Why my kids don’t have a cell phone until they’re 18 years old

Some of you have asked me to talk about new technologies and how we treat them in our family (some of them aren’t so new anymore because time flies!). The use of technology has completely invaded all fields of our life and education cannot be left behind.

As you know, nobody in my house can have a cell phone until they are 18 years old. It is true that some of my children complain, but I assure you that the fruits that come from this rule reaffirm my stance. Let’s start with the recurring arguments I hear: “everyone in my class has a phone,” “people will think we’re asocial,” “we won’t have any friends…” In response to these complaints, I encourage them to get creative in how they relate with friends, to base their self-esteem on what they are and not on what they have, and to learn to enjoy life without worrying about a small machine. And of course, I always point out to them that it’s not true because they actually do have many friends and are considered leaders in many ways in their class. Obviously, my children do have access to some technologies: we have a home computer, they often use their older siblings phones and even mine. It is something that requires patience and dedication.

Also, what do they need a cell phone for? They talk to their friends at school every day and can easily call their friends in other cities from home.

Oftentimes, parents deceive ourselves by saying, “but all their friends have a cell phone,” “if they don’t have a cell phone they will be left out of their group of friends…” And it tempting to believe that the easy solution is to give them a cell phone and all of these problems will disappear.

As my children get older, they actually understand why we have this rule and even appreciate it. And now, even if at times I’m tempted to give in to the younger ones, the older ones wouldn’t let me, because they know that not having a cell phone until the age of 18 has done them a lot of good and will be best for their younger siblings too. Of course, that’s not even considering how much money it saves.

It is also important that the kids do know how to use these technologies so we must teach them. When they are younger, they often act on impulse, especially because it’s so easy to do things without much intellectual effort. A few weeks ago I was with a friend at a conference and she did not stop looking at her Whatsapp for the entire two hours it lasted. When it finished, I asked her if there was a fire in their house or what could be so important that she couldn’t wait for two hours… if an adult can be so easily hooked, imagine a child!

It’s very sad to see children who are hooked on mobile phones at such an early age (the same could be said for adults): they don’t play with their siblings/friends, they no longer read books, play board games or other games. Cars, playing cowboy and Indians, fighting… children no longer know how to fight!

It may sound like I don’t like mobile phones, but the truth is that I love the good that they can be used for: in such a small device you can have all your favorite music, in the palm of your hand you can “travel” all over the world and interact with people from everywhere. I love speaking to friends and family on Skype or Facetime, it’s amazing!

At home, cell phones and television are not allowed at the table for our family dinner since lunch is at school and we don’t get to see each other. And it’s true that I demand a lot from my older children and myself to not give an inch in this regard, because the reality is that the example we set for the youngest ones is what weighs the most in this fight: it is useless if I say all these things but we are the first to fail when it comes to being detached from our cell phones. It makes me so sad to go to a restaurant and see a family eating together, but none of them are really present. Instead, they are all glued to their cell phones. Where have those meals that lasted two hours with endless discussions gone? They still exist in my house.

How are we going to develop the creativity of our children if we don’t let them think and they are with their little device all the time? There are strategy computer games that help them think and are super competitive, but they can also learn to play board games as a team, to lose and to win by playing in a park…

As parents we have to be up to date on the games that are in fashion and those that our children play. The other day at school an expert in technology came to speak to us and we loved it. We even asked them to give the same talk to our children. At home we have a computer and we let them play strategy games but we avoid role playing games because they generally tend to contain violence, sex, and drug use that doesn’t lead to anything good. These games also generate an addiction (because it is a business after all) and there is no filter. If you don’t know anything about your children’s games, sit with them while they play and ask them questions so that they reflect on what good or bad lessons it gives them: what does the protagonist do? What is the goal of the game? Does it seem good for you and for your friends? Is it just fun or does it give some other benefits?

We have to know that these video games have been designed by professionals so that our children get hooked and so that their brain creates dopamine every time they achieve something. At home of course there are video games, but they should be moderated with a schedule: they can only use them on weekends.

But I must confess, since we have so many sporting events on the weekends, cultural activities, and plans with friends, there is little time to connect.

There are many challenges that lie ahead in education, for this reason we emphasize so much the importance of using technology well and at the proper times. It’s worth it because we are truly building the character of our children for their entire lives, and today’s effort will pay off tomorrow.

I leave you with two very interesting articles for those who want to delve into the subject. The first explains how the Silicon Valley gurus ban cell phones for their children. It must be because they know firsthand the damage that it can do to them: https://elpais.com/sociedad/2019/03/20/actualidad/1553105010_527764.html

The second talks about pornography: https://www.abc.es/opinion/abci-adiccion-pornografia-201903142334_noticia.html

This post was originally published on comoserfelizconunodostreshijos.com on May 30th, 2019.

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