iPhone 5s for fifth graders

Picked up my daughter from school yesterday. We had returned from Florida two days earlier after the long holiday break.

“Hi, Casey!” I said.

“Hi,” she said.

The girl looked unhappy. Which is unusual. Casey is a happy kid—especially hopping out of school. She’s always smiling, half-skipping, jacket hanging off her thin shoulders, book bag 33 percent open.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“Why can’t I have an iPhone 5?” she said.

“Um, because you’re 10,” I replied.

She didn’t like this answer. For Christmas or Chanukah, a slew of her classmates received iPhone 5s. Why, she wanted to know, couldn’t she have one, too? She’s kind, responsible, a hard worker, does well in school, etc … etc. Wasn’t she as deserving as the others?


I love being a parent. I hate this shit. Why, oh why, do 10-year olds need iPhone 5s? Hell, why, oh why, do 10-year olds need cell phones? I know … I know—what if there’s an emergency? What if they need to reach home? But what sort of parent puts his/her 10-year-old kid in a situation where there’s an emergency phone situation—sans phone? If you’re at a friend’s house, there’s a phone. If you’re at an after-school activity, there’s a phone. If you’re out riding your bike or shooting hoops in a driveway, you can’t be too far away.

More to the point—the iPhone 5. Why? Why? Why? Why does a 10-year-old kid need an expensive, multipurpose communications device? Or, put differently, why do my kid’s classmates have a nicer phone than I do? Seriously, it makes no sense. Are parents itching for their children to spend even more time staring at a glowing screen? Do parents like the idea of their kids Googling “hookers” and “Taylor Swift” and “big titties”? Do we want our offspring, at age 10, texting one another? Starting up Instagram and Twitter accounts? I know I sound 90 here, but … I’m lost. Totally lost. I think back glowingly to the days of my youth, when Gary Miller and Dennis Gargano and Jonathan Powell and Scott Choy and John Ballerini and the gang would meet up in someone’s backyard and play football, or flip cards, or did wheelies on our bikes. The center of our worlds were, well, our worlds—not small glowing objects that promote themselves as communication devices, but actual limit/reduce genuine communication.

Much, I understand. iPhone 5s are status symbols. iPhone 5s are cool. They’re expressions of personality—modern-day belt buckles, in a sense. But why do parents allow their young kids to own one? What’s the lesson? The point?


7 thoughts on “iPhone 5s for fifth graders”

  1. My nine year old went to a birthday party last month, and was upset that the kid got an iPhone 5s from his dad. This kid just turned nine, for petesake. I told Truman that when he was older, he could get a phone only for communication with me, but with school and daycare, he didn’t need one right now. Didn’t help. Sigh…

  2. It’s an old story. In my day I wondered why I couldn’t have a BB gun. Larry and Norm each had one.
    Why couldn’t I have the cool bike or the stylish clothes.
    My kids had their lusts too.
    The only difference is the product.

  3. The sad truth is because many of us, as parents, take the path of least resistance, especially when it comes to our children presenting their, “keeping up with the Joneses” arguments.

    Part of my belief that parenthood, while sometimes the greatest thing in the world, can be pretty damn over-rated at times.

  4. Its a combination of status symbol, and the whole BB gun argument. The difference is what the current new ‘thing’ is capable of. A BB gun, no matter who ya shoot with it, isn’t capable of ruining your life. Kids don’t need phones at all.

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