The Cell Phone Dilemma – How Young is too Young?

© Lev Dolgatsjov - Fotolia.comIt 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?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“You’re twelve.”

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

F**K!

My daughter grew up overnight. Suddenly she’s less about asking millions of questions and more about being in her room tuning me out with the help of her iTouch. On occasion I steal little peeks into her Tweendom and scan through her texts.

Yes, I invade her privacy. Why?

A wise woman once said, “Do you know how you can tell when a teenager is lying?

Answer: Their lips are moving.”

Okay, it was Judge Judy but still…she’s wise-ish.

It’s mostly innocent girl babble, however this past Saturday I had a bit of a surprise. There was a conversation with a friend that seemed harmless until I followed it all the way to the end where my daughter had written, “F**K!”

My first thought? Obviously from her use of asterisks she’s not fully committed so I still have time until the real language is unleashed. It was however my first, OMG my daughter is not a little girl moment. I’m not naive. I know she says it when I’m not around but this was my first confirmation.

The rose covered glasses have been officially removed.

Since Grade four when she announced a boy in her class had said a bad word I knew it was in her vocabulary. She wanted so badly to tell me the word. There was so much excitement on her face I couldn’t help myself and let her say it.

Her eyes got huge.

“Can I really?”

“Really. Once,” I clarified.

“Fuck.”

I tried not to laugh. It sounded so funny coming out in her little voice.

But once wasn’t enough, she’d felt the power because she went on to tell me the context in which he had used it. I can’t remember exactly but it was an awkward sentence and used just to display his intellect of curse words.

I told her she shouldn’t admire him because he wasn’t even grammatically correct. And that was really saying something since fuck is a hard word to get wrong. There are so many ways to use it. Noun. Verb. Adjective. It really is the best and most versitile word ever.

Personally I don’t believe in bad words, just indecent people using them. There’s a time and a place for all of it, especially in a work of fiction when bad language is necessary to convey a certain character. And I can’t very well take the high and mighty road when I’ve been known to slip in various driving incidents.

I do recall telling her fuck shouldn’t be over-used or it loses its power.

I lied, it totally doesn’t. Fuck just feels good to say.

And now she knows too. Now I guess I should have the conversation about how crude it sounds coming out of a young person’s mouth and when she chooses to express herself over texts or whatever she should always assume there’s another snooping Mother (beside her own) creeping on the receiving end who very well could label her as “trouble.”

Just today when I thought I’d cleared the cursing hurdle, my 8 year old boy who was scanning iTunes said, “I like this song but it has a swear in it.”

Here we go again. I sigh. “What word is it?”

“Damn.”

May his innocence last forever.