Do Middle-Schoolers Really Need a Cell Phone?

Ok, I’m weird.  I think I am one of about a thousand people in the country who doesn’t carry a cell phone.  The main reason is that I like to “be where I am.”   When I am at work, I want to be at work without the distraction of people calling or texting about other things.  When I am home, I like to be home and not have people calling about work (ever notice that you would never call someone at home before cell phones unless it was really critical, but no one gives any thought before calling at dinner time or nine at night to talk about things that could wait for the next day since people started carrying cell phones?).  Also, I really don’t know why someone would pay for a movie and then sit there and text throughout it, or how someone could be so rude to people on stage and fellow audience members to text during a live performance.  Actually, I still think it is rude to talk on a phone (or have it ring and then spent thirty seconds seeing whose calling while your annoying ring tone plays before answering the thing) in a restaurant or to text when you are with other people.  Of course, I understand this is the norm and won’t pretend that I can change the world.  You are all addicted and need your digital fix.

My wife, on-the-other-hand, has moved on with technology and has an iPhone.   This has been fine except that it has changed her view of things.  For example, the other day when I came back from fishing she was complaining that she couldn’t call me to ask about dinner plans or something.  The thought of being out at the river enjoying nature and needing to pick up the phone and talk about dinner reinforced my desire not to have a phone.

There is another annoying trend emerging, however.  My son, who is in 6th grade, has informed me that he is the only one left in his grade who does not have a phone.  This made me wonder less about my decision to not get him a phone than to question other parents’ decisions to get their kids phones.  I mean, I’ve seen kindergarteners with their own phones.  Is this really necessary?  Does a five year old need to be reached at a moment’s notice?

There are also a lot of undesirable things that have come from putting this type of technology in the hands of kids.  We’ve seen a rise in cyber bullying largely because of the number of cell phones in the hands of middle schoolers and high school students.  These devices have allowed kids to spread gossip, take and send embarrassing photos (including nude shots of themselves that will haunt them forever in later years) and videos, and plan mean pranks on other students.  In class they are used for cheating and are generally a distraction.

Financially that extra money being spent on a cell phone may be part of the reason no one seems to have the money for college anymore or to even pay off their homes before they retire.  Growing wealthy requires you to go against the norm because the norm is broke.  This means paying cash for used cars when all of your coworkers are taking out loans to buy new cars every four years.  This means eating in a lot while everyone else is going out five nights a week and doing take-out the other two.  This means buying a smaller house that you can make a big down-ayment on and pay off in 10 years while everyone else is buying a McMansion with a bonus room and an office by taking out a forty-year loan.  It may also mean not having a cell phone, or having a cheap phone with minimal features and not giving your kids their own phones until you have enough saved that it really isn’t a significant expense anymore.

My son has confided in me a couple of times that he appreciates that I care enough about him to not get him a phone because I feel it is better for him to experience “being where he is” while he is growing up.  I don’t know if he realizes or appreciates the freedom he has since he can be with friends or out on his bike without us checking up on him.  (Given that most parents use their kid’s cell phones as a virtual leash, I’m frankly surprised so many kids still want them.)  Note, however, that he still expects a cell phone when he gets to high school.  We’ll see….

Does anyone else out there not have a cell phone?  If so, what are your reasons?  Anyone out there want to explain while anyone under 16 really needs a cell phone?

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

One comment

  1. I was recently made fun of by a friend on facebook. She lives in L.A. and was posting all about her child driving around in a limo on his birthday talking on his cel phone. I couldn’t believe it and she was laughing at me telling me that was the norm.

    Don’t these people realize they are raising the next generation of Lindsay Lohans???

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