Technology and the prevalence of it bothers me to my core, yet I am a fanatic follower. Like my mother that smoked cigarettes though, must I pass the torch on to my children? I would like to think not and that I may be strong enough to say enough is enough and that smart phones in my house will have to wait until legal age. Is this crazy? Perhaps if we all took a stance we could rewind what has happened while we sat unaware though with good intentions, a goal of safety perhaps.
My ten year old son is preoccupied when he will "get" his phone. Get his phone. It feels like I'm being asked to sell my soul to the devil and go ahead and concede defeat like the x-box that sits in the den and the fresh box of fruit loops that stand in the pantry. This cliff jumping act of handing over the phone doesn't feel like a classic parenting fail of which I am so aware and was indoctrinated long ago. It feels like a real choice and if I acquiesce, have I lost big?
I was struck today by a writing group that called for me to join Snapchat. I don't even know what Snapchat is other than to know it involves pictures that disappear once someone has seen them. If I were still a drunk college student, this would be my dream App but I am a writer trying to gain my footing on a steep mountainside and my imminent death is nothing I voluntarily seek. I also glimpsed a title in the Washington Post no less, "Eighth Graders Caught Sexting..." and I read no further. How could I? I was struck blatantly by the brain flash that one can only sext if they have a phone and at thirteen this was scary to me. The very title was not centered around eighth graders have the opportunity to sext but had moved on querulously to outline appropriate punishments.
Just this morning my ten year old son had asked me how old I was when I got a phone. I felt like this was a conversation we had often and yet I could never remember what my answer had been and truthfully was not entirely sure. I think at nineteen I had a bag phone, a large phone in a black bag that could be plugged into a cigarette lighter and used for emergencies. I don't recall ever using it and really it spent most of its days drying out after floating on the floorboards of my car which was frequently filled with rain from a lowered top and downed windows. I think I was in my early twenties when I got my first flip phone and rarely carried it, much to the chagrin of the family to whom I served in nanny capacity.
My husband gave me my first smart phone and I was livid. Why would I want to be accessible all the time? Email and phone and the Internet? It was inherently repugnant to me though I have always been averse to change, particularly when it was forced upon me as a surprise. It had become my holy grail though and I adored all the ease it provided, its' expense as much as a necessity as preschool tuition. It feels like it has made my life easier but I can not be sure. I make a point now to leave my phone in the car or at home when we go to the playground though I lament my ability to take pictures and need to buy a real camera maybe.
Has this whole phone thing backfired on us? Could we maybe agree to rewind? Parents standing together and wrestling phones out of the grips of teenagers? I can't imagine how hard it would be and yet, I can imagine how good it could be. The latest research says our children with phones are using them NINE hours per day. I picture my teenage self watching movies with friends, riding around, going to dinner, and socializing without the symbol of accessibility that was created for our betterment. It has become part of the picture of safety we want to offer our sons and daughters but has it achieved the polar opposite?
My family is choosing to rewind.