Wow. Wow! Seriously? A hundred-something responses??? *THIS* is what brought all you lurkers out into the daylight? A post about cell phones? I’ve written from the very very bottom of my very very self-absorbed heart in the past about my woes as a parent, my hatred for Wal-Mart, and how stupid, shallow, selfish people make me want to rip their faces off ….. and *THIS* is what got you talking? Cell phone usage and text messaging? Hmmm, maybe my next post should be about microwaves. Or mp3 players. Or hand mixers.
Kidding, of course. I’m thrilled so many of you wrote in with your own experiences! I’m grateful for the ideas and information, and proud that we did it without a single snarky comment, despite differences of opinions. We were respectful, and polite ….. to quote London Tipton … “Yeah, us!”
In all honesty, I think there were a lot of helpful personal experiences shared, and I think the bottom line is what works best for one family might not be the same thing that works best for another. Most of all, I feel much better about my opinion that Brayden, personally, is currently too young for a cell phone. The fact that the vast majority of you (not all, but most) had your kids wait until much later most certainly makes me feel validated.
A few things I’d like to mention, specifically:
I think there are absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, certain situations where giving (or lending) a cell phone to a child (as young as eleven, and even younger than eleven) is perfectly justified. It’s just that for *US*, most of those situations don’t apply. I drive or walk my kids to and from school, a distance of about fifty yards. I am a stay-at-home-mom and am never unavailable during the day, nor do my kids go to an after-school program, or stay home alone. Ever. They don’t yet do much, if anything, in the way of after or before-school activities. Evening sports practices are accompanied by a parent. They’re not allowed to play anywhere but on our street, they don’t go to the mall or movies or anywhere without an adult, they don’t babysit, they don’t travel with church or school groups that I’m not a chaperone, and they’re not allowed to visit friends’ houses unless the parents are home. So, FOR NOW, I don’t feel it’s a necessity, although I know as they get older our situation(s) will change. At that point, I have no doubt I will feel differently about the need for a cell phone and we’ll get one when we see fit.
It never occurred to me that text bullying might be an issue. I agree that the written word can often be misinterpreted, even when no harm was intended. In my personal e-mails, I have a tendency to really, really, really overuse the smiley emoticon, so people will know I am trying to be pleasant. (Shockingly, sometimes my naturally agreeable and lovely personality doesn’t come across, can you imagine???) It’s certainly something to keep an eye out for.
I understand that for many professionals, especially those who cannot be interrupted during the day (ie, schoolteachers) texting is a better option. When Blaine has a meeting at work, he simply leaves his cell phone on his desk so as to not be interrupted. Even for important, urgent, life-threatening calls like me wanting to know if he’s seen my library book anywhere in the house. Or does spaghetti sound ok for dinner. But for me, for now, texting is not necessary. And although it makes me an old fogey that I don’t want to mess with it …. Well, I don’t. If and when the time comes, I’ll learn it. But not until then.
It never occurred to me that a child could use their cell phone to text a parent, to initiate a phone call back to the child, to get said child out of a sticky situation and then “blame” it on the parents. That’s devious and sneaky …. And genius! I love it! Most certainly a trick we’ll be remembering when the time comes! As an aside, my mother ALWAYS told me growing up that if ever I found myself in a situation that made me uncomfortable, or a group of kids were doing something I knew would get me in trouble, I could always use her as an excuse (“My Mom won’t let me”) --- no matter what. I don’t think I ever had to, but it was good to know I had that to fall back on, you know, when my friends starting doing their underhanded and criminal behavior, like toilet papering the principal’s house. (I know, that’s about as delinquent as I ever got. Well, except for that one time at a wedding reception my senior year, before I fully understood the power of alcohol, but we won’t talk about that.)
I understand and agree that a cell phone can be a fabulous tool for teaching a child responsibility. The responsibility of keeping track of the phone, keeping track of minutes, keeping track of payments, etc. And I’m sure plenty of kids Brayden’s age are capable of doing it. Brayden …. However ….. hmmm. I’m not so confident. At this stage in the game, I just wish she was responsible enough to put all her dirty clothes in her laundry basket, or NOT forget her homework at least once or twice a month, or remember to feed the damn cat she insisted we take in. So I think for her, she has a ways to go in the Personal Responsibility Arena before we move on to cell phones.
Elle, I agree wholly with your comment about technology, which is supposed to make our lives easier, seeming to own us in certain ways. I know when I am forced to go a few days without the ability to check my e-mail, I can physically feel my blood pressure starting to rise. Why? Because I might miss a bazillion e-mails about free shipping from JC Penney, or an update on my Upromise account, or the summer reading list from Border Rewards? Thanks to iphones and fax machines and webmail, it’s practically impossible for people to escape the office … ever … anywhere. I’m not in any rush for my daughter to become addicted to a cell phone, either, and start down the slippery slope that seems to trip up the vast majority of us here in the 21st century. (Are we actually still in the 21st century? When does the 22nd century start? Does anyone know?)
I also loved the comments about how with a cell phone, a teen can tell her parents she is one place, but actually be someplace else. I plan to do the same thing my friend did with his daughter’s cell phone … activate the GPS feature inside the phone without telling her. Then, as long as I call her and she answers, I’ll know exactly where she is. (Heh-heh-heh, evil-parent laugh.)
Oooh, yes, I never thought about them texting late into the night after everyone else is in bed. Most assuredly will need to keep the cell phone in a separate location at night …. Like, um, in between my bosoms, so there’s no chance of her sneaking it back.
Anonymous, I also agree with you that kids are being raised to expect instant gratification and that cell phones, and more specifically, texting, only serve to enhance that. That’s already a problem we have here in our household, what with money burning a hole in everyone’s pockets, and now, now, now, and how much longer, and I want I want I want …. You get the picture. Last night Kendrie wanted to make strawberries dipped in chocolate. She was seriously annoyed to discover we had neither strawberries, nor chocolate, in our house. She was even more annoyed that I wouldn’t drop everything and drive to the store at 8 o’clock at night to buy them for her. I think even bigger than a cell phone, patience and appreciation and DELAYED gratification (picture me waving my arms about very grandiosely) are lessons we should be working on in our family.
I also agree that all the texting is leaving (some) children less capable of carrying on a verbal conversation. I still have to prompt my children to say please, and thank you, and remind them to look an adult in the eye when speaking. I would like them to TALK to their friends, on the phone, or even better, in person, and work on improving their communication skills. And by “improving”, I do NOT mean memorizing the entire text-message shorthand abbreviation language. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if all pre-teens had the ability to carry on a five-minute conversation with an adult? Of course, that would require them taking their cell phone off one ear and taking their ipod headphones out of the other ear and quite possibly, world peace and saving the rain forest and inventing an alternative fuel before gas hits five dollars a gallon would be more do-able.
Really? I can set the phone to review all sent and received text messages? I can DO that??? Sweet! Score!
Anonymous, you made the comment that sometimes you prefer texting because you’re busy and don’t want to have to go through any polite interchanges before making your request to whomever you are texting ….. I get it. I really do. I’ll confess, there have been times in my life when I’ve called someone, needing only to give a brief piece of information, and have been relieved when the voicemail or answering machine picks up. (Did I just admit that out loud???) So I understand what you’re saying. But still, it makes me sad to think saying ‘Hello’ and “How are you?’ to our friends and family is a chore to be avoided when we’re busy. I *get* it, but I don’t like it.
So, bottom line, Brayden won’t be getting a cell phone at eleven. Most likely not twelve, and maybe not even until thirteen or fourteen or later. We’ll wait and see how the wind blows then. People gave some very, very valid reasons for kids to have them, and some helpful pointers for making the process manageable. But mostly, I appreciate everyone sharing their experiences and letting me know I’m not alone in my feelings and opinions.
In the meantime, it sounds like we should form some kind of Meanest Mothers in the World Club or something. I think we have enough women here to form the board of directors, fill all the officer positions, and get a decent sized membership going. We could serve Diet Dr. Pepper from Sonic at the meetings, and bring all kinds of snacks and goodies that we refuse to share with our kids. Then, each gathering could be designated to sharing tips and strategies for making our kids as miserable as possible by denying them all the things in life they truly NEED, like designer clothes and electronics and pink ponies.
I promise not to text you the minutes of our meetings.