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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
> 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 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).
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]
Gerald: Wait, here's 20. Get one for your brother, too. [Kyle receives the other $10 and walks out]
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
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.
Kids will just find a workaround.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
> 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
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 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.
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?
The author is conflating 'fitting in' with communicating.
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?
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.
The smartphone allows kids to stay in contact with their friends even when they are otherwise occupied with sports, aftercare, etc. etc.
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)
Nerds vs Luddites vs Apple users.
Each will have a vastly different understanding of technology.
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"
until, you know, they decide to buy a smartphone as an adult, and over consume then
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
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.
What if they don't? I've met a few parents who thought they had parenting nailed. Then they had another child.
You might want to get that checked out.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next year he goes to high-school. I'm considering what he will and wont need in that scenario.
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.
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.
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.
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.