The New New

A Decade After the iPhone, There’s Still No Good Smartphone for Kids

Half the children in the US get phones before they’re 12. We need better options.

EJ Dickson
Published in
10 min readNov 26, 2018
Illustration: Joe Prytherch

MyMy son is 22 months old, and his favorite toy is my iPhone X. I hide it everywhere: behind stuffed animals, between books, in potted plants. He finds it every time and toddles up to me, clutching it in his tiny fist and wailing, “Melmo. Melmo, pease. Melmo. Melmo, pease.” “Melmo” is how he says “Elmo,” and what he wants is to watch Sesame Street videos on YouTube. When I say no, he crumples onto the floor and weeps.

It could be worse, I think. Last month, it was “Gangnam Style.”

Until fairly recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents avoid showing children under 2 screens of any kind, including TV, iPads, or cell phones. (In 2016, it slightly eased the guidelines.) My husband and I violated this rule a long time ago. I don’t remember when we first cradled an iPhone before his face, but over the last few months, we’ve watched in horror as my son has developed a full-blown addiction to phones, long before he’s even old enough to own one.

Over the last decade, much has been written about the great screen time debate: how often should our children be exposed to screens, and at what age? As recently as October 2018, the New York Times published a feature that painted a dark vision of kids and screens, with a quote from a Facebook executive assistant saying that “the devil” lurks in our devices.

After reading the New York Times story, my husband and I went into complete panic mode and instituted a rule in our house where no one is allowed to give our son a phone. For the time being, this has kept the devil at bay. Still, I know there will come a time when I will succumb to the inevitable and buy my son his first phone. The prospect already makes me anxious.

Many adults will agree that giving their a child a phone is also part and parcel of being a responsible parent in 2018.

According to a 2015 Pew Research report, 73 percent of kids between the ages of 13 and 17 have their own…



EJ Dickson
Writer for

I write things about things.