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Why I Took My Son's iPhone Away

Photograph by Getty Images

My husband and I have made a huge parenting mistake. We have screwed up, royally. Big time! Grande! We thought it was a good idea at the time. However, we are now feeling pangs of remorse and regret for such a decision—to buy my 11-year-old son (who was 10 at the time) an iPhone.

We thought it through. We discussed it several times. And thought it through some more. He was leaving for Utah to go spend two weeks with his dad. We could never get a hold of him when he was with his dad. The stress of worrying about him when he was gone—states away—and also being at the mercy of whether or not his dad picked up my calls led us to decide that he needed a cell phone. And it wouldn’t hurt for him to have a phone on him in case of an emergency on a daily basis. We were convinced: He should have a cell phone.

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We should have stopped right there and just bought him a cheap, basic cell phone. But we thought we had an even better idea. Since my son, Evan, was so into music and had been begging for an iPod or iTouch, we thought we may as well buy him an iPhone so he could have it all in one. Add the fact that, through our plan, we were eligible to buy an outdated iPhone 4 for $40. And it only had 8GB so we figured he couldn’t do much on it other than store a few games, some sweet music and photos. And done! It made so much sense. We were pumped. Evan would be so excited! We thought it would make the perfect Christmas gift.

Fast-forward six months. Turns out iF***ed up.

Evan no longer has the iPhone. We had to take it away. Oh, the problems it was causing.

At first, he used the phone as planned, to call us from his dad’s house over the winter holiday. What a relief it was to know I could speak to him whenever I needed to, whenever I missed him. He wasn’t able to download any apps without our permission, and he was happy to just have Temple Run and Angry Birds to play on the flights to and from his dad’s, and every now and then when he was bored. He downloaded his favorite Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Swedish House Mafia songs.

But then the girls started calling.

He was excited to have a phone. He started putting people into his contacts—mostly family members and some of my friends. He got a kick out of randomly calling grandma and grandpa and texting auntie Jenny funny selfies. But over the next few months, he started giving out his number to friends at school. And adding friends to his contacts. He and his best friend would chat about Minecraft and basketball for a few minutes here and there. I didn’t mind it. Evan and his best friend went to different schools this year, and I thought it was cute that they liked to chat during the week. But then the girls started calling. And the non-stop communication craziness began.

His phone started constantly buzzing, ringing, piano riffing, strumming and making every other sound of which an iPhone is capable. Friends (girls) were wanting to Face Time, getting angry if he didn’t text back right away, or putting him on blast over Kik (I wish I knew the first thing about that) if he texted one and not the other. And it seemed, that as hard as my son tried, he couldn’t help himself from engaging in some way. We grounded him from the phone. But when we found out that kids were experiencing being bullied through group chat, we took the damn phone away.

And to be honest, he was happy to give it to us. Not having his phone prevented him from engaging in the madness, from being bullied and from being associated with anyone who was bullying. He knew as well as my husband and I did that having a phone meant the temptations to be on it regularly, to chat or text with friends, download too much music, Google things and use a buttload of data to watch YouTube videos. Hell, my husband and I face the same temptations. That’s like putting a kitten next to a quart of cream, or Snookie next to a tanning bed with goggles and baby oil.

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I don’t know what I was thinking. I used to regularly chant, “I don’t want Evan growing up too fast … I want him to do the normal ‘kid’ things that I did when I was young.” But here we were witnessing next-level drama and bullying being played out through iMessages. It seems that text messaging gives kids the courage that they may otherwise not have to say things to someone whether it is confessing a crush, a frustration or, sadly, even spreading hate. I understand that, unfortunately, this may be the case with adults as well. But I don’t want my son to have access to that type of forum until he is mature enough to handle it and know how to avoid the negativity.

We are sorting out an MP3 player for my son so he can listen to his music. And maybe in a few years, he’ll be mature enough to have the phone. But by then Apple will probably have made its way to the iPhone 13, and we’ll probably be communicating by holograms. But until then, go run around and play Evan, and let the only drama be when I get pissed because you tracked mud into the house.

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