Pre-Teens and iPhones, What You Need to Know

We made the decision to give our two oldest sons iPhones at ages ten and twelve because my oldest son split his head open at church. Yes, he did.

On a Wednesday night, we pulled up to church only to find that my youngest had forgotten his shoes. I tried my best to get him to go to church without shoes, but he would not be persuaded, so I dropped off my second son at the children’s building, pulled around and dropped my oldest son off at the youth building, then headed home to get the youngest his shoes.

As we headed back to church, I got a couple of phone calls from unknown numbers, but I ignored them like I do all unknown number phone calls. Unfortunately, this time, that was a mistake.

My youngest son and I rushed into the main church building late to head to our classes and were met by a frantic mom and minister searching the whole building for me. They told me that my oldest son was playing chase with his friends, jumped the last few steps of some metal stairs, and busted his head open. I rushed to the youth building and found him covered in blood with an ice pack on his head, surrounded by the church medical team. Thankfully, he ended up only needing a few staples.

Since we were pretty new to the church, no one there that night was in my contacts. They had been trying to call me, but I hadn’t picked up.

Our oldest two sons had iPhones within a week, but I wouldn’t make that decision again (our youngest son won’t like that decision, but oh, well).

What I’ve Learned

  • Since our initial rush to get our sons phones, we have locked them down like Alcatraz. They don’t like it, but that’s ok. Parents can manage settings that cause their children to have time limits, access to certain apps only at certain times, ask permission to download apps, have no access to the internet, and more. However, I have to go deep into the iPhone settings for each child, each time I need to change something. It is a pain. I also have to remember to do a physical phone check to keep up with text messages and other messaging apps. If you have a Mac, it’s much easier because you can log into your computer on your kid’s Apple ID and see all their text messages. I don’t have that, and frequently forget to check.
  • We have removed Safari and YouTube from our children’s phones and given them the SPIN Safe Browser instead. It blocks a lot of unwanted content, but still allows them to scan QR codes for school use.
  • I’ve tried to use Bark on their phones, and though I like some of the options, the text notification options are much too sensitive, and the VPN you have to download to the child’s iPhone messes up a lot of other apps they might need for school, like Canvas.
  • We have chosen not to allow our children to be on social media yet (they’re 14, 12, and 9 now). There is far too much drama and trouble on social, with too little pay off. We will let them have social when they are older, so they have guidance before they are on their own, but for now, it’s a no.

What I’m Doing Now

  • I’m very interested in the MMGuardian phone, or something like it from our cell phone provider. It’s basically a phone I have complete control over from a separate device that allows my children limited control, and I don’t see it as an invasion of their privacy. I explain to them that their dad and I have complete access to each other’s phones, social media accounts, and email. We know all of each other’s passwords. This is to keep us accountable. There are a lot of temptations out there, and knowing someone is there to hold you accountable helps. While they are in our home, we will hold them accountable. Once they leave, they can choose their own accountability partner.
  • I’m looking into adding the Covenant Eyes app to their phones, though I’d need my kids to switch to Androids for the most comprehensive phone monitoring
  • I’m considering the Life 360 app, which tracks phones, and helps parents know where their children are (as long as their children are with their phones).

These means may see extreme, but there are far too many temptations nowadays to see and produce porn (yes, kids are getting paid good money for sexting–no joke!) that I want to keep my sons from for as long as possible. And the troubles with bullying and other issues are too many to ignore.

Do I wish I didn’t have to parent kids during this time? Yep.

But I’m reminded that God appointed us all for certain times (Acts 17:26). There’s a reason our families are living in this time period. It is no accident. We don’t need to worry, stress, or be anxious about the times we’re living in. It is so tempting, I know, but what we need to do is turn to God in prayer for wisdom and understanding so we can keep our families as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Getting our kids phones and learning how to monitor them can be hard. But as always, the best place to begin is prayer for your family’s individual circumstance and needs.


Father, Lord of Heaven’s Armies, you chose our family for this time. in this culture. Please help us to not run in fear, but teach our children to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Please help them to get caught when they are making unwise choices that will draw them away from You. Please give us the wisdom and understanding we need to protect, guide, and equip them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The mother of three active boys, Tara L. Cole teaches communication at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. Tara is passionate about helping moms and their kids deepen their relationships with Jesus. She’s the author of Everyday Prayers for the School Year, and her podcast, Over A Cup, helps women connect with Jesus throughout their day. Learn more about her at Connect with her on IG!

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