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Why I’m changing my mind and getting my daughter a smartphone

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER ON PHONE
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I want to protect her, but I also want to prepare her ...

My 12-year-old is annoyed with me. Well, annoyed is putting it mildly. She’s upset at the injustice of not having her own phone.

I don’t want to minimize her feelings here. It actually is an injustice from her perspective, and sometimes even from mine. All her friends have phones. At youth group, the kids who get there early play games like Cahoot.it — games that require a phone. They play as a group, all answering questions and scoring points on their devices.

Questions she can’t see. Points she can’t score. Because she doesn’t have a phone.

So she sits to the side, left out and isolated. Sometimes she comes outside and watches me train my camps, and I can tell that she’s close to tears. Being left out hurts. I’ve been there. I know. It hurts even more to watch it happen, to know it’s unjust, and to feel helpless because solving one injustice would mean opening the door to a whole host of new and more dangerous injustices.

Amanda Goodman recently highlighted the injustices that accompany the world of social media in an article over at FaithIt:

This is not like the movies in the ’80s and ’90s where kids are getting thrown into lockers or meeting out on the playground to settle the score. It is NOTHING like it was when we were growing up. Back in the day, Friday was the day everything came to a head. By the time the weekend was done, everything had blown over.

Our kids are bullying and harassing one another from the confines of their bedrooms. Their fingers are assault weapons … typing and posting away.

I’m not ready to let my girl enter that world. I want to protect her from it as long as possible, to let her have a childhood as free from the confines of social media as possible.

And yet, I can’t protect her from it forever. It won’t be long before she will need to learn to navigate social media, because even if I ban it in our home forever, she won’t be in our home forever.

It would be a different kind of injustice not to help her learn to cope with the world of words-as-assault weapons while she is still young enough to let me guide her. Worse, it would be an injustice to shield her from the kind of pain those words can render, because then she will never know what her own words are capable of doing to a person.

As a parent of this generation, growing up amidst an influx of connectivity, I have an obligation to help form her character in this area of life as well as all the others. And keeping her locked away from it isn’t exactly character formation.

So it won’t be long before she gets her own phone — one that I monitor and have passwords to, one that she can only use at certain times, but one that will allow her to start learning what it means to live in the worlds we live in — and how to do it well.

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