It started a few months ago with the infamous line from my 7th grade daughter: “Mom, everyone else at school . . .”. In this particular instance, she was informing me that everyone else had a cell phone.
“Laura doesn’t,” I said.
“Yes she does. She got one last week.”
“Well . . . your brother doesn’t. So see, you’re not the only one.”
When I mention to people that my Jr. High-aged kids do not have their own cell phones, I’m often congratulated like I’m some kind of Super Mom. Which, trust me, is not the case.
Partly, I’m just cheap. My husband and I each have a cell phone, and our hope is that we can get our kids through high school with just the two cell phones in the family. (This may be terribly naive, but plans are nice to have anyway.)
I believe there are good reasons to provide teenagers with cell phones: safety reasons, social reasons, parental convenience.
And I know there are all kinds of reasons that people might want to limit a teenager’s use of a cell phone: socialization reasons, distraction reasons, bullying reasons, etiquette reasons.
In weighing all of the reasons, I lean toward the side of restricted cell phone use largely because of how cell phones can lead us to view our lives and the world around us.
Having a cell phone–particularly one that rings and flashes messages frequently–can lead you to believe you are the center of the universe. Which you’re not.
Having a cell phone with you at all times can lead you to believe that everything someone wants to tell you is urgent. And everything you want to tell someone else is urgent. It’s not.
Having a cell phone can push you into being more present with someone who is far away than with the people who are right in front of you. This is rarely good.
My husband and I even decided against sending one of the phones with our daughter last weekend when she went away with her orchestra for an overnight trip. I didn’t want her to feel like she had to check in with us; I wanted her to enjoy her time away. And she did. And we got to hear all about it after she was back home.
Besides, I knew that if she really needed to talk to us she wouldn’t have any trouble borrowing a phone–since everyone else has one.