By: V’s Mom
I watched you as you opened all your gifts today, and I knew that deep down inside you were secretly hoping that one of those boxes contained a smartphone. I saw a glimmer of disappointment as you thanked us for the gifts and said you loved them. I understand you are well past the age that most of your friends were when they got their phones. I know there are group chats and accounts that you have been missing out on. It is the new social life of a tween, I get it. But what I have a hard time accepting is that at twelve years old, you are entirely capable of existing in a place very different from reality. You know that old saying, “You are too young to understand,” well, I really do think you are too young to understand.
It is so important to your father and I that you learn to navigate the real world first. Don’t get me wrong, it sometimes saddens me to watch you with your friends. You are the only one without a phone in your hand. You all laugh and giggle at funny pictures or videos and, truth be told, I honestly sometimes question if we made the right decision. Am I making you lonelier being the only kid left out of group chats? Am I making you an easy target for bullies next year in middle school?
I think about how much easier it would be to just say yes! Gosh darn-it, let's do it! Let’s go buy the iPhone 8! Is that what they all have now? You finally will stop bugging us every holiday for a phone. We can be “friends” on Facebook and Instagram so you can “like” or “love” the awkward child photos I post of you for all of cyber world to see. I can keep up with your social life by viewing your posted photos and videos on Snapchat and TikTok. You can literally be anyone you want to be in the cyber world.
But my biggest fear is that as time goes by I will have “lost” my daughter. What do I mean by lost, you ask? I mean that doesn’t even make sense, right? You would literally be so accessible that we could communicate 24/7. But what happens if we are in the car, and I want to actually talk to you? What happens if I want to get to know your “friends?” What happens if your phone is dead and you get lost when you’re driving? Would you know how to ask for help? What happens when you meet a boy that wants to ask you out? What happens if that boy breaks your heart or you break his? Will you just text him the news because it is easier that way? What happens if you get so caught up in a text conversation on the subway that you don’t even realize you’re all alone on an empty train?
I see how out of touch you feel from your friends and God bless you, you always just laugh along with the funny texts or photos they show you. Your friends must speak in a language that you don't even understand. This is not a punishment or to torture you, although it must feel like that. Our purpose is so much bigger than that and something you won’t understand until you are much older. I can promise you that.
To be perfectly honest, a smartphone can be a great thing, especially for us moms. I am not going to lie about that. It allows us to multitask and keep up with our hectic lives. Everything is at the tip of our fingers. You need new shoes? Done. It will arrive tomorrow. Why wait in traffic when you can avoid it? Going to be late for pickup? Text a neighbor. You don’t even have to wait for the news to give you the weather report, just ask Alexa! It is all so easy. Gosh, I can’t even fathom how we functioned sometimes without them! But I know the difference. I know what it is like to knock on a neighbors door and ask for my friend to come play. I grew up knowing the responsibility of riding my bike throughout my neighborhood and having to be home by dinner. I remember being bored with the neighborhood kids and coming up with games to play. And when I was invited to eat at a friend’s house I knew how to politely ask for seconds. This is not about you reliving my childhood because Lord knows I would not want to relive my own mother’s! This is about learning to maneuver through your childhood not dependent on anything but yourself. Sometimes that means making mistakes that can be "deleted" and learned from. Trying new things that involve all your senses. Communicating to others the way nature intended us to. We want you to see beyond the facade that social media has created for your generation. To be able to differentiate what is reality and what is not, so that your journey in life is your own and that the path you follow is built on your character.
So, my sweet, funny, talented tween, may this year be another year that you fill with childhood memories. Remember, always, that life is not the screen in front of you, it is what is happening all around you, so enjoy those moments. There is plenty of time ahead for you to capture them on a phone.
Please consider delaying the smartphone for your child with the Wait Until 8th pledge. There are so many reasons to wait. Currently the average age a child receives a smartphone is 10 years old despite the many distractions and dangers that comes with this technology. Join 20,000 parents by signing the pledge today.
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