Sunday, February 10, 2008

Teens and cell phones

Wow, not 48 hours since my Trajectory post and I feel grey hairs pushing through my scalp. This is why I never say never... My 8th grade son wants a cell phone, not an unusual request from today’s teens…darn generation gap.

I know cell phones are cool. Within five minutes of owning one, I was hooked. However, I feel that way because it connects me to my family. There’s immense relief knowing your children can always touch base with you. Unless I’m in the local grocery store—I don’t get reception there. The owner undoubtedly screens out cell calls to ensure shopping focus. The strategy works.

My son wants a cell phone to text friends, send photos, build his social sphere. I understand that, but I’ve also talked with other parents regarding photos and messages their children send and receive. Many of them are uninhibited and destructive—only their children aren’t fully aware of that. The parents are upset and sometimes horrified, but don't know what to do. I'd take the phone away, but obviously I'm in the minority.

The electronic world allows us to say and do things without immediate facial/body-language feedback. By the time we realize we’ve hurt someone’s feelings, misinterpreted messages, harmed our reputation, it’s often too late to repair the damage. This can be devastating for a teen, maybe for years to come.

My son doesn’t work, isn’t old enough to drive, isn’t dating right now, and we have an extra phone the kids use when they need it. True, texts aren’t included in our plan, but we could change that. I know my son wants a private phone, which I understand but don’t support yet. I think it’s ok to talk with your friends in person and have time to think about your actions.

We’ve agreed that if he gets a job when he’s 16, we’ll broach the subject again. By then, there might be legitimate reasons for his request—telling myself that pacifies my reluctant acceptance of the idea…

My oldest son never pushed this issue much...I’m not sure how tough the interim between now and age 16 will be. I’m thinking I’m forked… It’s amazing how handy that phrase has become.

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