It took me a while to decide to buy my son a iPhone. Starting a new school that was now not a 5 minute walk but a 15 minute drive was the launch point.
I wanted him to be able to reach me and vice versa. I also I accepted the inevitability that at some point of his life he was going to have a phone, to try and resist seemed laughably futile. There was also the peer pressure factor. True, it had never been a problem and my son is pretty level-headed so I acknowledge that it was more that I didn’t want to him feel out of place at his new school.
But why make his first personal phone a top-end expensive one? It took a while to tussle back and forth the reasons. My natural thought was to get a simpler phone with minimal functionality that would happily do the job. If it was lost or damaged it was less of a financial problem about replacing it. Less fuss, less hassle and I’d not worry about it. I felt comfortable about that, and it seemed the right direction.
I wasn’t happy with the idea that I was expecting him to ‘fail’
Yet what occurred to me was this, and I share it as it may be useful to you: am I not playing to the lower common denominator? I’m thinking of getting him a cheap phone based mainly on the belief that he’ll lose it, get it scratched or damaged. I was assuming the worse outcome and was making a decision based on that. It was this that didn’t seem fair. I’m giving him a low-end phone because I didn’t trust him; and that really bothered me.
Why should I assume this? Why should I set out with the worst case scenario in my mind? I have no evidence that he would misuse it. I wasn’t happy with the idea that I was expecting him to ‘fail’.
What also came to mind was that he was well aware of how expensive, and to some degree exclusive, an iPhone is. He would know the value, the trust value, that the gesture would bring.
It was another chance to release another anchor of being a parent
With him aware of this, how careful would he be of the phone? How much better did it feel to trust him than to doubt he’s ability to take reasonable care of it — and let’s face it, I’ve dropped my phone a couple of times, I couldn’t demand a higher level of care from him than I could manage.
Therefore, I chose to get him an iPhone. Yes, I accept I did it for some minor social pressure, but also because I wanted to trust him. By buying it for him, it gave that pinch of worry that you feel when you see your children do something independent for the first time: walking to school on their own or letting them walk to the shops without you. So it was another chance to release another anchor of being a parent. Giving them the trust and belief that they’ll be okay. That then has to be the greater gift, more than any phone, the giving of trust (as well as a decent phone case).
Some Rules to Consider for Your Child’s First Phone:
- Make it clear it’s your phone that your giving to them. They are free to use it but ultimately it’s yours
- Outside of school times, that they always respond to calls or texts
- Use parental controls that are in the phone or download an app
- Make a point of talking about how they are using the phone, who’s texting or emailing them. How much privacy you think is necessary is a personal choice. Developing a space to talk about this can be useful to understand how your child is using the phone, and watch spot for potential bullying
- Not to download apps without a parent’s permission
- No mobile phones at the dinner table
You may need to have a larger conversation with your child about how they use the phone responsibly and respectfully, give them an understanding about texting, sending photos and internet safety.