I Took My 12 Year-Old’s Cell Phone and Guess What Happened?

Let’s just start out by saying that Middle School is rough. I knew it was but man, it all comes flooding back when you send your first child there. Its gonna be fine you tell yourself, he’ll survive just like you did right? And then comes the first hard parenting decision you have to make. The first quarter didn’t go the best. The sharp left turn into the google classroom world wasn’t an easy one. The idea of doing everything on a computer, turning stuff in, sitting in a classroom also on a computer was a lot for my kid’s brain I think. Focusing doesn’t necessarily come easier when you are on a computer all day, then come home to also work on the computer. Despite all that I will say that the staff at our school, for the most part, is top notch!  They have been supportive, gotten tutoring for him for math once a week, and have just been all around supportive and approaches things with a listening ear. One of the worst parts, and most surprising, has been the change to letter grades and the fact that they are updated in real time. They have spent their entire elementary school lives with these arbitrary number grades which mean almost nothing. They have no concept of what letter grades mean, how a curve works or having them updated in real time based on what assignments are available to turn in. And the kids can access this through an app on their phone. Not the best idea for a generally anxious kid.

photos by Cherish Pennington Photography

So after much thought, a phone getting taken away and the distraction of it all, I decided to take it away. And guess what? He didn’t die? His world hasn’t fallen apart and he makes it home from school each day and I haven’t worried one little bit about it. We entered the cell phone world mostly because of me – well, all because of me. I was under the impression that he needed it in the big bad world of middle school here. He’d be home by himself sometimes, walking home from the bus or possibly staying late at school. How would I know? What if something happened at school and he needed me? What if he didn’t have his cell phone? So, we got the phone, I downloaded all the cool things like Life 360, which tracks them, and OurPact, which allows you to schedule time when access to games and such are available. He has to request all downloads and be approved by me. I only allow a certain number of “fun” apps on his phone. No Youtube, no music.ly or anything like that. I’m the least fun cell-phone mom in his little circle of friends I think. But that still wasn’t enough. He’s 12! Let’s face it, 12 year-olds aren’t ready for the responsibility of a phone. As evidenced by the fact that almost everyone I know complains about the fact their kid can’t leave their phone and is always on it. So why have we given in? Why are constantly battling something that actually belongs to us? Having a cell-phone is a privilege and not a right. And frankly, as adults, we have a hard time curbing our cell phone usage. Having kids old enough to pay attention has really made that more apparent to me and has directly affected how I behave with my phone.

photo by Cherish Pennington Photography

So, the great cell-phone experience – while not a flop – was, and is a learning experience. Every parent needs to make their own decisions when it comes to technology and their kids, especially when it comes to social media. But why are we giving our children’s adult responsibilities and then annoyed (whether we realize it or not) or shocked when they can’t handle it. If its hard for us to put down the technology how can we expect to not be EVEN MORE difficult for our children to as well? I have to also remember by job isn’t to make him a kid of the world, to make sure he fits in or that he’s the cool kid. My job isn’t even to raise a straight A student! My job is to raise a good human FIRST! Frankly that is my only job. I want my kids to love God, love their families, love their country and their community. That’s it. Not be good at technology, not excel in math, or be able to play every sport with professional ability. Its just not. And that is something I think we have to work on reminding ourselves.

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