Why I’m happy I was forced to wait until high school to get a phone


Graphic by Lily Hultgren ’25

I was finally given a phone right before I started high school. It definitely comes in handy when it comes to texting my mom when to pick me up from after school activities or using it to help scan documents to submit for school work. But these are all uses that I didn’t require in middle school. The time my mom had to pick me up from after school activities was always consistent and my schoolwork never required a phone for assistance. Although I complained about not having a phone, now that I can take a step back and look rationally at my middle school experience, I never really needed one. It honestly benefited me more to not have one that it harmed me, if it even harmed me at all.

It’s a groggy Monday morning and as I slump into my chair I look around to see that everyone is hunched over their phones, tapping away to their heart’s content, scrolling through video clip after video clip, texting friends, playing the new game everyone’s obsessed with and more. Well, everyone but me. At least, this was the case for my entire middle school experience.

Unlike nearly all of my peers, I had to wait until high school to get my phone, and although at the time I proclaimed how unfair it was for my parents to do this to me, now that I have one I can recognize that waiting to get a phone was actually really beneficial. Not only was I forced to develop my social skills, but I was also able to find healthy ways to pass time.

I have always been super shy and dislike talking to people. I would constantly find ways to get out of having to interact with others. Without access to a phone, I was forced to actually talk to people to avoid the awkward “sitting there doing nothing looking like a weirdo”. Although I was so nervous about talking, with all the practice I had to do, I eventually felt more comfortable doing it.

I was also forced to find ways to entertain myself without constant access to a screen. Sometimes I would walk around, sometimes I would doodle, sometimes I’d just do my homework. Doing these activities helped me feel more productive and put me in a better mood.

It’s become so much of a habit that I find myself wishing I could go back to when I was forced to talk to others as well as come up with ways to entertain myself without turning to my phone which drains my energy and makes me feel guilty for not being more productive.

— Lily Hultgren

Now that I have a phone, I find I often use it as an excuse to avoid awkward moments or chase away boredom. It’s become so much of a habit that I find myself wishing I could go back to when I was forced to talk to others as well as come up with ways to entertain myself without turning to my phone which drains my energy and makes me feel guilty for not being more productive.

However, if I notice myself slipping into this pattern, I can take a step back and remind myself of my time without a phone. Which allows me to recall my past skills and decide to take a break from my phone and instead socialize or take part in an activity I enjoy. This type of restraint is something that took me years to develop, and not having a phone was something that made this easier as I had no other option but to work on it.

I can also acknowledge that this restraint does somewhat come from the fact that my maturity levels as well as my levels of awareness are much improved now at 15 than they were when I was 10 at the start of middle school. If I had gotten a phone then like most of my peers, I think I would have had a harder time getting off my phone and also would not have been able to overcome my shyness as well as find what activities I can do without involving technology.

Recently, I thanked my parents for waiting to get me a phone. Admittedly, it was a complete 180 from how I felt two years ago when I expressed constant frustration at them for making me one of the only people in the whole school without a phone. Sure I got an “I told you so” smile followed by a triumphant “You’re welcome,” but my gratitude was truly heartfelt. I developed so many essential life skills that I would otherwise have had a harder time gaining.

While this was the case for me, not everyone is the same. I didn’t really go out too much when I was in middle school, so I never needed a phone to stay in contact with my parents that often. But for others who may go places without parents regularly, a phone might be a necessity for safety and communication reasons.

Whether or not you get your phone in elementary school, middle school or high school, it’s important for a parent or yourself to set boundaries. Appropriate boundaries vary with every person; for some it is easier to reject overusing their phones, but for others it might be more of a challenge. But If I learned anything from my phone-free middle school years, it’s that there’s so much to gain when you’re not staring at a screen.