My Son and the Cell Phone

My wife and I have already lost what used to be known as the “can I have a phone in my room” fight.

Not that the fight was anything like the ones we had with our parents when we were kids. As a matter of fact, it never even happened.

We simply caved in before things got rolling.

Our slide into communications chaos started when we decided that our son should have a cell phone.

We got him one for his 12th birthday.

At the time, we thought it was a great idea. We told ourselves it would be a good reward for a good kid and help teach him responsibility. It carried the added benefit of allowing us to keep better track of him as he gets older and more independent. At the very least, we thought it would give us another way to reach out and touch him when he’s in his bedroom ignoring us or downstairs in the basement too wrapped up in video games to acknowledge us when we yell for him. (That part of the plan has actually sort of worked. Now that he has a cell phone, he answers it before completely ignoring us).

We also knew it would also come as a total surprise. It’s not like he spent the past year begging for a cell phone. And when he did ask for one, it was for an iPhone (not that he cared about having an iPhone in particular. He just liked the idea of all the applications).

Now, however, I’m not so sure that the cell phone surprise was such a good move.

Our first clue that we were oblivious to the consequences came almost immediately.

We had just finished polishing off his birthday cake when he started opening presents. The four of us were crowded around the dining room table. My always excitable eight-year-old daughter was bouncing up and down in her chair, nearly bursting to see what her brother would open next.

That is, until he unwrapped the cell phone.

While he broke into a slow grin and his eyes widened, she frowned and her eyes narrowed to slits.

She didn’t have to say a thing.

The message was clear.

A land-line phone in her room isn’t going to satisfy her now.

A few days later, my son pulled his new cell phone from his pocket and said, “Dad! Look! Mobile TV!”

I had to stop myself from reaching over and snatching that shiny, new phone right out of his hands. HE might have been excited to discover a neat, new feature, but all I could see was out-of-control data charges heading my way. It’s not like I’m a Wall Street executive. The government isn’t going to bail me out of my cell phone bill.

If I had any reservations about the wisdom of our decision to introduce him to mobile communications, the thought of my son watching Sponge Bob on his tiny cell phone screen dispelled them. My wife is re-evaluating, too. He’s been texting her incessantly. She reached her limit one evening when, as she sat in the family room, he texted her from his bedroom requesting that she bring him a drink of water.

Clearly some ground rules need to be set. We’ll be sitting down with him very soon to explain the hard truth.

I plan to tell him that it’s okay to carry the phone around. He can even take it out of his pocket to show his friends once in a while. But there will be one overriding rule that supersedes all the others we may come up with: Don’t even think about actually using it!


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