Christmas day, I found out my daughter’s father purchased and gave her a cell phone for her birthday. She received the phone on Christmas 4 days before her birthday. I knew nothing of this purchase until our eldest son showed my daughter with two handheld devices in her hands on Christmas night. She was completely absorbed and would not look up to say “Hi” over Facetime. When I finally realized what she was holding in her hands, I was very very surprised. I was shocked even.
If my daughter’s father was going to purchase a cell phone for a friend’s kid, he would connect with that friend to check in and see if it was okay. I imagine he would make sure to call or mention it in person before giving a gift of this kind to his friend’s offspring. That is called common courtesy. That shows good manners. That is the right thing to do.
However, my daughter’s dad did not check in with me about this gift even though I am her mother. He did not call. He did not ask if it would be okay to buy our daughter a phone. He did not ask my daughter to check in with me. He just went out and purchased her a phone.
Why did he buy her a phone?
Why did he not consult with me?
Why does this bother me so much?
I cannot say I understand his actions. Our daughter has been using an iPod Touch for years and it has worked very well so far. When I called him, he said it would be easier to get a hold of her. He needed to be able to keep tabs on her. He also then corrected himself and said he has been able to keep good tabs on her. He then said it was no different than her iPod. Needless to say, I was very confused. And by the sounds of it, so was he.
He is aware that I have never been in favour of purchasing a cell phone for our daughter. I have shared that on several occasions. I understand she is 17, perfectly responsible and that every other child in her grade has one, except for a particular boy (high five to that family!). It has nothing to do with her. It has everything to do with the phone.
I seem to be an unconventional parent and thinker. I spend A LOT of time wondering. I have wondered a great deal about why I do not want my daughter to get a smartphone. I have wondered about when might be an appropriate time for such a purchase. I wondered about how her acquisition of a phone might affect her siblings and their future expectation of a phone. I have wondered about who will pay for the phone and what would happen if this phone is lost. I have wondered extensively. And, to be honest, it seems like a royal pain in the ass for me. I find parenting enough of a challenge without monitoring or managing the use of a cell phone on top of it all. And it’s just not in me to buy one and let her do whatever she wants with it. That is irresponsible as far as I am concerned.
Here is what I think:
1) Neither of us had cell phones growing up. If we needed assistance in an emergency, we connected with a human being. We used our manners and asked to use a phone at a local establishment or we used a pay phone. We did what we had to do to get in touch our family. We asked for help.
2) I am not in favour of personal screens for children or teenagers (actually, especially teenagers). Cell phones and handheld devices alienate children and teens in a really passive way. Sadly, our culture seems to be at peace with this. Many see this phenomenon as “harmless”. I believe it is FAR from harmless. As any adult knows, a cell phone, especially a smartphone, can become addictive in nature. Statistically, adults check their smartphones on average 40 times a day. FORTY TIMES A DAY, PEOPLE! Which essentially means there are people who check it less and much much more. We do nothing else in our daily routine 40 times a day. Blinking, breathing and taking a step are the only things I can think of that may fall under this category and we actually do them much more than that, but is anything else? Nope. This is a concern to me.
3) I would like to develop deep personal relationships with all of my family members while being fully present. This can be the most rewarding experience of our lives. This kind of relationship building can fulfill us and give us a sense of belonging, of being seen and heard. Sadly, it seems as though, even when a teenager is not on their handheld device, they are THINKING about their handheld device. This technology has a lure and a pull of its own. Often, I am competing for my child’s undivided attention. It has always been challenging to connect with teenagers and create meaningful mutual experiences and now, it seems that may be even harder. And that makes me very very sad.
I am not saying that this kind of technology is bad, wrong, should be eliminated or destroyed. I am saying that when it comes to children and teens one must seriously consider the pros and cons of buying a handheld device as a gift.
Is it really a gift?
And what kind of gift is it?
Honestly, I would have simply appreciated a heads up. Even if I did not agree, (and I don’t imagine the man I am no longer married to and I will agree on everything) a quick chat would have felt respectful. I may not be keen on my daughter getting a phone but what concerns me most is the fact that I was left out of the equation. What does this teach the rest of the brood about my place in their lives? How could this create “dissension in the ranks”? I have four monkeys and I need us all to play on the same team. And I need the support of their father in helping them see that my voice is important and worthy. What I have to say counts and needs to be taken into consideration.
I hope that from now on their dad and I can work together to provide a united front.
Something that has been a challenge for us from the beginning.