Parenting Traps

No Cell for You

She's 11. She can wait.

By Thomas O'Rourke
March 29, 2009
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Our 11-year-old daughter enjoys researching her favorite cellphone styles and colors on the Internet. She actually believes (incorrectly) that she will soon be the proud owner of a pink Razr phone, which according to, is more than just a communications device. It's a statement about who you are.

Here's a statement about who she is.

She's a kid with no job and no ability to pay a phone bill. She's also a safe, hovered-over kid, with no emergencies to communicate. My reluctance to support this purchase is not just about the money, though I am cheap. Nor is it just about my annoyance at having my own phone. It has more to do with the trouble kids can get into with texting, surfing the Internet, taking and sharing photos, and generally walking through life with a phone permanently affixed to their ears.

It's not necessary and can only lead to requests for more. It's a slippery slope that follows the logic immortalized in Laura Joffe Numeroff's classic children's book If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

Here's my version. Give a girl a cellphone, she'll lose it and want an iPhone. Give her the iPhone, she'll want a matching iMac. Give her the iMac, she'll want a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren ($495,000).

This also holds true for other requests, such as: If you tell your daughter she can pierce her ears when she's 12, she'll talk you down to 11. When the ears get pierced at 11, younger sis will bargain for 10. The 11-year-old will want to pierce other body parts, get a tattoo, wear Apple Bottom jeans and the boots with the fur, and have the whole bar looking at her. Soon, she'll be dancing around a pole at a gentleman's club. It's just a bad idea.

So no, my dear, you will not be getting a cellphone soon. But I'd be happy to read you If You Give a Pig a Pancake. And if you are ever in an emergency, just ask to borrow the cellphone of anyone around you. Everyone has one. As you frequently remind me, you are the only person on the planet who doesn't.

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Question of the week: At what age is a cellphone appropriate?

Next week: Are stepparents real parents?

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