I Refuse To Give My Tween Kids A Phone

by Chanel Schwenck
Portrait OF Young Boy Smiling
Tom Werner/Getty

I have three kids, ages 12, 11, and nine. None of them has a phone, but they claim all of their friends have had phones since second grade. They might be exaggerating, but only by a year. I’m probably the meanest mom ever.

Why don’t my kids have phones? Well, they don’t go anywhere without an adult. Soccer practice? I have the coach’s number (plus I’m there anyway). Friend’s house? I’m friends with the parents. After-school club? Got the teacher’s contact info on Class Dojo. My oldest went to his first middle school dance this year, and he borrowed one of my old phones. He called when the dance was over and we came to pick him up. For those kinds of situations, I’m 100% okay with him borrowing a phone. But for everyday use? I’m just not on board.

Not yet.

I have a phone and I’m digitally connected every hour of every day. I get the news from my phone, alerts from my calendar, social media updates, texts, and everything else. If I didn’t keep my phone on silent, it would be beeping all day long. I’m an adult, though, and my brain is mature enough to handle the information and sort through what’s important and what’s garbage.

Fortunately, my self-esteem isn’t measured by likes on a photo. My social status isn’t determined by how many people friend me each day. I can shut off the nonsense, and do, whenever it becomes too much. I love breaks from technology and believe they are necessary for my sanity, peace, and overall well-being.

Back to my tweens. They are still maturing. They are moody one minute and thrilled to be alive the next. The biggest problem they experienced during COVID-19 was having to agree on a movie to watch. They do well in school, go to church every Sunday, love animals, and test the limits when they think they can get away with it. They crave those limits, though, even though they may not realize it. They need those limits.

I didn’t sign up to have children only to give up on parenting at this stage of the game. They know I am not their friend; they have plenty of those. I am their mother. It is not my job to make them happy every second of the day; it is my job to raise them to become decent human beings who will positively impact this world. I am raising them to be independent someday and they need limits while they are maturing into that independence.

I can’t imagine my kids waking up every morning bombarded with social media news reports of riots, shootings, and unimaginable violence. And then receiving 500 texts before breakfast from friends speculating about events they don’t fully understand. I can’t imagine my children’s eyes widening in horror as they watch live video clips of people getting cursed out, beaten, handcuffed, locked up, or worse. I can’t imagine my children going onto YouTube and stumbling across a step-by-step guide on how to successfully hang themselves. I can’t imagine my children chatting with a seemingly genuine individual and becoming emotionally attached…only to find out the person has unmentionable intentions with my children. I can’t imagine the filth and nastiness of the world we live in (that I can’t even stomach half the time) being accessible to my children 24/7 because of a device I willingly placed into their hands.

I brought these children into the world 12, 11, and nine short years ago. I’m not ready for them to be grown up yet. And they aren’t either. There are privileges that come with being an adult. And responsibility too. All of that will come in time when they are cognitively, emotionally, socially, and physically mature enough to handle it. For now, they are children. They still have stuffed animals. They still climb trees. They still want me to watch them do tricks in the pool. They love surprise trips to the candy store and getting to stay up late for fireworks.

I’m just not ready to lose that yet.