Monday, October 24, 2016

Fitting in

Elli wants a phone.  She has wanted one for a couple years now, but the desire has reached a fever pitch.  The other day I asked her why exactly she wanted a phone and what she intended to do with it.  She couldn't give me much of an answer aside from 'play games' and I felt like that wasn't compelling.  Later on that night though she came out of her room crying and told me that she knew why she wanted a phone.

"All of my friends have phones and it feels like they are in a club that I am not invited to and it makes me feel sad and left out."

I tried to comfort her and I suppose I succeeded to some extent.  I felt sad for her because it sucks to be the one left out.  I remember everyone in my elementary school getting Club Monaco branded sweatshirts and mocking everyone who wore anything else to school.  The sweatshirts were cheaper than a phone, but they sure were useless aside from signalling that you were a conformist.  At least the phone has functionality!

I hate buying into peer pressure and it irks me greatly to fork out money just because other parents have done so.  I don't want to be on that treadmill, and I don't want Elli to think that she or Wendy and I should be that way.  You can't win.  But I also don't want Elli to spend her school days pushed to the margins either and I just don't know how to bridge that gap.

There are plenty of arguments against giving kids phones.  One of them is that my generation didn't have cell phones when we were kids, so why should they?  Of course our parents didn't have computers, and yet we were pretty happy to have them, primitive as they were.  My parents also grew up in an era when beating your children over minor infractions was considered a normal, even noble, thing to do.  I sure wouldn't want that.  Generally speaking I don't think that "it was different in years gone past" is a strong argument for anything.

Arguments for giving kids phones exist too.  Elli being able to text us does increase her safety and her utility.  I could get her to go to the store for me more easily and effectively!  She could change plans with friends and easily check in with us when doing so!

Thing is, I don't want to spend fifty bucks a month for her to have a phone, nor many hundreds of dollars to buy something new and fancy.

Probably the best compromise is to give her a phone for social purposes but try to dodge the cost.  A used phone that only has a text plan is still pretty great for her - it grants communication at a low cost, and can still do lots of nice phone things through wifi.

At ten years old Elli is going to be far more tech savvy than I was.  Also a lot worse at chopping wood and fixing things.  Which I guess sums up pretty much every new crop of kids for half a century, at least.  Nothing new there.


  1. There are lots of plans that give you options. One of the best ones I've seen is Koodo... you can get a prepaid monthly $15 with unlimited text and you can buy buckets of minutes to use (500 for $25). The minutes don't expire as long as you keep up the monthly plan.

    As for phones, I'm sure there are lots of used phones you can get for pretty cheap or even for free from friends.

    Honestly though, it sounds like Elli articulated why she wants the phone pretty well, and fitting in is a real thing.


    1. That's the plan that I have. It also has a data add-on that's reasonable and never expires, but most of the time I just use wifi so I keep the data off to keep the cost down.

  2. FWIW our kids desperately wanted phones at that age too. I'm sure the market saturation is even higher now, almost for four years later. We found iPods were a greater compromise since the kids were mostly doing stuff on apps which would run on WiFi.
    I'm not sure if that's still a decent answer in the age of the ubiquitous smart phone.
    If I were you (and I suspect you've done or would do anyway) I'd engage in a little research with Elli and her peers to find out what they're doing n the phones which can't be met by existing devices in your household.

    In terms of carriers we just researched all the options recently when getting our kids iPhones for high school. We found wind was the most affordable with unlimited text, data and voice for $30/mo

  3. I don't participate in the cell phone world, but I think comparing participating in the shared online world with wearing the same sweater brand is a mistake. One is branding/signalling, one is social interactions and relationship building.

    You don't want everyone talking about you online and laughing/etc. without the ability to see what's going on. It's a huge disadvantage in the competitive world of socializing.

  4. A strong recommendation that you've probably already thought of: No phone in the bedroom after lights out. They are pretty disturbing to sleep and young brains need good sleep. A 'must be plugged in on the kitchen table' rule may serve you well.