My wireless carrier offered me a brand new phone if I added another line. So far, there are three names on our account: my wife, my fourteen year old daughter, and of course, me. Our daughter was the first to chime in on the topic.
She reasoned that my son, who is going into the fifth grade “needs” a phone so he can text his friends (who each have one) and call us when he want to be picked up from a play date. Our carrier would send our son the latest and greatest which technology has to offer; and, I can’t see why he would require such a gadget. I get by with my standard-issue flip phone. Why does he have to own a cell phone with a keyboard and movie camera?
My daughter’s life revolves around these multi-functional electronic devices, and she could not imagine existing without one. On our recent cruise to the Caribbean, we left our cell phones home, and she nearly had withdrawal symptoms. I was just as happy to not have to answer the thing for a week.
It was then I realized how much life has changed since I was a boy in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I remember getting up on a Saturday morning when I still in Grammar school, hopping on my bike and taking off for the day with my friends. My mother’s only message to me was “Be home by suppertime.” Considering some of the things my friends and I did together, like biking from Copiague to Bay Shore, walking to the Sunrise Mall, and stalking the “Amityville Horror” house, and playing “war” in the woods next to Ketchum’s Creek, I did not want to be located so easily.
Having a cell phone would have ruined the charm of being on my own for an afternoon, my parents offering me the freedom and trust to enjoy a summer’s day and have an adventure. The irony is, I do not allow my own kids the same liberties.
My wife and I know all of our children’s friends and their friend’s parents, too. They go biking if they stay on the block or in the nearby development. My youngest gets dropped off at his pal’s homes, and picked up at a pre-arranged time.
Still, should I give a cell phone to a ten year old? Indeed, his buddies all each have one and he’s the odd kid in the group. Perhaps I really am old fashioned. Growing up in a world with televisions with no remote and only seven channels, wall hanging phones with an actual ringing bell inside and no customized “ring tones,” and vinyl record albums as opposed to mp3s, I just can’t relate to today’s technologically hooked youth.
Some would say that times are different, and that the world is a more dangerous place. Kids should not be allowed to roam and wander and do some of the things that we did way back when. Certainly, my wife and I have kept tight leash on our kids, just like other parents.
So, a giving my boy a cell phone makes sense. In the end, it could also be that my reluctance to provide my youngest with one could stem from jealousy as I did not have the same amenities when I was his age. It could also be that if I do activate a new line for him, he’d have a much cooler phone than I do, and I couldn't have that.
-Michael J. Kannengieser
-Michael J. Kannengieser