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Caving on Cell Phones

Posted Nov 21 2008 8:41pm

Oh, the stupid things that my friends and I used to say before having kids. Things like . . .

“Even though you traveled more than 1,000 miles to come to my wedding, you must leave your baby with a sitter you’ve never met before.”

and . . .

“We’re going to go out every Saturday night just like we do now.”

You’d think we’d learn. But no, ridiculous statements keep flying out of our mouths prior to every age our children reach. We judge others before we ever walk in their shoes. Hence, my “better-than-though” belief of “can you believe they got their 10 year old a cell phone?”

Of course, as my daughter has now reached that age and will go off to middle school next year where my husband can no longer easily check on her (he teaches at her elementary school), I’m rapidly reconsidering the error of my ways.

And maybe I will have research on my side. A new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Networked Families , found “cell phones allow family members to stay more regularly in touch even when they are not physically together.”

The authors write: “Parents and spouses are using the internet and cell phones to create a ‘new connectedness’ that builds on remote connections and shared internet experiences.”

It’s definitely true for my mother and me. In the craziness of the daygetting kids to school, working all day, dinner, post dinner time with kids, exercise, etc.getting in phone calls is difficult. But, with my cell phone I can easily talk to my mom while commuting to work. We definitely talk more frequently because of it.

Alas, maybe it’s not all good news for younger kids though. In reacting to the research, Amy Hatch posted the following over at the Celebrity Baby blog . “My kids aren’t old enough to have cell phones, but when they are, I don’t know how often I would check in. My folks didn’t keep tabs on me 24/7, and it fostered a sense of independence. The last thing I want to do is become a helicopter parent. I’m all for connectedness, but how much is too much?”

This is a good point. But I must admit that I’d take comfort in knowing that I could get in touch with my daughter if I needed toit doesn’t mean that I have to.

Apparently a lot of people feel this way. In my search for more information, I found the work of James E. Katz . He’s a professor of communication at Rutgers’ School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, and he’s done a lot of research in this area. He notes:

Parents think they can reach kids any time they want, and thus are more indulgent of their children’s wanderings. Children exploit this longer leash, traveling farther afield and taking bigger risks. Not only are parents relinquishing direct supervision of their children, tech-savvy kids are finding all kinds of ways to use wireless technology as a kind of parent filter. The standard excuse of choice among the sneaking-home-after-midnight set, “My car ran out of gas,” is being replaced by, “My cell phone battery went dead.

Uh ohback to square one! What do you make of all of this?


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