"Mama, I don't need a phone."

Posted by ~Summer~ on February 01, 2021
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Back in 2012, I wrote a post about how we didn't own an iPad when we were staying in Sweden because I prefer not to let technology and digital devices make up a big part of my kids' growing up years. Nine years on, we still do not own an iPad and none of my kids has a mobile phone yet.

In the blink of an eye, the big girl is in her final year of primary school life. When she was in Primary 5 last year, she was one of the rare three to four students in her class who did not have a phone of her own. For a fast growing tween who now attends Zoom meetings, edits Google documents, does Powerpoint presentations, types her composition out in Word Document and has several active group chats, isn't that a little backward, you might ask?

Well, despite the fact that she does not have a phone, she is free to use mine and she gets to turn on the laptop whenever she has any digital assignment to finish. At the end of last year, I also started an email account for her so that she could give it to her friends whenever they needed to share any documents. To my surprise, she told me after a while "Mama, I will just continue to use your email address since you check it more often and it will be easier." And she decided to still give out my email address to anyone who needed it for school matters instead of using her own.

Recently, the hubby asked me if it it would be a problem by not giving her a phone. I dug deeper to ask why and he said maybe she would want one to feel more included and not be an outcast whenever her friends talked about their class chats or social media. After all, unlike our era, kids start young nowadays and maybe she wanted to jump on the bandwagon too, regardless of she needed it or not.

I pondered over his words and sat down to have a heart-to-heart talk with the big girl. She has always been upfront with me about her emotions and feelings, something which I am truly grateful for and hope will always stay. With a racing heart, I asked her earnestly if she felt left out because she did not have a phone and could not join in her friends' conversations at times, to which my 11-year-old tween replied, "It's okay, Mama, I don't need a phone."

The big girl uses my phone for all her school matters for now and tells me "I don't need a phone."


Since she does not have a phone, from the start of Primary 5, my number was used whenever she needed to be added into any chat and I can tell you the total number of class chats (both formal and informal), project group chats and school captains' chats has already exceeded at least a dozen. Yup, that is how busy upper primary kids can be these days.

You know, there was once when I was added into their informal class chat and gosh, what a stark contrast it was to the formal one, which included the form teachers. While the formal chat was meant for disseminating information, sharing links and giving reminders on deadlines, the informal one was a no holds barred space where these kids came together to share and talk about anything under the sun. For starters, there could be over a dozen gifs that said Good morning/ Good afternoon/ Good night, tonnes of emoticons, chats about the latest trends, gossip etc. That was actually all fine. However, it might or might not be a surprise to know that there were also swear words, dialects and just some not-so-nice words along the way too. 

A fellow parent shared with us screenshots from one of the groups where some of the kids made some discriminatory remarks, which were shocking and upon her feedback to the teacher-in-charge, he said while they try to regularly remind the students to mind their language and only share crucial information, the teachers had no control over this kind of informal chat that the students started out of their own accord. How could they possibly, when they already have so many responsibilities and put in so much time and effort to keep the day-to-day lessons going?

Anyway, within a couple of days, most of them realised I was a parent despite that I did not utter a word. So I was booted out swiftly but I already had a glance and a good idea of what took place within. I shared openly with the girl about it and she was not too surprised as her good friends do update her about these things now and then. The one question we both asked was "How do they have time to do their homework or revision if they are constantly distracted by chats?" Yup, like mother like daughter, the two of us think alike in many ways. And perhaps having less distraction is one of the reasons why we have managed to stay tuition-free up till now.

I was just glad to know that this girl felt perfectly okay not to own a phone for now and I have to give her credit for never asking for one, never requesting to play games on my phone, never complaining or comparing with her peers, some of whom started way earlier than her when it comes to technology gadgets. This is the girl who will prefer reading a novel to playing a video game anytime and it's something I am grateful for.


That brings me to sharing a conversation we had with our cousin last year. He has a son who is going to Primary 1 this year and he was thinking of getting him a mobile phone already. Yup, Primary 1! The hubby and I were surprised but we asked him why and his reason was "If not, how do I contact him and make sure he is safe?" So we tried to explain to him that even if the child brings the phone to school, he will not be able to use it during school hours. Also, within the school, there would be public phones available and you can always go to the General Office to make a call if needed too. I have a good friend who gives her children smart watch phones so that they can make calls during recess (she sets it such that they can only call specific numbers at specific timings), which I thought was a smart method instead of giving them a phone. 

As for myself, I am of the view that it's time to let go and stop worrying so much when the kids start formal school. Yup, this is a mum who lets her kids walk home on their own since Primary 2 but that's not saying that they need a phone in order to do so.

That said, I do hold the view that once the kids start taking public transport to go to school or come home on their own, that will be when we might need to contact each other - you never know when the bus or train might break down and it can get worrying, and he/she might need to stay back in school or go out with friends from time to time too. For us, that will happen in secondary school so I do plan to give the big girl her own phone when PSLE ends this year so that she will also be able to exchange contacts with her current primary school friends and keep in touch too. I also believe that secondary school is a time for her to be even more independent and for me to let go even more, so that will be the time for us to move on and slowly catch up with technology.

Remember I wrote about this sometime ago on how we should not let social media steal the childhood of our kids? Till now, that view has not changed even though I know jolly well that in the near future, I will be connected to my kids on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. What I do hope is when the time comes and the girl is holding onto her first ever mobile phone, I would have taught her adequately and she would be mature enough to know how to handle the overwhelming chats, be able to control her screen time as well as not fall into the traps of social media. It will be something we would have to work on as we go along and I know it might not get easy at times as I learn to give my kids more space, privacy and freedom, but it will also be a milestone worth celebrating because it means my kids are kids no more.

Throwback to 2011 when the girl had no idea what phones are and when the hubby and I didn't own smartphones too


The big girl might be 11 years old but she has barely played on an iPad more than a few times in her life. She doesn't ask for my phone to play with too and she is the one who reminds the hubby and I during mealtimes that we need to put our phones away because that is a time for us to eat, talk and bond. Read my post on how mealtimes are for family here.

That said, both my mum and grandma own iPads so I might really be the mountain tortoise in our family, haha. Or maybe, I just choose to be so despite the fact that I am a mum blogger. Anyway, the kids have barely played games on these devices and hardly know of any apps but the one game that they all love is Tom Gold Run, where you have to race past obstacles and collect coins along the way. The big girl told me this is the only game she wants to download onto her phone next time and she will be happy to just play 10 minutes on it each day. Of course, it's all talk for now and we will see what happens when temptations set in next time.

Still, I was happy to hear how easily contented she was. As if she could read my mind, she thought about it for longer and then came up to tell me "Mama, I think I shouldn't download the game even when I have a phone because if so, Didi and Meimei will keep pestering you to let them play too since I get to play. I can just wait till all of them have phones and then we will play together."

Awwww. That is such a sweet thing to say, my angelic child. You don't deserve to be deprived just because of your siblings but I am so thankful to know how you care for them and how much you stress on togetherness, which is something we emphasise as a family and the reason why we choose to have weekly movie nights instead of individual screen time.

Well, you will definitely get your first phone - it won't be a new phone but one of our old ones and you said that is perfectly fine for you - at the end of this year and I am looking forward to celebrating this growing up milestone of yours, knowing that you have earned my trust and truly deserve it. Whatever happens, we will navigate through this journey together, hand in hand, and remind ourselves that nothing matters more than being with each other. Mummy loves you! 

P.S. I personally don't think there is so-called a 'right' age to give your child his/her first phone and it is totally up to the family's preferences, needs and beliefs. Different strokes for different folks yeah? What I share on this blog is just how our family has chosen to do it and it's what I believe in. It's always nice to hear from the perspective of others so drop me a comment or DM if you have anything to share on this topic too!


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