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Smart Phones and Kids: A Luxury Or Necessity?

Years ago, I remember being anxiety ridden, trying to decide whether I should get my, then nine-year-old daughter a basic cell phone. She’s 15 now so you know that was about a half a dozen cell phones ago. My anxiety stemmed from, well honestly I don’t know where it stemmed from. Maybe I thought she would get spoiled or blow through her texting minutes like an F-5 tornado on the open plain. Turns out both fears were unfounded. That’s because Casey is terribly responsible and has been since exiting the womb. Like her dad, she is very much a self-policer. Not so much with Cole who, through no fault of his own, is just like his mother. You know what that means right? We’ve been though our share of smart phones.

The last time one turned up missing, I stood on principle and screamed at the top of my lungs, “THAT’S IT! You will not get another phone!” Clearly I had forgotten my one, very important rule when meting out punishment; it is to punish the offender not the warden. But that’s exactly what happened when Cole was without his phone.

People write me all the time asking my advice on this issue. So here are three reasons I am firmly in the “Smart Phones As A Necessity” camp.

*HAVING A SMART PHONE MEANS NEVER HEARING THE WORDS, “I’M BORED”: My kids have a ton of apps on theirs and in a crazy juxtaposed way, I’m the one who rejoices when new ones are announced. They use their allowance money to buy them and having those apps buys me a moment of silence. I mean really, who has time to argue with a little brother when they’re busy slicing virtual fruit or clobbering friends with 7-letter words? And look at it this way; it will be the first time you see the top of their heads since they outgrew you last summer.

*SMART PHONES AS GPS: I am the boss of the house. I need to know where everyone is, at any given moment. If I don’t, I’m not doing my job, which means I’m doing their jobs, feeding the cats or picking up dog poop. I don’t like that namely because I have my own job. So when Cole was untethered, after school conversations would go something like this;“ Mom I’m going over to blank’s house. I’ll call when I get there.” Which of course, he never would because he’d get sucked into a game of Minecraft (after cookies and homework, I’m sure). I could never remember which friend it was, and their phone conveniently “ran out of battery.” Uh-huh. That means I have to call every one of Cole’s friend’s mothers to see if my prodigal son was parked on their sofa. You know how that makes me look? Yeah me neither.

*SMART PHONES AS PUNISHMENT: Can you see me? Can you see me now? Cackling and rubbing my hands together in the most evil way? Yeah, forget about GPS, the smart phone can be wielded like a weapon when the GPA starts to slide below acceptable levels. It is punishment in its most pure and efficient form. Just make sure, along with not having a phone, they come home right after school each day to avoid the above scenario.

Okay so that’s why I see smart phones as very much a necessity, at least as the mother of adolescents. And check this out: If you’re looking for an Android-powered smartphone at a great value, be sure to check out U.S. Cellular. They have the highest satisfaction rating of any national carrier and you earn rewards points to use on things like accessories and upgrading your phone sooner. Learn More

What about you? DO you think Smart phones are a necessity or can your kids go without? Why or why not?

“Disclosure: Compensation was provided by US Cellular via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of U.S. Cellular®


  1. Karen Baitch Rosenberg

    December 8, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Phone, whether smart or not, have become a necessity. Top rules Parents buy the first, but kids have to buy insurance and/or replacements. If they can’t afford to replace it, they’re too young for one.

  2. Rene Syler

    December 8, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    @Karen: great point re: insurance! THX

  3. pattyrowland

    December 9, 2011 at 8:12 am

    if i had young kids i’m afraid they’d have a smart phone…too much going on these days to worrry about their safety…i learned my lesson when i had a limited text plan for my daughter…going over the texts is quite expensive and no matter what i did she always went over…saved myself some $$ and headaches when i just gave in and got her an unlimited text plan.

  4. Mike Blake

    January 29, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I think the kids, along with the adults need to put the phones down, and get back to playing, and socializing with each other.

  5. Rita

    February 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    This is something all parents eventually have to deal with. I just took the leap into getting my 11 year old a cellphone. All her friends had one and I needed a way to get in touch with her for school. It was hard and I did tons of research.Personally I am a single mom with a lot of bills to pay… so I couldnt get my child an iphone like she dreamed.. but I went with a tracfone. It was seriously a great deal in prices and she was able to pick out a phone she loved with all those games and cameras and stuff. Plus the value I mean.. I can control how much she uses and when. So thats really my only advice.

  6. Max Wilson

    February 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Nine years old is too young for a child to have a cellphone. I see no reason for it at all. At that age you should always know where your child is. If they’re not in school they should be with you or another responsible, trusted adult. As far as games go, get them a DS. My sister bought her 9 and 10 year olds cellphones, against my advice, and she has replaced 3 phones already and had an issue where her nine year old took a picture of an overweight woman’s butt and sent it to her friend. There’s also the issue of internet access. I got my daughter her first cellphone when she started high school and was traveling on the bus by herself. If your child is not going places by themselves yet, in my opinion, there’s no need for a cellphone.

  7. Will Jones

    February 27, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Max- I disagree. Things move very fast these days, and my kids having phones have saved me time and given me piece of mind more times than I can count. Things happen fast. Soccer practice gets rained out, buses are missed, school let’s out early for snow, etc. etc. When these things happen, it’s chaos for the the few adults that have dozens or even hundreds of parents to contact. Knowing that my son and daughter can whip out their own direct line to me at a moment’s notice and keep me in the loop is worth that phone’s wait in gold. The games, apps, and cameras are all well and good, but it’s the instant connection that keeps me paying the bill. I consider them the same as any other insurance I pay for; you don’t really need them until the day you really do. Just my opinion, though.

  8. lilkunta

    March 22, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Smart phones aer EXPENSIVE. I say for youn kids (up to age 13) a basic phone, flip phone/nokio os fine.
    Once they become 13 they’ll want a smart phone most likely bc all their friends have one. it is nice to take pics and video as well. But phones aer expensive1

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