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Is Your Child Being Bullied For Having a "Dumb Phone"?

September 7, 2012 at 12:20 PM

dumb phoneMaybe you don't know what a “dumb phone” is, but your teens certainly do – and they don't want one.

One of my closest girlfriends hasn't upgraded to a smart phone yet: her trusty old flip phone serves her just fine. She does find herself several times a day, however, constantly apologizing for her lack of connectivity.

If we're in a group and someone says, “quick, grab your phone and take a picture!” or “get on Facebook to show me some pictures of your new niece,” she has to shrug and say, “Sorry, I can't. I have a dumb phone.”

A dumb phone, as opposed to a smart phone, is just... a phone. And that's enough for a lot of people. It's certainly fine for my friend, who is well into her 30s. But for teenagers, it's different. The need to fit in, to be connected to your peers at all times, is critical. It's not just inconvenient to be left without all the perks of a smart phone, it can be downright embarrassing.

When your teen asks for a smart phone, it's tempting to rely on the trusty knee-jerk response of “No, I got along just fine without one when I was your age and you will, too.” But do you remember what it was like to feel like all the other kids had something you didn't?

Kids begging for a smart phone may be exaggerating when they tell you that everybody has a smart phone, but they're not too far off. Almost 1 out of 4 kids ages 12 to 17 has a smart phone, and the older teens get the more likely they are to upgrade to one.

I'm not saying that you should buckle and get your kids a smart phone just because they ask, or because everybody else at their school has one.

My main message, though, is this. Of course the safety risks associated with the Internet are amplified when your teen gets a smart phone. It feels much safer to give your kids a “dumb phone,” or no phone at all, but that doesn't mean it's the only way to keep your kids safe.


It all boils down to whether your child can handle the phone responsibly, and whether you can appropriately monitor their activity. And you are the best person to answer both of those questions honestly.


-Article Contributed by Jenny Evans

Tim Woda

Written by Tim Woda

Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert, and a passionate advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda was on the founding team of buySAFE, an Internet trust and safety company, and he started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by a child predator online. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start You can follow Tim on Twitter or on his blog.

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