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Celling Your Kids
Jul 9th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

My daughter recently received a cell phone in honor of her elementary school graduation. It’s not fancy, but it does permit her to make calls (something tweens apparently never do) and to text (which she does with wild abandon.)

Girlfriend has been instructed as to when and where she may use the phone. At the dinner table? No way. In the car while someone else is driving? No problem. Will she take the phone to middle school in the fall? Probably not. The child realizes that the phone has to stay in her locker all day anyway, so why bother? And if she needs to call home, they have actual phones in the front office.

Several of my parent friends called me a traitor; somehow, the beloved spouse and I have completely sold our souls to Verizon and should be shipped out to a penal colony. Maybe there are no penal colonies available at present for bad parents like us (and if they don’t serve mojitos there, I’m not going anyway), but we thought long and hard before handing over a phone to the girl. After all, every day I see kids oblivious to the world, texting or chatting while crossing streets or in other dangerous situations. In fact, it isn’t just kids who act this way; I’m annoyed by all people not participating in life around them because they’re attached to a cellular teat. Did I want that for my daughter?

In the end, we considered the girl herself.

Firstly, the girl has her head on pretty darn straight. Sure, she’s addicted to TV programs where someone inevitably ends up in the emergency room with a misplaced axe in his head. But ask her to turn off the TV and tune into her life — and she does. She doesn’t have to be nagged to do her homework (mostly); she’s helpful; and frankly, she’s trustworthy.

I knew she’d follow cell phone rules pretty well.

Next, all these years of being the person who answered all her… ehhem… interesting questions emboldened me to converse with her about sexting. While she is still at an age where she believes most boys are repulsive (and I can’t say I mostly blame her), I wanted her to know about people sending improper materials to each other. I clarified TheWashington Post Rule: if you share an email or photo with someone else, it’d better be something that wouldn’t make you cringe if it ended up on the front page of our venerable daily paper.

I explained that sometimes, people assume that a photo they send — or an email or text — will be kept between the sender and the original recipient. This will bite her on the butt if she is the sender, whether she’s gossiping about some mean girl or receiving a nasty photo. And, if she is the recipient of something not-so-nice, she knows to tell me so that we can figure out the best way to handle things.

Together.

I’m feeling pretty good about our decision to let the girl have a cell phone. Sure, she texted her grandmother at Ungodly A.M. And maybe kids at this age don’t really need a cell phone; but I considered the particular child before making my decision.

Recently, girlfriend told me of her two slightly older friends, who walk around our cul-de-sac together but text other people.  Why don’t they just talk to each other since they’re actually standing next to each other? she asked. Cells are great, but when I’m with somebody, I want to actually talk to them!

That pretty much cemented my decision.

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(first published on smartly.com)


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