It all started last June on the last day of school. The Girl came home with five of her budding Tween friends behind her, giggling and carrying on about the boys they were gearing up to pelt with water balloons. Before they left full of confusing hormones and water filled flirt bombs four of them placed their BlackBerry’s on the counter for safe keeping. From then on I knew my days were numbered. I made it through the summer but this September when Grade seven began The Girl made her move.
“Can I have a BlackBerry?”
That was it. She doesn’t get all buggy like The Boy. His move is to annoy the hell out of us until we give in and I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes it works. Don’t judge. He’s good, real good.
Skip ahead to last night. She must have been preparing for a while.
“You know how you asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Well, I thought of something that would be a present for both of us.” Insert dramatic pause…“What about a Blackberry!” Insert jazz hands, followed by a deep breath in preparation for her clincher. “You’re going back to work and I’ll have to get The Boy to and from school. Won’t you want me to let you know we made it? What if there’s something after school I want to do and won’t be home on time?”
“I’m not sure I want you to have a phone.”
“Plus,” she continued undetered, “at the mall you could go to your stores and me and my friends could go to mine…”
**Cue: big doe eyes**
Clearly I underestimated her.
I do a lot of embellishing talking with my kids about what it was like for me growing up, how I had to work for everything I got, “all the leaves I raked and snow I shovelled, I didn’t have everything my friends had.”
Total lie. The truth is if cell phones, iPods’ and PlayStations existed when I was young, I would’ve had them. Don’t get me wrong, I was taught responsibility; I bought my own beat up car when I was eighteen, saved for a year for a stereo system with speakers higher than the couch, but compared to a lot of kids around the world I was definitely privileged. I never wanted for anything and I certainly wasn’t walking to school uphill both ways. I did take a bus full of unruly children. In the coldest of winters I’d wait across the street with snot stuck to my cheek with the neighbours Saint Bernard (who was taller than me) chewing the pom-pom off the top of my hat. Once, I actually got a tooth in my head, so, ya know, I’ve known some tough times.
My point is this is a different time, an electronic age full of gadgets and if we as parents can use them for the powers of good, to ease our minds, why not? I mean, provided you have a child with a maturity level to handle it. She does have me thinking about how I’ll feel being in another city wondering if they’ve left in time, did they get there? And what if something does come up? Oh, she knows how to push my mother buttons and with only an ounce of effort.
I know a twelve year old with a BlackBerry sounds absurd, I think so myself. If you would’ve asked me even a year ago if I’d be considering this I would’ve said you were out of your mind. I worry about giving them too much access and opening them up to cyber bullying and online predators, but she already has access. She has an iTouch and a Facebook page, all of which I have the passwords to and check on a regular basis.
So will I get her one? Probably. I need the reassurance that comes with a cell phone. I’m the needy one. I admit it. Yes, I’m bowing to her peer pressure, but I trust her. So far she’s a rule follower. I’m well aware she could change in the blink of an eye and I’m prepared at the first sign of defiance to remove it from her possession and she knows that’s no joke.
I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer. It’s just another thing to worry about as a parent in the digital world. It’s all going to happen sooner or later and I would prefer to have her young and impressionable when my words of advice still have enough value to set a responsible precedent. It could be a helpful learning tool. I guess I’ll find out. I think I’ll start her out with something a little less flashy then a BlackBerry…something pay-as-you-go style. That way, I can always take it away if she doesn’t meet her chore quota to qualify for a top up.
What do you think? What is the right age for your first cell phone?
**pic courtest of © Lev Dolgatsjov – Fotolia.com