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reader dilemma

Am I being a bad parent by... refusing to buy my child a phone?

We asked a group of Irish parents to weigh in on one reader’s dilemma.

THERE’S NO PARENTING rule book or child-raising manual. For the most part we just have to figure things out on our own, which is easier said than done.

Each week in our new series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out if they’re on the right track with a parenting decision, or if they’ve gotten something 100% wrong. To get a balanced view of the situation, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

This week’s dilemma

Am I being a bad parent… by refusing to buy my child a smartphone? My daughter has just turned 11 and will be going into sixth class in September. Many of her friends already have phones of their own, and while I can see the value of being able to contact her at any time, especially for school pickups, I’m worried about getting her hooked on smartphones so early. She’s started to raise the issue almost daily and says some of her friends’ parents were shocked to hear she didn’t have a phone. I had planned on waiting until she started secondary school but that is seeming more and more unrealistic. Am I being unreasonable to wait?

Our parents’ anonymous responses

I’m really not sure. I have a three-year-old at home and I have wondered what people do on this these days. Do you buy them a dumbphone. Would that work at that age?

I don’t think you’re being unreasonable at all. There are lots of very good reasons why kids shouldn’t have smartphones and there’s also a perfect compromise which is buy them a dumbphone. That way you can stay in contact, but the worst that can happen to your child is they get a phonecall from Windows 95 helpdesk or addicted to Snake.

You’re not being unreasonable, if you don’t think she’s ready. To decide what age is right, you’ll have to gauge her maturity to yourself honestly. I think it’s up to you. Overall though, I would say no smartphone until they’re old enough to handle the kind of crap that goes on with teenagers and smartphones. Not worth it, something could go terribly wrong and you might not even know?

You’re being unreasonable to say no without a valid reason. My approach was always to set down a rule, but only if I had valid reason for my argument. Likewise the child also had to have a valid reason for their argument. Then we’d go back over both arguments. For a phone, their argument was usually that the other kids all had one, so I’d ask for names, and it’d usually be less than first implied. My argument was that pocket money did not cover the cost so it then became less attractive to them

You’re definitely not being unreasonable. Our rule has been no phone until secondary school. It’s really then that they start to arrange all their own social lives and social media is where kids connect/contact each other so they really would be isolated with no smartphone after that. But before that they’re unnecessary and you’re putting your kid under pressure to handle information they’re not ready for. We’ve been forced to talk to our kids about pornography and what it means when, in our judgment, they are way too young.  It sucks.

No, you’re not being unreasonable. Sometimes, being a parent is about doing what’s right for your kid, not what they want. Having to wait two years for a smartphone is not going to kill her child

So what’s the final tally? Is our reader being unreasonable?

No – 4

Yes – 1

Not sure – 1

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Do you have a parenting issue you need advice on? Do you find yourself asking if you’re being unreasonable? Drop us a line with your reader dilemma on

More: Am I being a bad parent… by giving out to someone else’s child?

More: Am I being a bad parent… by silently judging another mum?

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