15 Reasons Why my 15 yo Doesn’t Have her own Smartphone (yet)

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When a teen (or tween) gets their own personal smartphone is a hot topic amongst the parenting crowd.

Most of us have probably heard of the “wait until 8th” campaign that encourages parents to not buy or give their kids cellular devices until 8th grade.

But we’ve taken this even further. Our 15 yo daughter, who has entered her sophomore year at a local public high school, still does not own her own cell phone. According to her teenage angst and arguments, she’s the “very last one” of her class to not have a phone.

Ali with her mini smartphone
Keep reading to find out why this tiny cell phone is a joke in our family. Also she’s good sport to take these pictures!

And this may very well be true.

But — while we would all like to think our kids can handle smartphones, they really can’t. They can barely put their dirty clothes in their hamper or make healthy lunch choices. Why do we all of a sudden think our kids can handle advanced technology?

Here are 15 reasons why we’ve delayed a smartphone for our teenager:

1 |  She can’t afford one
While we pay for clothes, food, extra-curricular activities and lessons, and other teen “needs,” we believe if she’s to get a cell phone, that means she really does own it. I’m not paying for a 7 billion dollar upgrade to my own iPhone (especially when it’s not really needed) just to hand over my old one. She knows that when she can truly pay for one (either cover my upgrade or the cost of a brand new device), we’ll shop for one.

2 |  She should be where she is supposed to be
The biggest argument I hear from parents about giving phones to their kids is the reasoning that this way their “kids can call for a ride.” Well, everywhere our child should be there’s an adult, with a phone, to make that call if necessary. I know there will be times she’s completely on her own, doing her own things, but we aren’t quite there yet.

3  |  She can’t afford the monthly service fees
And then it’s still extra $ to keep it activated each month. It’s been proven time and again that when kids take fiscal responsibility to pay their bills, they begin to understand the value of a dollar, keep whatever it is safe, and appreciate it more.

4 |  She needs a steady J-O-B or a significant amount saved up
Ooops, we’re talking about money again. Since she isn’t 16 yet, she’s not eligible for a “real” paycheck kind of paying job. She does babysit — a lot in fact. But this type of work fluctuates. Some months she earns quite a bit, others none. The phone will most likely fall and crack in the first year, so she needs to have a fix-it plan.

5 |  She has a school-issued ipad
And this device is perfectly good for scrolling Pinterest, watching YouTube, and emailing — 3 of the reasons she’s mentioned “needing” a phone.

Ali on her ipad
Pictured above is the teenager found in her natural habitat.

6 |  Phones are addicting
I thought about putting this up there as number 1, so if you’re still reading this list, kudos to you. Click here to read an article about how very real teen smartphone addiction is and how parents are battling this issue with professional therapy.

7 |  Phones prevent real socialization
Oh whee. I’m just continuing with the unpopular opinions over here. My husband and I were talking the other day about when WE were teens (back in the stone age) we argued with our parents quite a bit about going to parties on the weekends. I distinctly remember my parents forbidding me to attend an after football game party one time and I’m pretty sure I told them I would literally die if I didn’t get to go. Today? My oldest rarely asks to get together with her friends on the weekend and has never asked to go to a party. I thought, “Maybe she’s just not in the “in crowd” and not getting invited,” but no, it’s turns out everyone just socializes on their phones via texting and snapping; not actually talking to each other in person.

this is the only smartphone she can afford right now
This LOL doll cell phone is about the only one she can afford right now. When we see it laying around the house, we all tease our teen that she left her phone unattended again.

8 |  Teen brains can’t handle smartphones
Smartphone usages causes the same type of dopamine release in response to social media likes as one might have to a drug.

9 |  She’s a teenage girl who is already self conscious
Did you know anxiety and depression can be a result of too much cell phone use? Studies have shown that teens who spend large amounts of time on social platforms suffer from higher levels of mental health issues. Time spent on social apps can fuel low self-esteem and body dysmorphia. We do this with our “mom bodies” — why in the world do we think our teen daughters won’t do it with theirs?

10 |  (Visual) Sexual Assault is real
I’d like to think that by my daughter using my smartphone for her needs would prevent things from coming across my screen, but alas that isn’t the case. Without going into details, last year, within the first 2 months of her freshman year of HS, she received multiple inappropriate pictures of a body part getting sent to her. Luckily it was filtered through my phone and I was able to prevent a few images from crossing her eyes (not all, but some). We had a lengthy talk about how sexual images coming across a screen that we (women) did not ask for is the equivalent to sexual assault. The boy may not have touched her, but he definitely didn’t ask for permission to send the pictures. Once someone sees something, they cannot unsee it. 

11 |  Pocket porn
You have filters on your kids’ devices? Great. They know their way around passcodes, firewalls, and anything else. And when that fails, they just need to use a friend’s device who doesn’t have any restrictions. Kids are clever and if you think you’re preventing your child from googling “blow jobs” you are quite mistaken. I have two friends whose 7th graders are seeing a professional therapist because their boys are addicted to porn. THIRTEEN YEAR OLDS ADDICTED TO PORN. Let that sink in. Does that mean my daughter won’t be exposed eventually to pornography? No. Like I said, I’m not naive. But I’m also not going to just hand her a smartphone that provides visual answers to her curiosity until I’ve had lot and lots of conversations with her. It’s my job to protect her from this as long as I possibly can. Again, once someone sees something, they cannot unsee it. 

12 |  I don’t want to fight with her
I love the relationship I currently have with my 15 yo. So far the teen years have been good to us, with only a few minor bumps in the road. I know in my heart that a smartphone would increase tension and we’d be fighting/arguing about usage and her screen time. I’m selfishly not ready for more teen drama because of a phone.

13 |  I don’t want to constantly double guess her actions
I have friends who gave a smartphone to their kid in 6th grade (middle school) but restricted social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram. They could have the phone but nothing else. Here’s the thing — restrictions such as these just make the kid sneaky. After this one particular mom I know *insisted* her daughter didn’t have a TikTok account, I was able to prove to her (through my own daughter’s account) that hers did indeed have one — under a pseudonym, using a different friend’s phone to create it. I’d MUCH rather let my kids create their own social media accounts where I can help them navigate who they’re following, who’s commenting/liking their stuff, and who’s seeing what they post. My 15 yo has 200 followers on IG and doesn’t know half of them. It’s important to teach her how to NOT talk to people she doesn’t know in private chat rooms, give out her private info in her bio, and other online “rules.” If we just say “NO DON’T DO THAT,” it just teaches a kid to be creative on doing it anyway.

If you don’t believe me, check out this post by Lakeside where they talk about how teens are especially savvy and secretive with social media, using apps like Vaulty to hide pictures, hidden apps that look like calculators, and closed/private Facebook groups to keep their digital life from their parents. Did you know 30% of teens say their parents know “a little” or “nothing” about what social media apps and sites they use?

14 |  She needs to learn to communicate voice to voice first
“Kids text all sorts of things that you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face,” is a quote from Dr. Donna Wick, a clinical and developmental psychologist who runs Mind to Mind Parent.

In 8th grade, again using my smartphone, my oldest was part of a text thread that got out of hand. I’m proud to say she eventually left the group chat on her own, but not before at least 10-15 racial jokes were texted back and forth, where some sexual innuendos about teachers were stated as “jokes”, and inappropriate selfies were sent (luckily no body parts that time). It was a mix of boys and girls and both sexes actively participated. Mean comments were made about other classmates NOT in the group text thread and being a part of the text thread at that point was a “social status.” Again, I  used this to help her learn from her actions. First, EVERYTHING you send cannot be unsent. Text conversations aren’t private and can be screenshotted and shared. Using apps, text threads can even be manipulated and altered, making it look like what you typed was different than what was actually said. We discussed that you should NEVER text something that you wouldn’t actually say to someone face to face. Parents are all up in arms about social media apps but texting? Whew. That’s a whole other ballgame.

15 |  Ultimately I’m the parent and having a smartphone is still a no
It’s our job as parents to prepare our kids to launch into the real world. And having access to technology absolutely plays a role in this. But I promise you, a tween or teen DOES NOT NEED a phone to become the person you want them to be. Know what does? Spending time outside. Learning a craft or hobby. Learning to cook family recipes. Participating in a team sport. Volunteering in the community or visiting the elderly at a nursing home. I want our daughter to learn to have actual, meaningful conversations around the dinner table. I want her to use her brain to try to figure something out before googling the solution. I want her to have deep friendships that revolve around sleepovers and swim parties, not text threads and snapchat streaks. Do you know she still LOVES to swing on our backyard swing set, listening to music, and giggle with her sisters? If she had a smartphone, I’m not sure she’d still be hanging on to her childhood by a thread.

teenager swinging
She still spends hours a week swinging & listening to music.
In case anyone comes after me that she needs a way to get a hold of us, she does own a watch that can text and call us (that has a GPS locator) as well as being able to borrow my phone or my husband's if she's babysitting or somewhere that she feels a phone is more appropriate for her "safety." I have absolutely no problem going phone free, since mine is constantly dying anyway.

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