first grade…


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Zoe
June 2, 2016

I think the most basic phone (like the old “brick” Nokias) are fine for a 10 year old.

I get that they are kind of embarrassing, appearance-wise, but maybe phone companies should make new, better-looking phones aimed at kids or adults who only want calls and texts – no internet?


Anaïs
June 2, 2016

My kid’s teacher also told me about https://fr.vikidia.org/wiki/Vikidia:Accueil which is in several languages (although predominately in French). Kids can write up articles just like in wikipedia. “Vikidia is an encyclopedia written for 8 to 13-year-old children and anyone seeking easy-to-read content on a subject. Look at the thematic portals!”


Emilie in Paris
June 3, 2016

Interesting!! Will check that out right now!


Amy Gaillard
June 2, 2016

I’m so glad I’ve come across your post. It’s nice to see other moms that are on the same page as me when it comes to this. Thank you and please keep posting!


Sofia
June 2, 2016

You’re so right!
As parents we’ve to be vigilant and to educate our children – but not against screens/technology. These have a huge importance in today’s world, and therefore our own childhood or teenage years are not to be compared. My son, a 12y, has a phone since last year. He certainly has learned the do’s and the don’ts and, it’s true, it has made our logistics easier at times. He enjoys it very much, but he enjoys a lego, a book, or going out just as well. It’s all about balance and, of course, to set a good example for them. The worst thing, in my opinion, is the fundamentalism around this subject. So, thank you, Emilie, to bring it back.


Lauren
June 3, 2016

My eldest son got his first phone when he went to high school. He opened a Facebook account when he went to uni. Never missed it. My youngest hasn’t got a phone and he is 15.


Kiana
June 4, 2016

Hi Emilie, thank you for sharing your experience. My children are still very little so this isn’t an issue for us but I thought I’d share what one of my friends does with her older children (a boy 15 years old and a girl 12). The children each have phones with internet connection but when they come home from school they have to ‘check in’ the phone with the parents. Their phones sit in a basket in the entryway and the kids can consult them at 8pm to see if there are messages or something important. Then the phones go back in the basket where they stay all night. It was the parents’ way of making sure that family time was made important again. The compromise actually worked so well that now the parents check their phones too when they come home! Hope this helps you and good luck!


Courtney in London
June 5, 2016

I know I’m already on record for how I feel on this subject… but felt like chiming in again – just to add to the discussion. Like all matters in parenting this one is, of course, a personal choice. We all do what we think is best for our kids and our families. We’ve been fortunate so far that our kids have never had a need for a phone nor peer pressure to have one. If we thought a phone was necessary for safety reasons, we’d opt for a simple phone like Emilie mentioned – not a smart phone — though we’d need to feel very worried to even consider giving them one to begin with. If Easton felt left out at school because he didn’t have a smartphone we still would not give him one. We just don’t think they are healthy for kids. As adults we can make a choice of how much time to dedicate to the miniature computers we carry around and use as a portal to everything good and bad in the world. It’s much more difficult for children and young teens to know when or what to look at through that portal, to know how to view it with perspective and to balance their time with and without a screen. It may sound dramatic but for us, the day Easton has a smartphone is the day his childhood draws to a close. It signals the beginning of the end of imaginative play, the end of preferring to muck around outdoors over spending time indoors and of finding enjoyment first with family and friends instead of the outside world. What age that day comes for Easton will depend on who he becomes, but we’ll use our influence as parents to delay it as long as we can…


Emma
June 6, 2016

Hi Courtney, as a fellow mama I have been following along for a while now and really do enjoy Babyccino Kids and all your adventures however I have always wanted to know, since it frequently comes up in your discussion of technology and protecting your children from it, how your children feel about you publishing so much of their lives online? On the very devices you are protecting them from. Do they know? Do you ask their permission? Do you not consider them too young to understand the implications and possible dangers of having, while sweet, quite candid and personal moments of their childhood published globally? I don’t wish to sound unkind just curious as to how you justify it?


Emilie
June 6, 2016

you see, I am hoping (but I am maybe being wildly naive) that I am bringing up children that will want to continue being imaginative and eloquent and curious even if they own a phone, whatever type of phone it may be. Hopefully an piece of technology will not change their personality 😉


Lisa
June 5, 2016

courtney your comment so bang on. I agree! the day before they get a phone is the last day of innocence for me too…. x


Sofia
June 6, 2016

Children are just richer, smarter, than that… they do not become “different” or change from day to night – not if they learn, along with their parents, how to be intelligent and responsible. They will be, still, good and “innocent” (whatever this is), just older. And, I dare to say, more beautiful human beings – more complete, aware, informed and solidary. The phone issue, should not make us feel sorrow for them (or for us?).


Courtney in London
June 7, 2016

Emma,
Thanks for your question. For me, my blog and my Instagram remain what they began as, a family photo album to share with my family and friends back home. Yes, they’ve attracted a significant following over the years, but the spirit remains the same and when I put a new post up– I’m thinking about my mom or my sister and how much they’ll enjoy it. The fact that others enjoy it too is a bonus and I am honoured that so many people like following along.

My children are aware of Instragram and that their pictures are seen by lots of people. Not once have they ever expressed a concern. If in time they do, I will of course listen to them. You may choose not to share your kids’ photos publicly and that’s fine. I would not ask you to ‘justify’ your stance as a parent.

What I can tell you for sure is that my blog and Instagram have introduced us to a world of warm, wonderful and like-minded people. Despite occasional negativity, the good far, far outweighs the bad. Our adventure this year has been enriched massively by the friends we’ve made and the experiences we’ve discovered through these platforms.

Yes, I choose to protect my kids from screens. The choices I make as an adult, to have computers and social media in my life, does not contradict this stance. I happen to feel it is a waste of young, creative and imaginative minds to sit them in front of devices that close them off from the real world. I believe children should be exploring and experiencing life firsthand—not on screens. Ask my kids, and they will tell you they agree with this too. When they reach an age where they can make an informed decision about whether or not to get a smartphone, to get on Instagram, to join Facebook, etc., they can, like other adults, decide how much time they want to give to these pursuits.

Finally, I think there’s a lot of irrational fear of ‘stranger danger’ out there which causes many parents to parent out of fear. It’s no wonder when the media only focuses on the worst of modern life. I take reasonable steps to protect our privacy when I think it’s necessary, but I refuse to give in to these fears or pass them onto my kids.


Lina
June 8, 2016

Thank you for your post! It seems like you made a well balanced choice. My daughter is still young but we are getting closer to the device issue… I think this things make part of our life and theirs and that’s a fact. I personally don’t think screens will shot down creativity or imaginative play in fact if well used it could spark big ideas and projects. And by no means I would consider it an end to childhood. The debate is a healthy one, I makes us reflect on our selves. What I really like is that is force us to do as we say because we really are the ones setting an example. Thank you for the recommendations on the use of Internet and accounts… I think after your post I would conclude I want my child to be part of the world and that implies some technology in her life and be connected to us. Like one reader put it its all about balance.


Charlotte
June 14, 2016

Such an interesting topic in today’s world! My daughter turned 11 before Christmas and got given a phone- purely because she would be beginning to have more independence walking to school/park etc on her own and I wanted to know she was safe and had a way of contacting me if necessary. We gave her one of our old phones so that she could listen to music on it too- which is mainly what she uses it for on aeroplane mode! it definitely hasn’t affected her creativity or personality! She has very limited time on it and she understands why. She still makes dens, plays Lego families, made up ball games, cards, dolls etc with her siblings daily! Luckily you can have both, the safety of knowing you can be in contact with them without ending that beautiful innocence of childhood.


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