Old School Lessons in a Texting Age

The Original Flip Phone

In our humble home we have succumb to the trappings of the mobile phone for our 13 year old.  I admit, I fought it at first, holding that the phone would distract her from academics, provide her with more opportunities to wallow around and do nothing and offer a platform for clandestinely communicating with male components of her adolescent species.  All things have proven to be true, but not quite to the extent that I had imagined.

Let’s face it, the mobile phone and more importantly, its texting feature have become a fact of life for most of us,  including our 13 year old daughters.  You can not go anywhere without everyone around you texting or devoting an inordinate amount of time with the digital medium we keep attached to our body.

I am prone to reminiscing about a time when the mobile phone was solely a futuristic instrument on Star Trek.  Members of the Starship Enterprise referred to it as the Communicator (it was a flip).  I think I had one as part of a Halloween costume in the mid 70’s when I dressed up as Captain T. Kirk.  My sister dressed up as Olivia Newton John from Xanadu.  She didn’t have a Communicator, but we still communicated verbally while trick-o-treating.  But I digress.

“There was a time MacKenna”, (talking as parents do when using the past as some kind of learning tool, “When we went places without a mobile phone.  We looked people in the eye, we spoke in full sentences and utilized our own facial expressions in lieu of emoticons.” “But how did your mom know when and where to pick you up when you went out with your friends?”, she asked me.  “We agreed upon a place in advance and used another wonder of early civilization, the wrist watch.”

I am not without fault. I admit, I have behaved irresponsibly with my Blackberry lately.  I pathetically leaned on it at the local grocery store in order to procure grocery items I told my wife I had recorded on a prehistoric tablet, ‘the grocery list’.  So obviously I have fallen into the pit of technological irresponsibility.  Nevertheless, we do adhere to a few rules when it comes to mobile phone use for my kids.  I don’t mind sharing with you…

Our Rules for the Mobile Phone

  • Mobile Phone is Earned
    Since they don’t grow on trees, even if you sign up for the two year commitment, my daughter pays for it.  “That’s is so mean”, you are thinking.  No, really it is the opposite.  A paltry $10 per month that may be paid with babysitting cash or extra help around the house allows my daughter to learn to appreciate the things that are valued.  In addition, it gives her some ownership and responsibility…something many kids recognize just about as much as a summer job.
  • The Off Button is Utilized
    Certain things take precedence like homework, family dinner time, chores, personal hygiene, etc… The phone is turned off and left downstairs early each weekday night.  Furthermore, we try to teach etiquette.  If my daughter has friends over or is engaged with someone in a humanistic fashion, then said phone should be off.  Respect for others sometimes means the phone waits.
  • Mom and Dad Set Example
    I can’t expect my daughter to do the ‘right thing’ with the phone if I can’t do it myself.  When I am off work and my attention is on my kids, my phone should be off.  If I want my kids to operate an automobile without the distractions of a text message, then I shouldn’t be texting.  When I am looking my girl in the eye and having a meaningful conversation, my damn phone better not be ringing.

I love technology.  I love staying closer to people.  After all, I’m blogging you on my Dell Laptop and I’ll look forward to viewing all the comments on my iPad.  But technology should be there to enhance the lives of ourselves and our kids…not replace it.  As a parent, leveraging technology to improve the lives of our kids is tricky business and not so easy at times.  But at the end of the day, what our kids need most is balance and the understanding that the human element remain forefront of all that we do.  BTW,G2R, : -D

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