Trigger warning******You are about to learn how giving your child a phone changes the way they treat others. By Summer, 12yrs. A member of our Youth Voice Team.
I love going to school. Getting up each morning and getting ready for the day excites me and I can’t wait for what the day might bring. Sprint training with the girls at lunch, changing up seats in class, and practising our speeches, I love it all!
But as I walk the short distance to school, my excitement soon turns to dread as I remember the teasing, the taunting and the hurtful whispers from the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that.
The reason for this nastiness? Mobile phones – the main source of segregation between kids.
As you can probably tell, I don’t have a mobile phone. My mum says I don’t need one but what she doesn’t realise, is that kids from my school have been getting mobile phones since they were 8.
When she says that I have no use for a phone because of my busy sports schedule and the importance of connecting with friends and family in real life, I kind of get what she’s saying, but I wish your kids could understand that too, because what you might not realise is that when you give your child a phone at such an early age, they are getting the impression that they are above others. That they can treat those without, as less than. And that’s exactly how they make me feel on a daily basis.
You see, your kids are using their phones as a sort of social currency. Those with the latest iPhone are at the top, and then is does down based on the type of phone they have and then the access to a phone. Those kids without a phone are looked over, removed from conversations and not invited to participate in activities. Social media is viewed as a popular kids activity – if you aren’t on it, you’re a loser.
And trust me, I know, because this is what your kids are saying to me almost every single day…
I don’t have social media so I’m not in any of the Year 6 group chats. As such, it’s not uncommon for me to get to school and kids are talking about something that happened the night before on Snapchat.
Some of my friends will brag about being up until 3am because they were getting ‘so many Snaps’, whilst others will go on and on about the new ‘boyfriend’ they met or about how such-and-such took pictures of herself in her bra and sent it out to everyone in her friends list.
There’s lots of fun and funny moments that I don’t get to be part of and because kids know that I’m not, they like to make sure I feel it too. Countless times every day I get asked how many ‘Snaps’ I got yesterday or what my Snap Score is (I don’t even know what this is!), followed by fits of laughter. This might not seem like much to you as a parent, but trust me, at 12 years old, being laughed at after already feeling left out can feel absolutely horrible.
Your kids think all of this is hilarious, but they very clearly have no idea what can happen on Snapchat. The thought of a stranger being able to see pictures of me and sharing them with people I don’t know is so scary. I don’t want any part of it but I also don’t deserve to be made fun of for it.
‘I got a phone for my birthday. You didn’t’ Birthdays are an exciting day for everybody no matter how old or young you are.
But one common theme that I have noticed within my school is that kids no longer seem to get the usual things for their birthday like a bike, a football, or a book. More often than not, they will come to school raving about the fact that they just got a mobile phone or an iPad or some other form of technology.
I’m not saying it’s bad to get some form of device, but it’s the way that they use them to make other people feel bad. For example, just last week a girl in my grade turned 12 and she got an iPhone for her birthday. When me and a large group of girls were standing in a group talking, she announced loudly that she got a brand-new iPhone and can now be a part of the Year 6 group chat.
This was no big deal as everyone was really happy it was her birthday, but then she decided to turn her birthday device into a weapon to embarrass me in front of everybody standing there. She pointed at me and said, “But Summer can’t, because she doesn’t have a phone!” and laughed really loudly, as did many other kids. What starts off as a celebration, almost always ends in a dig at someone else.
‘Can’t your parents afford a phone?’
On my own birthday a few months ago, I was so excited to get to school to tell my friends about the snorkelling experience at Moreton Bay that mum and dad got me as a gift, but as I was telling my friends all about it, a boy from another class overheard and jumped in loudly saying ‘Gosh, didn’t your parents finally get you a phone? Can’t they afford it?’
I was really taken aback by his question as I had never considered the fact that not having a phone made people think that my family was poor. If my mum knew this, this would make her so sad as her reasons for not getting me a phone just yet have nothing to do with money and everything to do with my safety and wellbeing.
It’s so common for kids to use a parent or a parent’s decision to make fun of another kid. Whether it’s a parent’s weight, what they do for a living, or now, whether they own a mobile phone, kids always find a way to make themselves seem above another and it really really hurts.
‘You need to have a TikTok account to be able to do it’.
Whenever there’s buzz going around about a new TikTok dance, I get really excited to learn it as I love music and I love to dance. The girls in class are often seen sitting in their chairs doing dances, looking like they have ants in their pants, laughing and smiling. It looks like so much fun.
When I ask what the dance is called or how to do it, my friends are always more than happy to teach it to me at lunch, but other girls will pull the ‘you need to have a TikTok account to do it’ line and laugh at me like I‘m a loser for not having it. Sometimes they’ll follow it up by asking me if I can learn it on YouTube and start laughing.
‘Put your hand up if you’ve got Instagram!’ This is super common in a group setting and I honestly couldn’t even tell you how many times this has been brought up. Again, it’s just another way that kids are making fun of others. It’s also a really common App that people use to scam people and groom kids. I’m only 12, and having a mobile phone right now isn’t a big priority for me. Yes, I do feel left out and sometimes wish I had one just so there’d be nothing left to tease me about but really, I’m too busy doing things outside. Like I’ve realised, thanks to mum, is I much prefer real life connections with friends and family – I just wish your kids felt the same too.