Almost Forgotten Experience Affects Parenting Decisions

kid talking on a cell phone

The feeling of abandonment was palpable. I was scared, but there was nothing that would have made me admit it, so when Mom pulled up in front of the school 30 minutes late (it felt like 3 hours at the time!) I pretended to be angry. I was, of course, so happy to see her that I almost cried. Instead, I clammed up, stomped toward the car, and barely heard a word of her apology and her explanation of the horrible traffic jam that had delayed her.

That scene will not retreat from my memory.

A Cell Phone at 10?

That scene, dredged up from my past, is the primary reason I would even consider a cell phone for my 10-year-old. If I were ever going to be late, I could just call to let him know. That, in itself, is a good reason for getting him his own phone. Right?

According to a new study, 83 percent of middle schoolers, 39 percent of fifth graders and 20 percent of third grade students have cell phones. Am I simply behind the times? It shouldn’t be a smart phone, I say to my husband; but a simple phone would make sense. He could contact us in emergencies. I would feel safer. He could learn responsibility. Many of his friends have phones.

How Old Is Old Enough?

To be completely honest, the misgivings stem from some internal timetable that wants to keep this child dependent for just a while longer. It seems he’s growing up far too quickly in this ever-shrinking world, that the technology is infringing on family time, that the pressure I’m feeling to give in is coming not from my son, but from my peers.

“They need to learn how to use the tools available to them in the digital world,” I am told. In addition, he really should have access to a phone in case of emergency, I am told. With the family plan it’s economical, says my husband. “It will give us peace of mind.” Really?

“He’s only ten,” I repeat. He forgets his backpack. Is he responsible enough to keep track of a phone? Will he remember to call home when he’s supposed to? Will he remember to take it out of his pocket when he’s playing soccer? Will he remember to take it with him so that he CAN call us when he needs a ride home? Will he, can he, should he? Should I give in?

Peer Pressure

In the end, I know I will say yes. We will begin looking for a cheap cell phone. It’s been a year since we went looking for a cheap cell phone, and I know the technology has changed in that time, as have the service plans. Is there such a thing as a simple phone anymore?

My petulance is prompted by a sense that I didn’t get everything I wanted as a child and, in some deep, secret part of my psyche I want my children to know that we withheld some things “for their own good,” just as my parents did with me. I didn’t have a television in my room until I went away to college, and I’ve never forgotten it. Nor, I realize now, have I ever forgiven it!

Was the task of parenting easier or more difficult before technology became so pervasive? Some of my friends even have multiple cell phones; one for business, one for personal calls, and another for vacations. Is that a bit much?

Maybe I’ll just take my 10-year-old for an ice cream!

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