Parents who roll their eyes at elementary school kids carrying cell phones: I was just like you... once. “A fifth grader doesn’t need a cell phone,” I repeated to my son, as he watched all of his classmates receive smartphones for birthday and Christmas gifts.

That was two years ago. Fast forward to today and my son is now 13 years old, and the proud owner of an iPhone 4. Not the latest and greatest gadget, and it’s the cell phone version his classmates likely received two years ago. But this isn’t about my son. It’s about his 10-year-old sister — who is currently in fifth grade — and received the same style of phone on the same day.

Double standard? Perhaps. But here are the reasons I changed my mind. 

1. My Daughter Has an iPad

Her dad and I gave both kids iPad minis two years ago for Christmas. As I thought more about it, I realized something: The biggest difference between an iPad and an iPhone is the easier ability to place actual phone calls. Ironically, I wasn’t worried about that because kids don’t call each other anymore!

2. She Showed “Technology Maturity” on Her iPad 

My daughter’s primary use on her iPad is text and email, and it’s minimal at best. She follows the guidelines we established for safety and appropriateness. Bottom line, she’s gained our trust.

3. Now Is the Time to Learn About Cell Phones

Kids today use their phones and tablets to communicate and interact. Do I like it? No. Is this going to change? No. Can we, as parents, help guide them? Yes. But they need the tools first. My husband and I decided it would be best for our daughter to enter middle school with an understanding of how a cell phone fits her life, rather than trying to figure it out once she gets there. 

4. It Wasn’t a Gift

The phone wasn’t given under the context of a gift or a reward. We simply sat both kids down, showed them the phones and began the conversation.

5. We Didn’t Give Them the Latest Version

It’s not necessary for kids to have the bells and whistles that accompany the newest smartphones.

6. Social Media Is Still Off Limits

Our 10-year-old knows that she’s still not permitted on social media sites.

7. We’re Providing Next-to-Nothing Data

Forget parental consequences. Fear of running out of data (after we explained the small data plan that was established for them in the first place) keeps phone usage to a minimum.

8. Parental Control Apps Are Fantastic

I didn’t know parents could download apps that basically control every aspect of a child’s phone. The kids know that we’re in charge.

So there you have it. I’m happy to report that one month later, things are going fine. And interestingly, the phone has opened up new ways for our daughter to communicate with her grandmother and great aunt. That makes me smile. 

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