Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

Recently I was sitting in a conversation with a few girlfriends when the topic of cell phones came up.

It’s common. If you have a tween, deciding when is the “right time” to provide your child with a mobile device comes up all the time.

“My kid has to wait until she is 13,” one mom exclaimed defiantly. “She doesn’t need to be walking around with a brand new iPhone at eleven. I mean, seriously!”

I nodded my head in agreement, although my daughter is one of the 11-year-old’s walking around with a brand new iPhone. Last Christmas our local Verizon store had an Oprah moment when we went in to upgrade my husband’s older model. After insisting we only wanted one upgrade, we walked out with six brand new iPhones, including one for my 75-year old mother.

And my three tweens doubted Santa was real.

Besides the awkward feeling that I needed to confess that my daughter was sporting a phone worth more than I paid for my first automobile, I was more interested in how zealous this mom felt about the appropriate age her daughter should have a phone. I was certain her daughter texted mine on a regular basis. In fact, I’m pretty sure she texted me one time to arrange a play date.

I interrupted her: “Wait, I thought she had a phone. Doesn’t she text?”

“Oh, she has her brother’s old iPod Touch, so it only works when she’s on our WiFi. It’s not like a phone.”

“Um, we gave her our WiFi password awhile back,” I sheepishly admitted. “They were doing the app, and she needed Internet access. I was right there, but I thought it was okay. She said she is on it all the time.”

“She has our password, too,” my friend chimed in suddenly. “I guess I didn’t think about it, but she has access in our house, too.”

“And at Starbucks,” the third mom proclaimed. “The girls played Minecraft the other day, and I’m pretty sure she used their free Wifi.”

That’s when we all awkwardly looked at each other.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” I blurted out, breaking the deafening silence. “I mean, you’ve talked to her, right? She’s not on social media or anything, is she? Do you check her device?”

“I didn’t think I had to,” she admitted. “I honestly thought she was only online at home. I didn’t even know she could text. I thought since she didn’t have a phone, it would be okay.”

And that was the line right there. This mom is involved and caring. I trust her.

But we parents forget that everything our kids touch today is Web-enabled, and that means trouble.

The phone part is the least of our problems.

We think because our kids are growing up with technology, they inherently understand the rules. I often hear parents say, “I don’t know what they are doing on there,” or “I check it and they’re fine.”

Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Apps like SnapChat disintegrate messages or photos seconds after they appear on your child’s device (but long enough for a predator or bully to screenshot it.). The Vine app was designed to share short videos but is now a haven for kids to one-up each other on social media — the #FireChallenge was for real. And the Kik messenger app is a hot bed for predators attempting to blackmail young teens into sending inappropriate photos.

Unfortunately, avoiding these apps doesn’t even scratch the service. The recent trial of Michelle Carter, who was charged and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after encouraging a former boyfriend to commit suicide via text, shows the legal consequences associated with online bullying, and Facebook is considering cracking down on minors using their site.

Merely talking to your kids isn’t enough. We must speak a language they understand. We need to show them what can happen on the devices they want so badly, the ones that are like appendages on their little hands.

And we need to do it early. Because even if you decide your kid doesn’t get a phone, someone else’s child does. They will have access to things on the bus, after soccer practice, in your friend’s minivan during car pool. The only defense on the Internet is a good offense.

Here are a few tips to show your kids how they quickly things can go awry:

+ Group Text: If you have a teenager, you know that if they turn off their device for an hour, chances are there will be at least 379 texts waiting for them. Kids love to set up group texts with their friends to chat about anything and everything. Unfortunately, this is also where a lot of bullying and bad behavior starts. Grab a few parents and show your child how a group text can go off the rails. Cut and paste someone’s response and text it to someone else, or screenshot it and post it online. The point is to show how nothing said online is private.

+ Questioning Identity. Recently my husband received a text from a friend. With my three tween daughters standing there, I responded as my husband for several minutes. I finally admitted to the poor guy that it wasn’t in fact my spouse he was conversing with, but instead me. This showed my girls that even when you feel 100 percent certain you are communicating with a trusted friend, you can never be 100 percent sure. This is one of the hardest things for young people to grasp, but it’s the most important.

+ Social Media Scare. One of my three tween daughters asked me about setting up an Instagram account, like many of her friends have. She assured me it would be “private” and that I could even approve who could see her photos. I sent a connection request to her friend from my account, who immediately approved it in about 24 seconds. Then I then screenshotted three photos and texted them to my daughter’s phone. “Private like this?” I asked. Even she was freaked out about how easy a “private” account can be shared.

+ Criminal Intent. A friend of ours recently shared that her two young boys, ages 10 and eight, commandeered her phone and took a slew of photos that showed the moons of their hammies. They then texted a few of their favorites to their 13-year-old sister. After a stern lecture, my friend showed the boys several Florida state statutes that detailed what kiddie porn is and how once you transfer these types of photos across wireless carriers it becomes a federal offense with potential jail time. While the boys shed some tears, it was clear they did not understand the legal ramifications of sexting.

+ Test Text. Not sure how your kid will respond if approached by someone they don’t know? Try a “test text.” Borrow a friend’s phone and text your child. Explain that you are a friend from college, and that you are trying to coordinate a surprise visit, then ask if you can meet them outside of their home to make a plan when your mother isn’t around to find out. Tell them you were able to get their phone numbers from a school directory.

While this may seem extreme, before you trust your son or daughter with a device as powerful as a cell phone, don’t you want to be certain – absolutely certain – that they knew what to do in situations like these? The point of the exercise is not to scare or manipulate our kids; instead, we need to educate and empower them.

There is no magic age for cell phones.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

Yes, We Wanted a Big Family

In: Kids, Motherhood
Big family silhouette

Baby number WHAT?!?! Okay, okay, I know having FIVE children in the modern world is a bit of an anomaly, but the responses we have gotten from sharing our joyful (to us!) news has been a bit over-the-top. You see, my husband and I always dreamt of a big family, verbally expressing four to five children as our ultimate number. After having three, I must say I had to do some convincing to keep going, as my husband felt our hands were pretty full. I do agree our hands were pretty full, but I still felt our hearts could handle...

Keep Reading

How Much Longer Will I Watch Them Play?

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Two boys at indoor playground, color photo

As I sit here watching my two boys running around on the bright-colored foam mats, sliding down the bright red and green slides that end up in a ball pit full of giggles, I can’t help but wonder how much longer I will enjoy this sight. They’re both growing up so fast—T-shirts with their favorite characters have been replaced by plain colors.  Curtains with Paw Patrol now invite an “Eww, cringe!” reaction. Slowly their boy bedroom decor has been updated to reflect the cool gamers they so want to be. RELATED: He’s a Boy For Just a Little While Longer No...

Keep Reading

God Gave Him Bigger Feelings

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy on playground, color photo

He came home from school last week and asked, “Why do I get so angry but my friends never do? Why am I not the same?” And it broke me. Because he is passionate and intelligent and kind and intuitive and beautiful. He didn’t always seem different. We never paid attention to how he would line everything up in play. And we would laugh it off as a quirk when he would organize everything dependent upon shape, size, and color. He was stubborn, sure, but so am I. And then COVID happened, and we attributed the lack of social skills...

Keep Reading

We Have a Big Family and Wouldn’t Change a Thing

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four children in front of Christmas tree, color photo

I have just had my fourth baby. A baby who wasn’t expected but very much wanted and very much loved from the moment we found out. When we told people we were expecting, the response was underwhelming. The stream of intrusive questions would then ensue:  You already have your hands full, how will you cope with four? You’ll need a bigger car! Where will they all sleep? Don’t you own a TV? You know how babies are made right? People seemed to have such a strong opinion about me having a fourth child. RELATED: We Had a Lot of Kids...

Keep Reading

As a Mom I’m Far From Perfect, But I Hope You Remember the Joy

In: Kids, Motherhood
Happy mother and daughter on the beach

Sometimes, I think about the future when you are grown and I am gone. When all that’s left of me are photographs and memories. I know what the photographs will show. I took most of them, after all. But the memories I’m less sure of. I wonder what will stick with you after all that time. How will you remember me? One day, your grandkids will ask you about me. What will you say? Will you tell them I was always distracted? Will you remember that I looked at my phone too much? Will you tell them I didn’t play...

Keep Reading

Being a Daycare Mom Can Be So Hard

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Woman holding boy on couch, black-and-white photo

Dear daycare mom,  I know it’s hard.  To get yourself up before them, to make lunches, to pack the bags, to get yourself ready.  To go into their rooms, where they are peacefully sleeping, and turn the lights on.  To struggle to get them breakfast, get them dressed, and get them out the door.  I know it’s hard.  To have a morning rush when all you want to do is snuggle up on the couch and ease into your day.  RELATED: When a Mom is Late To Work To feel like you are missing out on their childhood at times...

Keep Reading

The PB&J that Saved the Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Table with three plates of PB&J sandwiches, color photo

It was one of those days.  One of those days when your pants are too tight, you wake up with a headache, and the kids’ rooms are disasters at 8 a.m. It was one of those days when I had to physically go into Target for our groceries since I didn’t have time to wait for pickup—I think that alone should sum up exactly the kind of day it was.  The kids were hangry. The toddler was, well, toddler-y. RELATED: Toddlers Are Human Too—And Sometimes They Just Need Grace Two minutes into our shopping trip, she had kicked her light-up rain...

Keep Reading

One Day He’ll Love Another Woman More than He Loves Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding baby, color photo

To Benjamin, my 16-month-old son, I am everything. I am the first person that boy looks for when he wakes up in the morning and the last person he wants before he goes to bed. If he is in a room full of people he loves and I am not there, he will search for me.  If he has a problem, mommy is the solution. I am the answer to his cries. I feel confident in saying that I am the most important person in that little boy’s little world. I love it. It is an honor and a privilege...

Keep Reading

To My Sister, Thank You For Being the Best Aunt To My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood
Aunt with three young kids

“Do you have the kids’ basketball schedule yet?” you texted the other day. I sent back a screenshot of the calendar, and within an hour you responded telling me which game you’d be coming to. It was a simple exchange, but I was overwhelmed with gratitude for your love for my kids in that moment. It’s something I think often but don’t say nearly enough: thank you for being such an amazing aunt. Truly.  I know it’s not always convenient. You live three hours away and have a busy, full life of your own—but still, you show up for your niece and nephews...

Keep Reading

In Defense of the Stubborn Child

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy hanging over dock, color photo

“Lamp. Lamp. Laaaaamp,” my 2-year-old son screamed while stomping his feet. Tears were running down his face and snot was dripping dangerously close to his mouth. I put on what I hoped would be a soothing, motherly tone, “Okay, just calm down.” While trying to maintain eye contact, I slowly reached toward the tissue box. This must be what the greats like Jeff Corwin, Steve Irwin, or the Kratt brothers feel like when facing a volatile animal in the wild. The sound of a tissue being pulled from the box caused the crying to stop abruptly. His eyes flitted toward...

Keep Reading