My Son Survived Middle School Without a Cell Phone

By Anonymous

My son just finished 8th grade and will be moving on to high school next year. His middle school years were what most would call predictable. He made lots of friends, played new sports, talked too much in class, enjoyed many Xbox games, participated in plenty of get-togethers and sleepovers with buddies, rode his bike through the neighborhoods looking for excitement, struggled with homework, had his first crush, argued with his parents … most of the things we would expect from the tween and teen years.

But, in the year 2017, you would also expect him to have a cell phone.

Let me back up. In 5th grade I think his first friend received a phone for his birthday, which then started the trend throughout the class. My husband and I told my son that when he got to middle school, we would base the reward of a cell phone on his work ethic and grades. We made a deal that we all felt was attainable and said that at soon as he did “xyz,” he would earn a phone.

Well, all of 6th grade went by without him achieving his goal. He was close a few times, but a deal was a deal and I wanted him to strive to be the best he could be and make that goal of “xyz.”

7th grade came and went as he missed the mark yet again.

Now I was really starting to feel badly. Was the goal too high? Would he ever get there? It had been two years! After many meetings with his teachers, they validated what I had thought all along – no, the goal wasn’t too high, my son was just not putting forth much effort.

My husband and I quickly realized that a cell phone obviously wasn’t a reward that was going to entice my son to work any harder, so we started coming up with other rewards and punishments for his effort in school. (But that’s another story.) In the meantime, we still had the cell phone deal looming over our heads, and when I make a threat or promise, I keep it 99% of the time. I knew I couldn’t go back on my word.

So, you guessed it – 8th grade went by without him earning “xyz” and therefore he did not earn a phone.

Here we sit at the start of summer before high school wondering what the heck to do. Everyone’s lives would be easier at this point if he had a cell phone because he is often off on his own now and is actually going to start a job this summer. So, we’ve come up with another plan to implement in order for him to have use of a cell phone over the summer and into high school. (Again, that’s another story.)

So what IS the story? Well, the purpose of my blog wasn’t to humiliate my child for not making his goals (hence the anonymous by-line and stock image) or to give you every detail on what we expected from him or what we are going to agree upon for the future.

My purpose was to tell parents that if you don’t want to give your child a cell phone, you don’t have to!!! Why do we sometimes convince ourselves that it is somehow mandatory or that our children’s lives will be terrible without one?

The “everyone else has one” response never mattered to me, and it shouldn’t to you either. We tell our children all the time not to give in to peer pressure, so why should we? If you want to give your child a cell phone when they are 10, go for it. But if you are not comfortable spending the money or giving your child access to all things “interweb” related, you have every right to hold off.

Let me summarize the questions one would normally get so that you can see for yourself that survival can happen without a phone:

– What happens when he has to stay after school for clubs and sports?
Nothing. He stays after school for clubs and sports.
If the practice time is changed or pickup location is changed, a coach or teacher would let the parents know and I would pick him up at the appropriate time and location. If there were any other problems – there is a phone at the school where he could call me.

– What about when he’s out in the neighborhood?
I yell for him. “Old school” like. Or I walk my lazy butt down the street and find him.

– What happens if he needs you while he is at school?
He calls me from the phone in the office.

– What about the fact that all his friends text each other and make plans?
On the weekends he was able to use an iTouch, which had a few texting capabilities while at home with WiFi. Nine times out of ten he would turn on his device on Friday afternoon, shake his head at all the texts that had gone on from friends during the week, and carry on. He even stated one time, “Mom, it’s kind of nice staying out of all the drama.” Ha!

– What if he is at a friend’s house and needs you?
He calls me from his friend’s phone or his friend’s home phone.

– What if he is home alone and there is an emergency?
We have a land line.

– What if he needs the internet for school?
He uses the computer at school or the computer at home.

– What does he do on road trips?
Sleeps, reads, listens to music, talks to us, watches movies on the DVD player. Again, going old school here.

– Do his friends make fun of him?
Probably. But not any more than he makes fun of himself.

The perks:
– Less drama with texts
– Family time was truly family time
– Less chance of happening upon porn. (you can read TMoM’s blog about this here)
– No texts from him during school time about random things that he shouldn’t be conversing about during the school day anyway
– Less chance of cell phone addiction (you can read TMoM’s blog about this here)
– No head stuck in a device while friends and family are around
– Boredom leads to playing basketball outside, reading, getting together with friends, or family discussions, rather than surfing aimlessly online
– Plenty of money was saved

The cons:
– It often could have made life a little easier

I still have friends whose jaws drop when they ask me for my son’s phone number and I have to reply that he doesn’t yet have one, but all in all, it hasn’t been that bad. And in complete honesty, it was never my intent to hold off this long on a phone for him. (My other child has earned one much earlier!) I’m not a martyr saying my way is the best, or trying to make any of you feel bad who make a different choice for your child. I’m simply hoping those of you who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge will feel some validation.

Once he finally does get a phone, is there a chance that he will negate every item I listed under my “perks” section? Absolutely. I’m well aware that the kid who gets denied candy his whole life is the first one to have a complete gorge fest when he finally gets his hands on some. But I think it’s been very eye opening for my son to see others use of their devices, and discover how rude people can often be without even realizing it. He has often remarked how awkward it can be when someone is talking and a friend completely ignores them because their head is stuck in a device. I’m hoping that he will at least remember some of this when he does get his phone. If not, we’ll continue the roller coaster of parenthood and carry on!

 

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4 thoughts on “My Son Survived Middle School Without a Cell Phone

  1. Cassie

    I have scoured the internet for information on this. WE are a dying breed, my friend! I was born in 1979, I lived the 80’s and early 90’s unabashedly and free from the emotional hold of the internet. When it did come along in the year i graduated (1997), i was like, what is this crap? Who wants to sit in front of a screen all day and try to “connect” with something or someone?? Get OUT there and make that connection. FACE TO FACE. Here we re 20 years later and i am deeply rooted in this thought process. YES, i do use internet. On my tablet and/or laptop computer. YES, i am a 38 year old woman who DOES NOT own a smartphone (gasp!!).. I just don’t want one and dont see the need for it. I am INSANELY old school. My kids hate it. Do i care? NO. You live in my house, you follow my rules. Pick up a damn phone and make a phone call if you really wanna talk to somebody. This is a form of communication that, in my personal opinion is DYING. It frightens me. I get called every name in the book…CONTROLLING. HELICOPTER PARENT. NUT-JOB. You name it. But i will prevail. My oldest child is starting 7th grade in few days. she does not have phone. She will be receiving her own Amazon Fire Tablet for her birthday (upcoming, soon, 12yrs old). and that is on SERIOUS lockdown. So many parental controls/passwords that my OWN sister commented on why we were even giving it to her cause she wont be able to do anything on it. Well, better this than nothing! My rule, and i will dig my heels in no matter what, is you have to have a car & a license to have a phone. People look at me like i’m nuts but i’m not giving in. Thank you for posting this Blog, i have never found one online that relates to me on such a personal level on what i believe is right for my child. Especially in this ever-changing (and scary) world we live in!

    Reply
  2. Allyson

    My oldest child has hinted at wanting a cell phone once she reaches the double digits (which is right around the corner) and I told her that she could have a phone with calling and texting capabilities only. Initially, I considered getting her a cell phone, but in the end, if the pros outweigh the cons, she too will be sans cell phone.

    Thank you for this article!

    Reply
  3. Becky

    I love this article! There’s no reason for kids to have a cell phone so early. I wish I could go back in time and make them earn it. It’s definitely a privilege that too many people mistake for a right.

    Reply
  4. sarah

    I love this post and the point that it is ok not to buy your tween a phone! I told my kids they don’t need a cell phone until they are old enough to drive. My oldest is 10 so she has a little time to wait but so many of her friends have phones (and so do several of her 8 year old sister’s classmates)…which I just don’t understand why a child that young needs a phone??? My kids do have kindles and my 10 year old has an ipod so they are not completely out of touch with technology but I don’t think they need more than that at this age. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not crazy or alone in not wanting to buy my kids a phone!! 🙂

    Reply

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