Have you noticed the new ad on my sidebar? There's a bit of an explanation behind it--a firm representing T-Mobile approached me to see if I would like to take part in their new Family Allowances campaign in exchange for a paid sponsorship to which I said, "Why yes, yes I would! Thank you very much."
The set up was simple enough, I was supposed to take a quick quiz on their site to see what my "parenting style" was like then share it with you good people (and if you've read my blog for any length of time I bet you can guess what kind of style I have . . . I'm not exactly quiet about those kinds of things am I?)
Well (surprise surprise) after taking the quiz I was informed that I am "Sergeant Strict" when it comes to parenting. I guess that's because they didn't have anything stronger than that . . . like maybe "Fascist Female" which is what I'd probably have been labeled if the quiz had been longer and more in depth.
But I have to put a word in my defense because I'm actually a firm believer in allowing someone as much freedom as possible unless they give me a reason to think that's not such a good idea. But the thing is, the quiz didn't measure that, it kind of started on the assumption that I would give my children cell phones. (Pardon me while I giggle here).
Now while I really and honestly do think T-Mobiles new "Family Allowances" campaign is a great idea--it's focused on helping parents manage their kids' cell phones and promote responsible cell phone use by kids--and I tip my hat to the great idea of reaching out to moms to help spread the word, I have to say that after thinking about it I have come to the conclusion that I'll never give my kids cell phones. Nothing against the technology really, I think cell phones are a fabulous modern convenience--they're just that. A convenience. Not a necessity.
Nowadays it's kind of assumed that children "need" certain things: television, video games, a car, a computer, an ipod, a cellphone . . . when in fact not only do they not need them, and I would argue that those things are often downright dangerous.
Why? Oh the reasons are plentiful but here are five:
1. More electronics just mean greater distance from reality.
The more involved you are with technology whether it's through television, chat rooms, the internet, texting and the latest download the less time you have for real life relationships and endeavors. The teen years are especially important for building (or at least trying to maintain) interpersonal relationships and handing out an electronic device that will be your competition for their attention seems like a huge mistake.
Besides, handing a child a cell phone just gives you a false sense of security that somehow you're keeping tabs on them or keeping them safe--and that same cell phone that you think is somehow magically protecting them is the vehicle for their friends "sexting" them and sending them pornographic pictures in Biology class. Great. There's irony for you.
2. Toys are a status symbol.
You realize don't you that as soon as you present your child with the latest and greatest gadget that the first thing they're going to do is brag about it to their friends, right? We've become a society that looks for all sorts of measures of success and I really don't want my children to start thinking they're cooler or better than the next kid just because they've got the latest video game system.
3. It's important for children to want things but not get them.
I once heard someone say that a child should always have things that they want but will never get and while that sounds harsh it's true because that's life. There are plenty of things I'd really like but will never be able to have . . . like a private jet or my own Caribbean island or even a room full of Godiva keylime truffles or the body of a supermodel. Learning that you don't always get what you want is a rather important thing to learn in life.
4. Gadgets are expensive.
In a time when Americans are saving next to nothing and spending more than they earn the last thing anyone needs to hand their child is a $2oo gadget. Hey, maybe you're one of the ones who can afford it but with four kids I certainly can't. The money would be much better plopped into a savings account for my retirement or for their college or used for paying off our home. Or, if a treat is in order, using the money for a shared family experience like a vacation together where we can actually talk together rather than spend time looking at screens.
5. Media and electronics are addicting.
I know this sounds all conspiracy-theorist and all that but I really do believe it. There have already been plenty of studies about how we watch too much television but I'm convinced that texting and video games and the internet can also be addicting. How many times have I come out of a movie only to see a dating couple both flip up their cell phones and immediately start talking to someone else rather than the person they're with? Or how many people have I seen at restaurants having dinner with that special someone only to be on the phone chatting with their girlfriend? Don't get me started on video games and computers in kids' bedrooms . . .
So now that I've mouthed off about this subject and I'm very aware that I'm probably in the minority here and way out of my league I'm curious. How many of you have cell phones (I myself do not, I had one but the contract ran out and I never renewed) and how many would give them to their children?
You can take the T-Mobile quiz to find your style of parenting here--I'm curious what other styles there are out there.
But here's my own little quiz:
Congratulations to Janet of Fayettville, North Carolina who won this weekend's triple giveaway and to Jennifer of Family Musings who won a copy of A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family.
Sponsored by Dimples and Dandelions with the Serena and Lily Bedding Collection for children.