“When should my child have a mobile device?”
I am asked this all of the time, and the reality is that there is no one right answer. As long as kids are different from one another, we will have to figure it out as we go along the path. Like many things in our world today, it is messy, leaving people with more questions than answers.
The one thing I do remind parents of is that this is not just about having a “phone”, but there are social implications that go along with it as well. If you remember as a kid, going to a summer camp or meeting friends abroad, your excitement was so high at the time, and you would promise one another to stay connected and be friends forever. Then you go your separate ways, and most people rarely connected after that. Did you stop connecting because you grew apart or because the access wasn’t there? We live in a world that kids will never have to stop talking to other kids they met at summer camp. They will always be connected as long as they choose to be.
But sitting down and talking with a group of people today, we talked about our childhood and how different it was. I remember growing up in a small town and we had a few students who were “bus kids”. They lived on farms out of town, and always had to leave a little earlier than we did to catch the bus (everyone else walked or was able to get a ride), and once they left school, you didn’t talk to them until the next day. All of my closest friends lived in town because honestly, it was easy to access them (and obviously there were great people!). There were even a few kids that lived on farms that we could not call because their house was in the “long distance” zone. It cost money to talk to them so it was rare your parents would actually let you call one another. It wasn’t that these kids were not awesome people, we just didn’t have the same access, which made it hard to develop any strong friendships. Maybe this was unique to my town or my situation, but I did think a lot about it in our conversation tonight. I am sure those same kids had a different peer group, but honestly, I didn’t know much about it when I was in school.
So now when a large group of friends have mobile devices and constant access to one another, I wonder what the implications are for the few that don’t have this same access? Do they lose out on some relationships because they aren’t able to connect?
What I am not saying is that parents should go out and buy their kids mobile devices because they feel guilty that other kids have them. Not in the least. It’s just that we need to really think about the idea that having a “phone” is more than just having a mobile device. For many, it is there connection to others and if that is cut off, there could be more of an impact than just losing out on information.
(As I wrote this, I thought of this video that shows what “access” can create amongst kids.)