Why one mom isn't getting her daughter a cell phone – yet

By Jeni Marinucci on July 29, 2013
My daughter is a good candidate for a cell phone: she walks home from school, and she often babysits her younger brother. At 12, she is old enough for the responsibility of a phone and I have no doubt she’d take proper care of it. She wants a cell phone desperately for many reasons, not the least of which is because “everybody has one!” But she is not everyone, and I am making her wait.

I didn’t have a cell phone when I was a child, and somehow I lived to see the day when I could deny her one. But my reasons for not getting her a phone aren’t just rooted in the “I didn’t have one, so neither shall you” argument. If I employed that logic, she also wouldn’t get braces or love notes in her lunchbox.

I truly believe – for now at least – that she is better off without one.

I’m not opposed to her owning a cell phone ever. But I want her to first be comfortable asking people – not machines – for assistance. I want her to be able to get change from a clerk to make a phone call. I want her to be able to fi nd her way using a paper map or bus schedule. These things are palpable and real, and I want her to know the feel of paper in her hands. I want tangible things to assist her with solving problems. I want people and quarters and bus schedules guiding her, not “Siri.” Technology isn’t going anywhere, but I want her to trust herself and the world around her before she turns to an electronic box for all the answers.

I want my daughter to think about her words before they live forever as a text message or tweet. I want her to trust her intuition. I want her to get lost sometimes and then fi nd her way because she made connections with real people, not because her fi ngers made a connection with a touch screen.

I want her to grow up understanding how to solve a problem without Google or advice from Facebook.

I’ve also explained to her my fears that a cell phone will contribute to the loss of serendipity in her world. “SerenWHAT?” she asks.

Serendipity, I tell her. It’s the pure joy arising from a completely unexpected meeting or encounter. It’s when things just come together without outside influence. It’s a matter of being in the right place, at the right time, without planning first. It can’t happen with interference from text, email, instant message, or tweet.

She says she thinks she understands. “Is it like last summer, when I was walking home and saw all my friends at the park?”

The kids pooled their money and bought ice cream sundaes.

“That was the best day,” she concedes. “Everything just sort of fell into place.”

“Yes,” I tell her. “That’s exactly what it is.”

It was serendipity and sundaes all around, and no one makes an app for that.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2013.

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