ASK A MOM: Runaway Toddlers, Cell Phones, and Getting Those Steps In
WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
Q: Hi, Molly. My 9-year-old wants a phone. Husband and I have been totally against it, but then I wished he had one the first few weeks of school when the bus schedules were crazy and I couldn’t reach him. What’s a good age (or some signs that he’s responsible enough) to have a phone for safety reasons? I don’t want him texting or using social media or anything…just a way to reach him when I need to.—Kara
Short answer: I have no idea.
Personal answer: Told my oldest she has to wait until 12.
Right answer: Whatever you think.
I googled “At what age should a child get a phone.” Within point-77 seconds… as in less than one second… over two billion articles popped up. Clearly, you’re not alone in wondering. The headline article says: “The average age kids get a phone is between 12 and 13. With that in mind, parents are the best judge of whether their children are ready for a cell phone, and the lessons they teach about that readiness can begin at a young age.”
That advice was written in May of 2020, before COVID pushed us adults to lean more heavily on technology to entertain our kids. So, to be fair, that top article’s recommended age might be outdated. Anecdotally, my 10-year-old daughter is in 5th grade and one of the only kids in her class to NOT have a phone. She doesn’t argue about waiting until she’s 12, but I think that’s because she has an iPad. She can text on her iPad through an email address we created for her, group chat with friends, and FaceTime me if needed. She’s not allowed to have any social media accounts, can’t take the iPad to school, and we have rules on her weekday usage. But as I type this, I realize my hypocrisy in strictly banning a phone, yet supplying her with an iPad.
Maybe it’s not the device they have, rather, what you let them do on it.
You said you don’t want social media, but do want to track your son and be in touch. If that’s the goal, there are other options. GPS smart watches are popular, as well as phones intentionally designed and marketed for kids without the bells and whistles (read: no internet or WiFi).
A 2021 blog from Verywell Family—an award-winning resource with “up to date information to support you through all stages of parenthood”—published a recent review of the best phones for young children. It’s a good list with seven options and got great feedback.
Hope this helps. The right answer isn’t what’s right for the family down the street. It’s what you find best for yours.
Q: Dear Molly, My 2-year-old is a runner. I’ll get him out of his car seat and as soon as his feet hit the ground he’s off and I have to chase him in the parking lot. I’m also 7 months pregnant, so I can’t keep up with him anymore. Any advice?—Betsy
A: I am not laughing at this image. Promise. I mean, I am… but only because many of us have the exact memory of our belly-forward-selves chasing toddlers when our feet are swollen, but we can’t look down to see them.
I took your question to Elizabeth Pinard, a certified parent-child interaction therapist (PICT) in Charlotte.
“The child is so young, that setting the expectation verbally might not be appropriate or effective,” she says. “If you think the child IS old enough and behaviorally advanced enough to understand building it around safety (‘There are cars in the parking lot and I want you to be safe, please hold my hand’ or ‘Please hold my shirt’) then try words. Words can work depending on the child.”
If words do work, Elizabeth says, respond with huge excitement and big, specific praise. (‘I love the way you stood right next to me in the parking lot!’)
Last and most importantly, Elizabeth says, 2-year-olds are perpetually in motion. As you know, as we all know. But remember that. It’s probably turned into a game for your son.
“It is certainly stimulating for him to run, and then to see you chase him,” Elizabeth says. “He gets A LOT of mom’s undivided attention for doing this, because, of course, you don’t want him to get hit by a car. If you can at all can control the environment by parking closer to shopping carts and moving him from car to cart, it might help eliminate the behavior as well.”
Q: Molly, I’ve watched you for years. I listen attentively to the news and see that since the third baby, you lost weight. I am 70, and have had lots happen over the past few years and during all that, gained quite a bit of excess weight. Would you be willing to share some of the things that worked for you? Thank you. —A Woman Who’s Tried Everything
A: When Charlotte Parent Editor Taylor Bowler sent this question over, I was taken aback—in a flattering and surprised way. So, first off, a sincere thank you to this anonymous question. And though I don’t like to talk about myself in the physical-image sense (being on TV every day will make you start to hate youyouyouyouyou), I am happy to answer your question because you are kind enough to ask.
Second, my secret is boring: I am walking. A LOT. I have always been athletic but hate gyms, workout plans, and diets. My whole life I’ve gone up and down five to 10 pounds easily and never thought much about having a range of sizes in my closet. Overall, being busy in life kept me feeling fit.
But after giving birth to Hobie in July 2021, and actually removing his body from my body, rather than lose weight, things went in the opposite direction for me. The recipe of homeschool, infant, COVID stress, and working 2 p.m. to midnight wasn’t a good mix. Again, I’m not someone who wants to deprive myself of weekend nachos and good drinks—but I was legitimately starting to have a hard time finding things in my closet that fit.
Instead of buying new clothes, I asked friends what they did to lose weight. A few said they were trying the app Noom. It’s based on psychology with a daily morning lesson. One friend said the lesson Noom emphasized repeatedly was the importance of walking. As many steps as you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s small increments or for long periods of time: Just get in steps. Even if it’s parking in the furthest spots from store doors, or standing up and going for a 10-minute walk every couple of hours at your desk.
It’s the latter idea I latched on to. At night, after returning from a dinner break, I’d be editing scripts and writing-talking-writing-talking-writing-talking and if there was no breaking news that needed handled, I’d find small pockets of time and go upstairs and walk the hallways of the empty sales department. This meant I started wearing sneakers with my fancy work dresses. By 11 p.m., if the producer said there was no shot where my feet would show live, I’d keep the sneakers on behind the desk. Never change back into heels. I’d stand on a box to make my height match what the cameras are programmed for and, honestly, you guys at home never knew the difference.
I never showed this collage of glamour before, but here you go. Nerdy proof.
I’m not sure finding extra time to walk will help everyone, but the benefit for me hasn’t been weight as much as how I enjoy having a FitBit and tracking how many steps I take in a day. There’s something mentally rewarding about seeing that number, more so even than the health impacts on my body.
Thank you, as always, for the questions. Keep them coming. Send anything you might wonder through the homepage of Charlotte Parent to “Ask a Mom.” We’re all in this together. Juggling different details, but trying to survive and laugh a little while doing so. I am no parenting expert (Lord, no), but I am a journalist who knows how to track down answers on your behalf.
See you tonight at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11 p.m…. with who-knows-what on my feet.