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A Form Letter for Moms Who Aren’t Giving Their Kids Phones Yet

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Dear _______,

After much consideration, I have decided that you are not yet ready for the responsibility of owning your own phone. It would be easy for me to just tell you “because I said so” when you ask me “Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” but because I respect you as an individual and because I am tired of having this same conversation with you approximately every ____ hours, I am going to give you my very specific reasons for this decision.

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Rebecca Tredway Photography

First of all, you are at an age when you still regularly break and/or lose things. Remember when you left _______ at the park/library/church/Grandma’s house (circle all that apply)? And that was after I told you, “You probably shouldn’t bring that because you might forget it.” And remember how you broke that toy/watch/dresser/window/video game system/lamp (circle all that apply)? Phones are not indestructible and if you haven’t yet learned how to appropriately keep track of and take care of your things, I am not interested in paying a bunch of money to buy you one more thing you will lose or break.

We are attempting to help you gain an understanding of the value of hard work and are afraid that by providing you with an expensive electronic device you will want to take with you to school/church/pool/bathroom/mall/EVERYWHERE, we are communicating to you that the money we’ve spent on it isn’t that big of a deal. That money represents HOURS of our lives we spent doing ________. Sometimes we find that work enjoyable and sometimes we do it JUST BECAUSE OUR FAMILY HAS TO EAT. We will be frustrated if you waste hours of our lives by losing or breaking this phone. Until we feel like you appropriately understand the financial investment of the phone and the ongoing costs associated with the phone, we are not buying you a phone. If you would like to get a job to pay for your own phone, we are happy to discuss your options with you. At your current age, your options are likely limited to lemonade stand management and dog walking/poop scooping services, so it may take some time before you are able to save up the necessary funds. I am okay with that.

Frankly, I am somewhat confused about why you feel a phone is necessary at this stage of your life. Right now you spend approximately 90% of your day within earshot of an adult. I know this because you are kind of loud. I am left to assume you do not want a phone because you need to make emergency-related phone calls. You want a phone because you want access to social media/texting/games/videos (check all that apply and I’m pretty sure it’s all of them).

I do not believe it is in your best interest to have a handheld, omnipresent device that gives you constant access to every adult in the universe and all the media content they have ever created. I know you may not understand this because we have worked to create a safe and nurturing environment around you, but not all adults are safe. And some of those adults are in that phone and would like to find you and pretend to be your friend and then ask you to send them inappropriate pictures. I am not trying to scare you, I am just informing you that young kids with phones often become young kids who have seen things they were not developmentally ready to see and then can’t unsee.

Your brain and your conscience are still developing. You are not old enough to know what to do if you should encounter something inappropriate on your phone and to hand you that phone and naively hope you just won’t encounter that stuff is foolish on my part. I would rather err on the overprotective side than on the “hope you don’t accidentally get addicted to porn/send naked pictures to a stranger/bully a vulnerable classmate/google Kardashian photos/accidentally spend my money on Amazon/get suicidal because of how people interact with you online” (circle all that apply) side. Helping you feel like you fit in with your friends who have phones is just not worth it to me. The joy I would get in seeing your delight in having your own phone (and in having you no longer pestering me about it) will never be greater than the pain and guilt I would feel if you saw what, statistically speaking, you are likely to see. Even if your peers aren’t telling you what they’ve seen and how it bothers their conscience and colors how they see the world, I’ve read the research and I’ve talked to heartbroken parents. I promise you, it’s not worth it. And I’m going to keep talking to you about how to handle it when you DO see something inappropriate because I want you to be prepared for what sadly seems to be inevitable.

There are good and bad choices we have to teach you how to navigate through. We want you to be the kind of person who responds with class and integrity to issues like cyber bullying or sexting or being catfished by some jerk. But kids your age shouldn’t have to think about that stuff yet, which is why we’re opting you out of that insanity until you might be ready to handle it. We know your ego is fragile right now. You don’t need the added pressure of counting “likes” or having to constantly post the prettiest version of yourself or wondering why someone doesn’t want to be your online friend or worrying about when someone will text you back. You’ve got too much awesome stuff to do with your time to be worrying about that. Stuff like playing basketball/reading a good book/hanging out with Grandma/baking cookies with me/watching all the cheesy original “Superman” movies (circle all that apply). You’ve got the rest of your life to suffer from FOMO. Right now, let’s just focus on doing all the fun stuff your classmates are posting pictures of themselves doing, except we won’t have to waste time agonizing about if anybody cares because we won’t be making all our fun times the subject of public discussion.

A phone isn’t good or bad on its own, it’s just a tool. Just like a chainsaw is and I wouldn’t hand you one of those right now either. There are plenty of times when a chainsaw is helpful and even necessary, but today is not that day for you. My hope is that when the time comes that you actually do NEED a phone, you’ll have all the skills necessary to handle it with the respect and discernment it requires.

I know you feel like you’re going to be the last kid on the planet (or at least the playground) without a phone, but I promise you when you’re mature enough and you have an actual need for a phone, I will help you make wise decisions about that. And you know what? I know plenty of other kids that are in the same situation. You know ________? _____’s mom and I were talking about this and we’re on the same page about letting you guys wait before you get into all that. I know you feel alone, but I promise you that you aren’t. And even if you were, sometimes doing the right thing means we stand alone and that’s okay.

You know what? I think you’re great. I’m so proud of the way you __________ and you’re learning how to ___________. Just the other day I was bragging about your awesome skills at ______________. This phone thing isn’t because I want you to suffer or because I don’t think you’re awesome. It’s because I love you so much, I’m willing to risk you being mad at me about this if it means I can save you some heartache down the line. Parenting is often about weighing out if the potential risk of an activity is worth the potential benefit, and right now that math just doesn’t add up when it comes to giving you a phone. But over time, that will change. And when it does, we trust you’ll be ready for the responsibility of wise phone ownership.

Love,

__________

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