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FACING YOUR FEARS – 31 STORIES FROM M.O.M.
eBabies + iTeens + YouToo: Kids and Cell Phones – the WHY
I couldn’t wait to see Annemarie’s face as she opened her final 8th grade graduation gift. The video camera was rolling and my husband was strategically positioned to catch close up photos.
“You have to guess what it is before you can open it!” I said, handing Annemarie a simple gift bag. When the bag began ringing and vibrating, she almost dropped it in surprise.
Shock and comprehension registered simultaneously as she shouted, “No WAY!”, dug into the bag, and pulled out her very own cell phone.
Daniel and I practically broke our arms patting ourselves on the back for the rest of the day for having pulled off such an excellent surprise.
But in the weeks, months, and years to follow, we congratulated ourselves less and less and found ourselves saying, “No WAY!” far more often than we could have possibly imagined.
The First Bill
I said far more than “No WAY!” when the first cell phone bill arrived with $102.97 worth of text message charges. Although I’d told the store manager that I was giving the phone to a 14-year-old, he had not recommended or even discussed texting plans with me. “All my friends told me texting was free!” Annemarie sobbed when I confronted her. I couldn’t blame her; I’d given her the phone without reading any of the “fine print” myself, let alone going through it with her.
A Quiet Car
I began noticing that when I drove Annemarie and her friends, the car was deathly silent…except for the tappity-tap of their cell phone keys. I missed all the talking and laughter that I was used to and finally asked her, “Why are you so busy texting when you’ve got friends in the car with you?” Her reply was another “No WAY!” moment: “Oh, we’re texting each other stuff we don’t want you to hear.”
But the biggest “No WAY!” was the role that texting played in incessant multi-tasking. I once watched in disbelief as Annemarie and a friend sat knees-to-knees on our living room couch, “talking” to each other while simultaneously texting other people. At one point, one of them said, “Hang on; let me finish this. I want to really listen to what you’re saying.” I wasn’t sure whether I was more amused or appalled! But they were totally nonplaused; this was their “normal.”
Kids and Cell Phones
In the next few eBabies + iTeens + YouToo blog posts, we’re going to look at five specific questions:
- WHY we’re providing a cell phone to a child
- WHEN we provide a cell phone to a child
- HOW we give a cell phone to a child and orient them to its use
- WHAT conditions and responsibilities we lay out for a child’s use of a cell phone
- WHERE we allow (and don’t allow) cell phone use
This week, we’ll kick off our discussion of “WHY?” with some shared wisdom:
Our children will be able to own a cell phone when 1) they can purchase it themselves and 2) they can pay the monthly bill. If the need for an emergency phone is THAT pressing, purchase one of those “limited access” phones. No need for the “latest and greatest” in the phone. Kela Fountain Nellums (www.KelaNellums.com)
We provided our daughter with a cell phone in 4th grade because both my husband and I worked and she would let herself in the house after school and was alone until 5:00 PM when someone got home. The phone was for emergencies and she would call me when she got home. Erin Bishop (TheWhateverGirls.com)
We got a “kids phone” for our daughter when we had a nasty incident at school. She was left at school and tried to reach us on the office phone. Finally, the secretary said, “I’m going home. Call one more time, and then stand outside the building.” NOT GOOD for so many reasons. She used that last call to call our friends, who called me, and I raced over to get her. We realized then that there are times in today’s world where our kids may need a way to contact us and not have it; the older they get, the more they’re away from us and need a way to contact us. Julie Titus Sanders (www.juliesanders.org)
As for me, if I could do it all over again, I would not give a cell phone as a gift. My “WHY?” was simplistic and irresponsible: I wanted to give Annemarie something special but had little money to spend. I wanted to “wow” her so badly, I was thrilled when I happened by the cell phone kiosk and discovered I could get one for free. I had no idea what I was really handing over to her in that little gift bag.
We’ve barely scratching the surface! I’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts, ideas, answers, reactions, and further questions in the comments!
Today we’re linked up with The Better Mom: