C is for Cell phones

By Janice Biehn, Editor of ParentsCanada on November 05, 2012

Teenagers communicate in entirely different ways than I did when I was a teenager. I can remember the lucky friends I knew who had their own phone lines in their rockin’ basement rec room. That was cutting edge. Not so for my brothers and I. Everyone’s phone calls were everyone’s business.

My kids and their friends hardly ever use the phone to speak to each other. Even their cell phone is rarely spoken into unless my husband or I – gasp – phone them. (Sometimes I’m too tired to text.) As a result, we often have no clue with whom (or when) they are communicating.

Is this a problem? Not really, because I pester my kids all the time: who are you texting now? What do they want? What are you telling them? Go to bed! They love it.

We resisted buying cell phones for our children as long as we could, eventually caving when their choice of middle school took required they take public transit on their own. But I know plenty of parents who have waited longer than that, and I applaud you.

Why did we resist? For one, the cost. It’s expensive. Everyone knows someone who has been slammed with a teen’s triple-digit phone bill that magically includes roaming charges and data fees that were never parent-approved. Second, the responsibility. Both my husband and I have lost or damaged our cell phones, and my husband’s has been stolen more than once.

But there are more subtle things at work here. Cell phones can give you a false sense of security. Your teen is out at a party and you try to reach her and she’s not answering. Why isn’t she answering? Is she laying in a ditch somewhere? The mind reels.

Conversely, cell phones have conditioned our teens to check in with us constantly. Do we really need to know their whereabouts every single second? My parents certainly didn’t know my every move (on the other hand, they did know who I was talking to…)

We have had to create some basic rules about cell phone usage:

• Never at the dinner table (for that matter, any dinner table, including a friend’s house or a restaurant. It’s just rude.)

• Never while driving (my 16-year-old has started driver’s ed).

• They laughed when I suggested they shouldn’t text while walking (teens think they are invincible), but agreed that not texting while crossing the street made sense.

• And NEVER use it to take or send photos that you wouldn’t want us to see.

That, to me, is about as basic as their cell phone plan.


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