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I Won’t Buy My Teenagers Smartphones (theatlantic.com)
42 points by danso 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

This is clearly written by an adult who forgot how most children behave.

If they're the only ones without a smartphone, they'll be single out. Especially with how prevalent online communication has become.

They might not be bullied (though they probably will be), but growing up as the outsider comes with is own can of worms.

They'll most likely survive it, but it'll have it's effect... But everything has consequences so I guess ymmv.

It's just kinda annoying to constantly read about these parents making tech into something harmful (which it obviously can be) and their own great strategy to counter this, which has at least as many dangers for their mental health as the alternative had.

I think your take is valid, but also missing large areas.

Even if they AREN'T bullied for lack, they'll miss out on all the socialization. When I was a teen people talked on the phone, they hung out at the mall. I barely did. When not at school, I stayed at home to care for my younger brother and make sure dinner was made (child of a working single mom). I went out of state to my dad's place every summer, so I never spent summer vacation around my school peers.

Now I'm an adult, and I don't have close friends. I never have. I don't know how to open up to people, or how to hang out with people where it isn't an obligation on one part or the other. I remain aloof, then desperately overshare (case in point), then feel awkward and embarrassed and withdraw. I've had two serious relationships in my life...and got married both times.

Today's kids won't be talking on the phone, they won't be texting, they won't even be tweeting, they'll be snapping or instagramming or any number of things. They'll be sharing the experiences they have in common and generating those experiences, and for many, MANY of them those experiences will be around smartphone tech.

And this author has decided their kids don't need that shared experience. That comes at a cost.

Counterpoint, I had all the socialization I could possibly want growing up, and as an adult I had to unlearn a lot of social behaviors that I had learned when I was surrounded exclusively by my peers.

I personally think that socialization is often meant as "acting like the popular kids act" (though it doesn't sound like you're using it that way) and as my kids grow up, I am regularly shocked at how crappy kids are to each other. When I was a kid, I thought all the homeschooled kids I knew were weird, but they just acted like the adults in their lives, and without exception, they all turned into well-functioning adults.

Despite my negative take on socialization, though, we are also very liberal with technology. We just have high standards for their behavior, and don't think that following trends is good for it's own sake.

I think you're taking a problem of "opportunity + practice = success" and pointing out that you had opportunity but not success, and therefore opportunity is irrelevant.

> socialization is often meant as "acting like the popular kids act" (though it doesn't sound like you're using it that way)

My usage is more a matter of "understanding the social skills that are not formally taught". In particular, I'm talking about things like understanding social cues, when/how to be supportive, etc. There are absolutely negative social skills that can be learned this way, so you're correct there. But even a gang of jerks has social structures and interactions, and someone that never got much practice/exposure at those will struggle to even succeed in joining a gang of jerks. (Not that doing so is such a great aspiration)

> I am regularly shocked at how crappy kids are to each other

Totally. I recall previous articles (I believe on HN) about how parents hate the shows on the Disney channel because they demonstrate/teach terrible social skills for tweens. (Bratty children, idiot parents, etc).

Putting kids in a group won't teach them how to be good people and I didn't mean to imply that. It _will_ teach them to be a social group. These ideas are orthogonal.

Thank you for your reply!

I mostly wanted to provide a countervailing anecdote rather than any sort of fixed rule.

I would say that I definitely had success, by your definition of social. I've never had a problem making friends, but socialization as a kid didn't benefit me long term because being social with pre-teens and teenagers is useless training for being social with adults in a professional environment, which is where I now spend most of my time. I basically had to learn to be social all over again.

So I guess I take issue with the idea that people need to be around their peers to learn to be social at all. I agree that social skills are not formally taught, and that they need to be learned, but I think all that is required to accomplish this is that children are around people who interact with them. If they have that, I think the cost of them not being involved in whatever kids these days are doing is not that high, and definitely not as high as they might think it is in the moment.

> being social with pre-teens and teenagers is useless training for being social with adults in a professional environment

I don't think I agree, but I've been spending some brain churn on this since you posted it so I'm not 100% settled on it.

It's definitely an interesting element to consider, thanks for going to this depth!

yeah, but let's not mix too many things together.

you can have a smartphone (I don't) and be very miserable and lonely (i’m not). I bet that's even the daily experience of a lot teenagers.

A smartphone may help to get in contact with people, but it's not a necessity by a far stretch.

Again: a (sometimes painful) emotional and social education is what teenagers need. Soft skills are hard to learn.

Being a student, it really quite is a necessity.

Group chats on Facebook / WhatsApp / Telegram are how people share experiences, learn, set up meetings or parties. All the people which I've met so far who didn't use those platforms were socially isolated. Not sure whether it's correlation or causation, it still does count.

Obviously, having a smartphone won't magically bring you friends.

Anecdata, but I had the exact same experience refusing to use Facebook when it was trendy (was really young at the time). I caved after a year and it was like stepping into another world.

> Obviously, having a smartphone won't magically bring you friends.

No it won't - it's not necessarily social death to avoid these platforms, but it was an intense struggle to grow any friendship without it. You need to go where the people are talking to each other, even if you dislike where they're standing.

I get your point, but you not buying them a smartphone is not the same as them not beeing able to have one. I was in school when Gameboys were the thing everybody had. Besides the fact that I know many kids who grew up to be exceptionally fine people without having had one – many kids just had to save up their pocket money or earn it by mowing the lawn.

I remember having had deals with my parents like: If I pay half, they give me the other half as a birthday present. And my parents could definitly afford it. The neighbour kid, whose father worked for my father after he gave them the place when they sought shelter (Bosnian war refugees), got literally everything he wanted. Our parents explained to us why his parents do that and why they don't. And although we also would have wished for these things we understood.

This is the responsible way to act in my opinion. It shows your kid that they really need to do something if they want something. It teaches them to value the thing that they got and if they spend their pocket money on rubbish it teaches them not to spend money on rubbish. And if it is something that makes sense for them to have (e.g. teaching material, books, a raspberry pi you can still be generous).

I have a friend who was not allowed to own a cell phone in HS. Just as you said, she was often left out of inside jokes, group discussions (bonding), and more often than not left out of social meetups (organized via social media). But the worst? Gooooodbye to a dating life. No teenager is going to call a house phone or be prevented from texting their GF/BF -- doesn't work, period.

> If they're the only ones without a smartphone, they'll be single out

From South Park, season 3 episode 11, "Chinpokomon":

Kyle: Please Mom? Everybody else has Chinpokomon.

Gerald: Well, Kyle, that's not a reason to buy something.

You see, son, fads come and go. And this "Chin-po-ko-mon" is obviously nothing more than a fad. You don't have to be a part of it. In fact, you can make an even stronger statement by saying to your peers, "I'm not going to be a part of this fad, because I'm an individual." Do you understand?

Kyle: Yes. Yes, I do, Dad. Now let me tell you how it works in the real world. In the real world, I can either get a Chinpokomon, or I can be the only kid without one, which singles me out, and causes the other kids to make fun of me and kick my ass.

Gerald: Hm... Good point; here's $10. [hands it to him]

Kyle: Thanks.

Gerald: Wait, here's 20. Get one for your brother, too. [Kyle receives the other $10 and walks out]

I have a son around the same age as the authors and I've definitely thought about it. It's an addicting device to both adults and children so there is some merit to not having one. That said, my kid is a musician and gets to connect and collaborate with other kids in different states and countries from all walks of life. I find that pretty amazing and a plus to him having a smartphone.

Tablet solves for that, no?

My mother was a teaching assistant at a small private school. There was one girl there whose parents wouldn't let her have her smart phone and she was the only one with no phine. So a group of girls ran a fundraising drive to get her a smart phone - until the parents got wind of it and had the principal put a stop yo it. The story shows that this girl was popular and well liked by her friends.

She actually had cool projects like she would sew small squares od cotton and sell it to other girls as doll pillows. So I understand that a private school is an exclusive environment where there might be less bullying. However, I disagree that being bullied for not having something is a foregone conclusion and. I strongly disagree with the premise that we should buy or give children things that might affect them negatively due ti the possibility of being bullied

> which has at least as many dangers for their mental health as the alternative had

While I'm not saying there aren't issues with not having a smart phone, I'm not sure there is evidence to support this. It may very well be true, but it's hard to say.

I don't know, we didn't bully kids that didn't have a Nintendo/Sega/Playstation growing up, I'm not sure this is too much different. My son is 9 and wants a phone. He has a tablet. The only reason he can articulate for wanting a phone is that many of his friends have one, which is not a great reason. He has a specialized kids watch that is a phone, so he's covered on the "contact parents" front. Otherwise, he's never said anything about getting made fun of on the issue, and he's been plenty upfront when anything like getting made fun of or bullying has been an issue in the past.

It's not about having the device, it's about the social apps/internet culture that goes with it. Arguably the most popular content for kids last year was Fortnite YouTubers, even just being left out of that.. it's difficult to fit in when you have no connection to what's being talked about.

This very much so (although I didn't experience any bullying but I'd assume there would be some jokes now a days because phones do so much more). I didn't get a cell phone until maybe 10th or 11th grade while most of the other kids had Blackberries or shitty flip phones. I missed out a lot of socialization via text and bbm at the time, probably 7th grade. I didn't really care at the time but once I was older I realized how big a deal it was.

I never got bullied for not having a phone. I used an iPod that I could text with on wifi.

Kids will just find a workaround.

I see the smart phone addiction problem as similar to the food addiction problem, you have to eat and if you want to have a good modern job you have to have a cell phone. Part of becoming an adult is learning about the temptations of life and how to manage them. Ultimately I think this is a disservice in the long term, by shielding their kids from technology they also shield them from the development of the self control muscle.

The great author/comedian John Hodgeman once said "it's their time to waste" in response to someone who wrote into his advice column about their teens seeming to waste their time as a teen. Unfortunately, goofing off and wasting time is a thing I think most people need to do for some segment of their lives until they become sick of it and decide to get in gear.

My friend recently got his sons a smartphone and he says their relationship has been irrevocably damaged because of it. Not because they are rude, etc. But when they used to talk, now it's complete silence and them looking at their phones, chatting with their friends or girlfriends. He hates the phones now because there is no socialization whatsoever with his kids. The power of the phone is that strong, and he had such a close relationship with his sons.

Like others who have replied, I'm skeptical that it's really about the phones. The age when kids get phones just happens to be about the same age when they start to separate from their parents and have always done so. Some people maintain a strong connection during that time and some don't. 'Twere ever thus.

Personally, I'm fortunate that I've maintained a pretty strong connection with my 15yo daughter. A large part of that is that I'm comfortable communicating with her the same way her other friends do, not only the physical medium of the phone but also the cultural medium of memes and slang and pop culture. I can still play Authority Figure when I need to, but there's a lot less friction involved when I'm also part of her daily social context and not The Alien who requires a unique mode of communication.

It's time to move past the idea of "self-control" as an option against the onslaught of addictive apps. I've been leaving my phone at home on the weekends when I go out for a few hours, and it's been liberating. It's easier to leave my phone at home completely than to stop checking it when I'm away. And yes, this does require some self-control. I mention this to friends and they say they can't at all leave because of paranoia - what if I'm really needed, what if I miss something? I'm okay with missing important calls if they come. That's the price of it all.

If I understand correctly, what you're saying is you use self-control to create situations where you don't need to rely on self-control? That seems like a good compromise between having a smartphone 24/7 and no smartphone ever. I've done similar things in the past; when I needed to study for an upcoming exam, I setup a web filter that would block distracting websites if I browsed them for too long.

My own approach is to treat the phone as a tool, not as a social media consumption gadget. GPS, quick point-and-shoot camera, weather apps, music player - those are my main uses. Spending all day with my face buried in my phone? No thank you.

one possible interpretation of this story is: when given the option, the son prefers to talk to his friends instead of his parent. the phone is not the culprit here; it merely revealed a pre-existing preference.

I think you're spot on, and this is part of the reason I will have "no phones* after dinner/school/whatever" when my kids become smartphone age. I expect I will have similar rules about headphones in cars, or tablets at restaurant tables.

If my relationship with my kid's is falling apart, I want to have some sort of signal that alerts me to it happening. I want it to feel awkward, so that I know to fix it. If the damage is masked behind a screen, I might miss it and never know to repair it.

* or whatever the new distracting device is in ~10 years.

I think my point suggests the opposite conclusion: arbitrary electronics bans are counterproductive. if your kid chooses the device over interacting with you, that is a strong sign that something is wrong; this is the signal you are looking for! if you remove the choice by prohibiting the device during "family time", you are just removing a source of information.

my parents never told us we couldn't use our phones at dinner, but they did explain that when we did it, we were signaling that what we were doing with the phone was more interesting/important than family dinner. I decided that wasn't the message I wanted to give my parents, so I would only pull out the phone for time-sensitive communications. a little bit of respect can go a long way.

Some patterns work in some families and don't in others. I don't believe a permissive parenting style is going to work equally well everywhere. A kid choosing to do something bad for them is often just a signal of youth and inexperience.

I just think there's an important difference between "this activity is harmful in excess, so you may only do it for n minutes per day" and "I've decided I want to interact with you at this time every day, so you are not allowed to use your phone then".

I think it's okay to set reasonable limits on screentime. I don't think you should force your child to interact with you; that seems kind of unhealthy.

Yet another interpretation: text message notifications provide a larger a dopamine response than a spoken conversation.

idk man, the pace of text communication is a little slow for my tastes. if I have the option of texting person A or speaking to person B, I'll usually choose B if both conversations are just as interesting. ymmv, of course.

What if I told you this has little to do with phones, but rather the dynamic between parent and child?

What if I told you most parents don’t care what their (teen/young adult) children want, but instead care about what they want for said children?

What if I told you that what parents want for their children isn't necessarily what's best for said children?

What if I told you there is no scenario, at all, in which the best thing for any child is a smart phone, or a social media app, or the internet on any device?

What if I told you that nobody is under any obligation to consider such an extreme opinion, without even an attempt at factual support?

> But when they used to talk, now it's complete silence and them looking at their phones, chatting with their friends or girlfriends. He hates the phones now because there is no socialization whatsoever

I hate it but it happens with adults too all the time. Not only it's incredibly rude but I feel I'm missing a lot of meaningful communication

I think as a parent you can still compromise and set limits/rules on the usage of the smartphone(s) at home. There is time to talk to friends (before smartphones, it was MSN messenger or else), and there is time to spend as a family where phones are not allowed. The same thing is also kinda true for school.

I don’t think this is about the smartphone so much as lack of etiquette around the smartphone.

Unless his son is too young to have a phone he should be able to discuss ettiquette like no phone at the dinner table or while we are talking.

I agree about etiquette. Using a phone while with someone doesn't bother me in and of itself. Shutting others out does, whether it's in person or online. The "with people but texting" scenario is difficult because there's no established norm for how to balance the competing social needs.

I would put this on par with being an anti-vaxxer. Not only are the kids not allowed smartphones but their internet access is apparently strictly monitored well into their teens. Good way to get your kids to hate you as soon as they move our.

The author is just longing for an era that’s gone. It’s funny she mentions hanging out under bridges, drinking, and dating while also probably never letting her kids get anywhere close to a situation where that is possible. And won’t let her kids make mistakes even regarding food, and complains about kids these days not wanting to drive. You would think this is some kind of satire making fun of boomers (even though the author is technically not one)

This is, in my opinion, a terrible parenting style. Smartphones are a part of life these days. You wouldn’t have your kids ride a horse drawn carriage wearing handmade blouses to school, and bemoan the fact they won’t play outside with a hoop and a stick, just because that’s the way it was when you grew up

The reason being an anti-vaxxer is bad is because of a concept called "herd immunity." There is no analog, here. I think that not only do you not understand much about kids, but you also don't understand the analogy you're trying to use.

I guess I mean it’s more along the lines of crazy-parenting that hurts kids.

> I think that not only do you not understand much about kids, but you also don't understand the analogy you're trying to use.

I understand herd immunity lol but thank you for the lesson

"My boys are not like the kid I met in college who had grown up without TV and didn’t appreciate the cultural relevancy of Bo and Luke Duke or George Jefferson. My kids readily quote Ron Swanson and Dwight Shrute." -- I bet the "no TV" parents had a similar defense citing radio access....

Interesting. My parents similarly never got me or my siblings smartphones (in retrospect it may have been a financial thing, though). I was 18 before I bought my own (only a few year ago!) I've never met another person in this sort of situation. Most other people I knew had their parents eventually get them one early in HS.

There were definitely negative effects. I imagine mostly social and nowadays inconsequential to an extent. I'm still to this day rather isolated, both from my family and peers

On the flip side I had an incredible attention span and was able to learn anything I wanted with persistence. I'm simply not able to do that anymore.

That being said, I don't think I'd so the same for my kids.

>> I believe that a smartphone too accessible, given too early, and in the wrong hands is at best an addictive distraction and at worst a handheld siphon draining away children’s youth one beep, one swipe, one notification at a time.

I support a parent's right to choose for their kids, but this seems very naive, and not far off the "No good will come of you spending all that time on the computer, go outside and play" line my own mother used to spin, and the fears that having computers in the house would warp kids of the 80s.

In reality I had no deficit of outside time, or sports at school, she just took against tech early on. She just got a (dumb) mobile phone about two years ago and rarely uses it.

The real root of the fear here seems to be that your child might have a different upbringing to your own, one you don't understand.

I have no doubt the kids will be fine, if a little peeved at Mom for denying them common forms and channels of social interaction their peers indulge in.

As someone who grew up with a computer in the household in the 80s, I don't think the two situations are comparable. For one, a computer back then (and even today) is much less geared toward consumption (versus creation) than phones are. Second, being able to carry a phone with you and use it all day makes it a fundamentally different influence.

Not sure where you grew up, but where I grew up most kids spent at least 95% of their computer time playing games.

Yeah I played a lot of games too, but it was still a machine that was geared toward you doing work – even when playing games (besides qbasic, configuring .bat and .ini files were my first foray into hacking and programming). And reading USENET was not as addictive or as mind-dulling as infinitely scrolling on Instagram and Facebook

Same. Either gaming or on mIRC, flirting. Very few created anything or even knew more than the basics about computers.

I just rolled my eyes when I saw the title here and I rolled my eyes harder when I read what Sarah had to say. Your points are exactly what my thoughts are. I remember my grandmother use to tell my mother to tell me to stop using the computer so much and go outside and play. Like you said I had a great social life but any time I was on the computer learning to code it was apparently bad for me. My parents didn't really understand the opportunities something like a computer had in the future just like Sarah over here doesn't understand smart phones. All Sarah sees is the negatives just like my parents so the negatives of using a computer.

Yes there is a risk of having to have that unpleasant convo with your kids about whats right and wrong and being responsible with your phone..but isn't that what parents are suppose to do? Teach your kids what's right and wrong instead of just denying them of things you don't understand?


>I think my boys feel the same way about smartphones that I felt about Guess jeans—the ones with zippers at the ankles—in 1984. All the cool, pretty girls had a pair. My desire for the jeans was more about fitting in with the crowd than about the jeans themselves.

The author is conflating 'fitting in' with communicating.

I don’t know. They mention that they allow them to text and message friends from their tablet when at home. Essentially it is merely avoiding distraction at school.

My initial reaction is to agree with this parent's policy because I don't really like smartphones. The problem is you just kind of need them even if you're not a big social media user.

As a grown up, I've considered giving up my own smart phone but friends use whatsapp/viber, traffic in the city is getting worse every year and an app like Waze becomes essential, depending on what you do, reading and replying to email while on the go can be pretty important. Similarly, growing up in a society where your peers connect pretty much exclusively via social media, you simply need it if you want to even remotely fit in (like others have pointed out). Not having a smart phone is not the end of the world (for me or the teenagers in question) but there will be daily negative consequences.

The problem is not the tech itself but the way it's being used. It's the whole reason I don't really like having a smart phone (while also enjoying many of its features). I want a utilitarian tool that gets done what I need done. If I use a socket wrench to remove a bolt, I expect the wrench to just do it. I don't want it telling me about some fancier wrench available or a better bolt to use in the future or anything else I didn't ask of it.

What I get instead is a platform where I can be targetted, sometimes obviously, sometimes invisibly, as a potential customer of some business. On top of all that, you know the device is easily damaged and doesn't last very long because of a quickly degrading battery. And good luck finding a good quality battery after 2 years or even easily replacing it. Screws are the biggest faux pas you can now commit as a manufacturer. You'd probably sell more units if some of them spontaneously combust than if they aren't all smooth and glossy.

Any attempt to make a human-centric smart phone (and underlying OS) is doomed to failure because of cost.

But hey, current smartphones is what people want so what do I know. Anyway. Did I mention I don't like smart phones?

In my opinion, it's better to teach your children moderation while they're young and can learn to spot temptation and learn how to moderate themselves.

A young adult that grows up without these trials may be ill prepared for all the things that tempt them when they gain their Independence.

My parents we're very authoritarian. Not really your typical helicopter parents, or religious fundamentalist parents, but aspects of those did make their way into parenting. The strangest thing to me was hearing about how things were much better when they were kids because kid did this and that, but then discouraged us from doing similar things.

I do wonder if the push to virtual interactions over physical ones is driven by the rise of afterschool care for kids in dual-income families. My kids are at home after school, but there are few other kids out playing. Most of the kids in our neighborhood aren't home in the afternoons, are there aren't groups of kids playing in the parks unsupervised. The parks are largely used by pre-school ages kids with nannies, or for family groups after dinner.

The smartphone allows kids to stay in contact with their friends even when they are otherwise occupied with sports, aftercare, etc. etc.

it's a shame we don't hear the kids side in the article

people I know who have done this have eventually changed and allowed/bought a phone as the in school peer pressure was huge and the kids ended up feeling excluded from their social groups as not fitting in (nothing wrong with kids finding their own path btw)

I think there is going to be a major technology gap next generation.

Nerds vs Luddites vs Apple users.

Each will have a vastly different understanding of technology.

I think it's amazing that on a site that's supposedly filled with tech geeks, so few commenters seem to know the difference between spending time alone in your room in front a non-networked PC learning to code, and being glued to a networked smartphone no matter where you are, taking in a feed and waiting for the dopamine hit from a "like" or a share.

Anyway, the public-spirited side of me sees responses like the ones here and is depressed, but my secret inner libertarian sees them and thinks: "Score! My three kids will have attention spans and social skills, and will out-compete the smartphone-addicted children of these fools in every arena of adult life. So by all means, cripple your kids by handing them one of these pocket slot machines. Mwuahahaha"

> My three kids will have attention spans and social skills, and will out-compete the smartphone-addicted children of these fools in every arena of adult life.

until, you know, they decide to buy a smartphone as an adult, and over consume then

They will still have had almost an 18 year learning advantage at that point.

Yeah, cripple your kids by allowing them to participate in adolescent social life the same way their peers do, making it easier to make and maintain such ties later in life. What a horrible fate.

I feel like this article conflates 'smart device' with 'phone' in a way that can often happend

My 8 year old has one of our old phones with WiFi only. It's still plenty addictive with with the thrill of games and TV. If you wait to talk about smart phone addiction until your kid gets cell service you're probably going to miss the boat.

As my kid gets older - well the author may sneer at your kid waiting a few minutes to get picked up from soccer practice but that minimizes the issue. When I was a kid it was a collect call from "I'm-at-the-library-pick-me-up-by-5". I think there's a lot to be said for giving a kid flexibility in their movements. That may mean a 'dumb' phone, which I would consider, but it doesn't mean no phones whatsoever.

I think the other counter-point I would make to the author is that the best time to start talking to your kids about smart phones may well be while they're still on premise, and still respect and trust you. I've ( somewhat reluctantly ) setup my kid with ( facebook ) kids messenger and a Roblox account. She only has access on my phone so her time is limited, and it's also led to a lot of good discussions about internet predator and pressure to pay for in-game upsells.

Most importantly ( IMO ) is talking about how easy it is for social interactions to lead to problems - getting bullied, being a bully, the blow to her self esteem if her friends seem to be chatting with each other and leaving her out. It's really hard to navigate, and it doesn't go away if she gets her first smartphone at 18. I don't know if I really can protect her from it but perhaps I can let her know that I understand, and she can talk to me

Far be it from me to tell anyone how to raise their children, but here's my opinion on this matter.

First, it's about trust. Trust starts when they're infants. They cry, you show up. They cry, you show up. They have to know that when they have a need, you provide for it. Trust is also about leading by example. Be the person you want your children to be. If you don't want them on Facebook, don't be on Facebook. If you don't want them to use a smartphone at the table, don't bring yours to the table. Will this, in reality, mean they'll not use Facebook or bring their phones to the table? Maybe, maybe not. You don't want robots. You want independent humans. You're a guide, an example, that's all. Be the best one you can be. But when they do bring their phone to the table, you will have, from birth, built up enough trust to be able to have a conversation about it with them. They'll talk to you because they trust you. When you have a concern that you think they're forming an addiction to their phone, they'll talk to you, because you've earned their trust.

> They'll talk to you because they trust you

What if they don't? I've met a few parents who thought they had parenting nailed. Then they had another child.

Could be the child doesn't trust the parents. Could be other factors like maybe something changed in the parent-child relationship that the parent didn't notice. There's always counseling.

My son is 8... there is no way in hell I'm going to let him have a smartphone. I mean, he poops in pants still and can't hold his pacifier in his mouth on his own. Why am I going to give him a $1,000 smartphone? His crib wasn't that expensive... 8 is too early to a kid to have a smartphone.

If your son is 8 and is really still pooping his pants and using a pacifier then I really feel for you as you must be dealing with more serious issues than worrying about smart phones. Good luck and stay strong.

Still poops in his pants at 8?

You might want to get that checked out.

Traditionally, people didn't need to go out of their way to make so many outside friends as the extended family provided all the relationships and connections that you need for mental well being. Besides, with extended families, the community was much more strong, everyone knew everyone providing the connections outside of family many people crave now. With the collapse of the extended family system, now people are siloed, and have to go out of their way to make new connections. These real life connections might help you temporarily socialize but very few turn into meaningful long term ones, and the connections that you make on social media are facetious.

She just basically forced her 14 year old to come up with a way to buy a smartphone himself.

... provided that she permits the 14 year old to buy one.

With this move she forced him to lie about it as well. Like teenagers are really great at appealing to authority.

Or the 14 year old does it behind their backs.

How would they get a plan? I thought you had to be an adult to get most cell plans, though I guess prepaid plans might work.

Yeah, where I live, prepaid is the norm, so I didn't even think of that. Still, I know teenagers who get by with just wifi.

They're pretty cheap, so maybe 5 or 6 mowed lawns.

Just curious: Any parents in this thread? When did you give your kids smartphones?

We're at the point where we replace our phones every two years, and plan on letting our kids use the old ones. (Probably wifi-only, mostly to keep costs under control.)

My son is 10yo, we want to give him a phone when he reaches 12. It's becoming a bit more difficult, a lot of friends already have one so he keeps asking but he just has to wait :)

I'm not to worried about social isolation. This will vary from person to person. The article mentions all the fun things the writer did when she was a teenager. However, when I was young some kids were addicted to gaming on there 486 or 8bit NES, never met any friends. The tone of the article is a bit 'in the old days everything was better'

Not having a phone will cause some isolation as well. A lot of meetups with friends are announced on app-groups. That was actually the moment when I decided to buy a smartphone myself, when I started missing out on parties.

It's a short trip between 15 and 18 years old. Treat a 15 year old like a baby, and they'll be making up for lost time their first year away from home. A 15 year deserves a smart phone, but should respect the house rules on when it's ok to use.

I'm a parent of three girls, the oldest of which is 10. None of them will have smartphones, probably not even in high school. I run my house pretty much like the author of the article -- there are gadgets on the weekend, only. And even then the internet-connected ones are very carefully controlled and there are a ton of rules.

But you know what? My kids aren't babied. My oldest and I just went to a two-day rifle shooting clinic, and the two oldest have knives of their own that are very sharp and that they can use whenever they want.

They hike in the woods by our house, unsupervised, and they ride horses and swim. They climb trees. They camp in a tent in the woods by the house.

As for their peers? Those poor kids have never even touched a sharp knife, much less been given one of their own. My kids are well aware that they're allowed to take a lot more risks than their peers, and that they're given more responsibility for their own safety.

They're not babied. Rather, the kids who stay indoors on a gadget are the ones who are babied and stunted. They're the ones whose parents have infantilized them.

A kid doesn't "deserve" a smartphone. What they deserve is a childhood. They deserve to be bored for long stretches and to have to make up their own games and stuff to do. They deserve the privacy of their own thoughts, and to not be tethered to a gadget that they can't put down. They deserve flesh-and-blood relationships, instead of jerky pixels and audio. They deserve a life, and not just an existence.

There is some huge conflation there. I have three kids 10, 12, 15 and all three have cell phones. There are rules regarding use.

1. No phones at dinner EVER

2. No electronics (of any kind) except low music on school nights without explicit approval or when the device is being used specifically for school work

3. Free reign on weekend electronics outside of prior commitments and all chores are done

Weekends roll around and you would think they would be glued to the electronics based on everything people post here, but usually it ends up being a last resort. They would much prefer to go play soccer with friends, practice their artwork, go shooting or give each other facials.

Sounds like you are nicely mixing in opportunities for both connected and "unplugged" experiences. I believe both are important. Everyone's experiences, opportunities and abilities will likely differ.

I suspect you use the knife example as an analogy. My daughter has a hatchet. It scares the heck out of me. I don't let her use it when I am not around or children other than our own are with her. But she loves it, and I have attempted to teach her correct and safe usage.

Technology can be as dangerous as a "sharp knife." Being given safe and monitored access to it and becoming familiar and comfortable with it will likely result in a more positive and healthy experience with it when unfettered access is suddenly thrust upon them.

We just gave our 12-year-old one of our old iPhones (SE model). She was beginning middle school and bussing for the first time. And more involved in activities and opportunities to have sleepovers and attend events with friends. It makes sense to have a reliable way to communicate with her and feel safer about her whereabouts. We ask her to help babysit her younger siblings for short periods of time. We don't have a landline, so the phone offers peace of mind.

I spent some time learning about the family sharing and child restrictions available on the iPhones. I've been pleased with it. She only has the bare minimum apps and a couple educational ones (no social media yet, restricted web access), and is not able to add any without authorization by a parent on the account. We plan on allowing her to earn entertainment/game apps with good grades, etc. She reads like crazy, so we don't restrict access to books borrowed for free through a library app.

She is actually without it this week, as a result of discipline (nothing terrible, but an excellent bargaining chip we didn't have before). Great responsibly comes with bigger consequences.

I am not sure how we will handle instances of loss or damage, which are sure to occur. May have to contribute monetarily, work it off, be without it for a while, etc.

As other have mentioned, it is a fact of life now. It is important that they adopt the technology that is pervasive in our society. They need to be comfortable with it and have a healthy relationship with it. It is a large part of socializing now, which, again, is important to allow in a healthy, responsible way. I would rather be an early, involved part of that to help steer it when it inevitably goes slightly off course.

Edit: To add, I believe that as parents, our best teaching tool will be the way our kids view us using our phones. When, for what and how often. And I suck at it. I am way too prone to pulling out my phone and flipping through a feed at any idle moment. I know I need to set a better example. But we do have strict times, such as dinner or in certain social settings, where we don't. We need more of those times, and it is always a rewarding feeling when we do an activity as a family where I realize I didn't bother or even think to glance at my phone for hours. It is good to seek out more of those experiences, and our kids notice it.

Parent of toddlers here. Not even really thinking about it because I'm sure things will be completely different by the time they're teenagers anyway.

That said, I would consider giving a young teen or pre-teen a cell phone to start teaching them how to use it in a healthy way rather than deny them entirely. Very many adults have addictive phone habits and you can't keep your kids from making their own choices forever.

My son is 11, he has a phone but no SIM card... its used purely for entertainment purposes. (mostly on car trips).

Next year he goes to high-school. I'm considering what he will and wont need in that scenario.

> When did sitting at home isolated by closed doors and earbuds become a social life?

When it became a reliable way to express meaning and feeling with other people. One can quibble about exactly when it became ubiquitous and high-bandwidth enough for that purpose, but for many people it's clearly that way now. Pining for the days when kids hung out at bowling alleys or overpasses is just nostalgia congealing into snobbishness.

I have set same policy to my kids one on teenage 16 and she is perfectly happy with keys-calls only phone used rarely But having all high end features and enough freedom at home But yet almost no social networks exposure by choice

It is frustrating how this is driven by those first parents that have no limits. Kids complain that they don't want to be left out, normal, middle of the road parents cave in, thus forcing the hold out parents to eventually cave.

https://www.nokia.com/phones/en_int/nokia-2720-flip something like this seems like a happy medium

I wonder does a situation like this come up every 20 years?

Like before it was TV, then Radio, then... books maybe?

I guess the question is, is the internet worse or more addictive than these other distractions.

Smartphone addiction is like alcohol addiction. Why do some countries (the USA) have more problems than than others (the rest of the world)?

Because in most countries, a healthy, controlled exposure is what most teens experience, so that they learn how to handle alcohol responsibly.

In almost all of the USA, it's illegal to drink until you're 21.

Not teaching your children how to responsibly use a smartphone is the current problem.

Denying a child a smartphone, and then expecting them to magically be able to control such an addictive substance is arguably worse.

Be a better parent.

Never been to the US, but I never had the impression that Americans had more problems with alcohol than, say, Europe (if anything the stereotype goes the opposite way). A quick google search seems to point that Americans die more of alcohol related accidents? That could be just because Americans drive more.

The ego on this person.

yes - resisting change is always a good idea.....sheesh
lol_jono 7 days ago [flagged]

ok boomer

Can you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News? You've done it a lot and we ban accounts that do that repeatedly. We're trying for a bit better than internet default here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.


It would be interesting to know if the mother herself has and uses smartphone. If yes it seems like smartphones for me but not for thee, 14 year is too old to protect from harm of phone usage. It's not too different from fundamentalist parents banning their kids from having outsider friends/watching TV/dating. It seems that the mom is just flexing her power over the kids.

> They text, they Snap—but only on weekends and a little bit this past summer

All I can see, reading this, is how similar that sounds to being grounded for the new normal teen. Its complete social isolation, and I hope the backlash the author receives from this article gets considered instead of some snarky 'your anger means I'm right' response.

> He would eat an entire bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos—the party-size bag—if left alone with the opportunity

This is hardly an example of an inability to make good decisions. This just shows the inability of these parents to let their kids learn on their own, and is creating the dependent teens they're trying to prevent.

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