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Why Our 13-Year Olds Don’t Have Smartphones

Our 13-year-old triplets are living without cell phones. What kind of parents are we?

Let’s pause and take a close look at our kids.

  • Our oldest is all about the social and would be unable to focus on anything but that device, so he’s out. He is not mature enough. 
  • The middle man would probably rarely look at the thing, but he would most likely lose it in the first week anyway. He is not focused enough.
  • Our third born is responsible enough for a phone, but is the one to say, why do I need one anyway? Not interested enough. 
  • And baby girl just turned 11 and, in our book, is way too young for such a device. Not old enough.

According to these four, they are the only 13-year-olds left on the earth without a cell phone. They don’t realize this, but this is precisely the point! Don’t you want your family to be different?

Here are 10 Reasons We are Not Getting Our 13-Year-Olds a Smartphone

1. Smartphones are a privilege

When did our parents allow us the same privileges and material items that they had when we were growing up? That would be… never.

This isn’t the case anymore. What do young kids need with a cell phone, and why are we, as parents, so concerned about being able to communicate with our kids constantly? Our boys are away at church camp this weekend, and it is strange not to be able to reach each other. But it’s okay, and I think it is healthy for all of us to learn to do so.

2. Smartphones hinder delayed gratification

I want my kids to learn to wait for something. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Just because you turn 13 and because it’s what everyone has and is doing isn’t a good enough reason. Every child who jumps in the car with us to go anywhere whips out their phone, and mine lean over to assist in playing their game of choice or checking out social media post updates.

It saddens me that kids no longer know how to ” be.” I know we are happy when they have these gadgets in hand because it honestly means more quiet time for us, but I also know it can be detrimental. Can you imagine a road trip without a gadget in our child’s hand? We don’t even want to consider it.

3. Smartphones can be a crutch

The other night, our daughter’s best friend texted her Mom (who was out to a nice adult dinner) at 10:00 p.m., saying that she couldn’t sleep and wanted to go home. Boy, do I remember feeling like that a time or two growing up at sleepovers? The difference is that I had no cell phone to call my Mom, so I pushed through.

And you know what? I made it through and learned that it wasn’t so bad after all, or I realized I didn’t want to do that again. I learned a lesson either way. I love this girl and love her parents even more, so this isn’t a judgment, just an observation of what we are creating, and I notice it regularly.

4. Smartphones distract students at school

I was in one of my son’s 6th-grade classes, and the teacher had to tell students that they could use their phones to research the project, but she would be walking around to make sure no one was texting or using the phone in any other way.

Do teachers today really need one more thing to worry about?

I had to sign a waiver for a different teacher asking if the students could use their phones in class. I signed it and checked the no box, considering they don’t even own phones. A few weeks later, the teacher called to tell me that I was the only one who said no and that I may want to rethink my answer. So she returned the form so I could say, Yes, my sons can use someone else’s phone in class. 

5. Smartphones hinder social relationships

Where we live, ‘dating’ is rampant in middle school. It is easy to fall into a ‘relationship’ behind texts and social posts today. I remember having an eye for boys at this age, so I get it. But, I certainly wasn’t telling ANYONE about it besides my very best friend, who was telling me her deepest secrets at the same time.

We are losing all innocence by giving kids too much too soon. My kids need to mature, figure out who they are, and become somewhat secure before they can navigate a relationship over texts and Snapchat.

6. Smartphones should be for working people

Why are we willing to fork out our hard-earned money each month so our youngsters can have a phone and data plan? We’re not kidding when we ask our kids how they plan to pay for this privilege. We as parents need to make sure we are creating a desire in our kids to work toward something so that they can buy the things they want one day.

7. Smartphones prohibit independence

Our kids don’t need phones because everyone around them has one that they can use. However, when they try to use a friend’s phone from the bus or school to try and plan a hangout, I have to remind them that this is why they don’t have their own phone. We can talk in person when they get home. Our musical son has to go into the school office once in a while to let us know that his lesson got done early or was canceled so we can pick him up.

Yes, a child can still use the school’s landline. Otherwise, our son must sit outside and wait for you….old-school style.

8. Just because we can afford a smartphone, doesn’t mean we need to buy it

Yes, we can afford phones and family data plans. But I think this is another powerful message to our kids—just because we can afford something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to spend our money on. Our kids have become very aware of people (from friends to the working poor who receive free meals at St. Vincent de Paul, where we serve) who don’t have “money” yet have iPhones. They would never be able to observe and question this with a phone in hand.

9. Smartphone ownership can cause entitlement

Kids should not feel entitled to own any material item. When they are 15, we will also discuss not buying them cars. Before you feel too bad for my tweens, they are still a part of their iGeneration, as they each own an IPAD and have Instagram accounts. It is good for our children to begin learning to tread the technological waters but in moderation.

10. Why do they need a smartphone again?

I know people have absolute reasons for their children to own phones—having an only child, older siblings who have them, or kids who are going back and forth between homes due to divorce. To each his own, and only you know your family dynamic. Our family doesn’t have a good enough reason right now.

What age do you think is appropriate for buying a child a smartphone?

10 replies
  1. Momma Mary
    Momma Mary says:

    Wow! You WERE paying attention when you were growing up! Dad and I say these very things to each other all the time. Keep fighting the good fight girl!

  2. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    Absolutely agree! Love how you hit each topic dead on. As a 31 year old I feel I meet up with girlfriends and same thing on phones. We could have saved money & done this conversation at home! Take time for those who matter, life is much to short.

  3. Melissa Crout
    Melissa Crout says:

    Wow, awesome article. I’m going to read it to my hubby right now. Thanks Amy for your thoughtfulness and thoroughness on the topic!

  4. Catherine B
    Catherine B says:

    I get your points but as a 17 year old without my own phone, not having a phone makes you disconnected to the people around you. I constantly get teased because I’m the one who doesn’t understand what the others talk about or have different interests. Whenever I tell people I don’t have a phone they get shocked, because they assume I do, its just something natural people my age have.

  5. Hasna
    Hasna says:

    I’m already a teenager and my mom also doesn’t allow me to have a phone. It makes me happy that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a phone when all the people I know have one.

  6. Olive Fairclough
    Olive Fairclough says:

    I’m a thirteen year old girl in year nine and I agree with your points. My parents can afford to buy me a mobile phone but do not want to get me one. I only want a mobile phone because everyone else has one. All my mates. I totally understand that I do not need a mobile phone (like, an iPhone) but peer pressure is a really big issue. I wish that I didn’t feel left out a bit because I don’t have a phone. My parents are not old fashioned – they both have iPhones, but I wish our lives didn’t have to revolve around phones.



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