Cell Phone Part Deux
I have had multiple inquiries regarding my article on whether we decided to purchase a cell phone for our 15 year old. It’s usually presented to me with eager anticipation and the lead in of “well…….what did you decide?” The answer is a resounding….not yet.
I have had varied responses from “good for you” to “wow, I can’t believe you haven’t yet, he needs one”. I get my feathers a little ruffled with the idea that a teenage boy who doesn’t have his drivers license ‘needs’ fluff such as a phone. He needs to eat (a lot!). He needs a home. He needs his parents. He needs to play and he needs to form his intellect with Truth. He needs to go to Mass. That is the extent of what he truly needs. Everything else is simply a nice add-on.
I stood in the parking lot today talking to one of my many inquisitors, debating the merits of a cell phone: Yes, another instance of leaving him at work may happen. Yes, that was my responsibility, but that was a cause of my neglectful parenting (and didn’t hurt him, incidentally) not because he didn’t have a phone. He could have called us, surely, but we still would have been late because we forgot, plain and simple. We survived quite well for centuries without a moblie phone, I see no need to be overly concerned about one now. Or, as another parent who has the same outlook as we do said recently in response to her daughter’s cries of how she was the ‘only one!’ of her peers that did not own a phone: “Good, that means if there is ever a need, you can easily borrow theirs to get ahold of me”.
A teenage boy, any soul, really, should have a strong sense of who he is before he can present himself to the world as an intelligent force. He should have ample opportunity to play, read, relax, build, and form his imagination before it is stunted at the expense of technology. She needs to be able to make mistakes and correct them before they become immortalized on social media. He should know how to create relationships before the phone so that he can understand the object’s place in his life. She should realize her worth is not placed on the amount of likes or virtual friends she accumulates or how awesome she can filter her selfie pose. True human formation is vital and necessary and one should be taught that a phone is to be treated for what it is: a handy accessory, not a vital necessity.
Now, whether we are there yet with this young son of mine is the real question for us as his parents. I tend to believe we are teetering on the precipice of all the above-mentioned values and formation. Yet, as with his brothers (and, truthfully, his parents) he will struggle with becoming addicted to the ease of communication and information, elevating the phone to the status of necessity. I see his older brothers with the wear marks on jeans from the phone sliding in and out constantly. I watch how effortlessly the phone is mastered almost as if it is a secondary appendage. I observe how, when the ping goes off, his conditioned response is to immediately see who it is, like Pavolv’s dog salivating for food. It doesn’t so much infuriate me as make me pity the state of our culture.
If holding off even one more day through the begging and cajoling for a mobile phone assists in the formation of my son’s heart, than I will have done a better job with him than I could have hoped and the frustration quite worth it. I hate to think that we’ve put ourselves in a stage of culture that merits a phone on the same level as clothing and food when the very fabric of true heritage and history is being eroded at alarming speed. Give a kid a chance to be a kid without the electronic babysitter. Give her a childhood worth inheriting and she will know where she belongs when she is ready to make her mark on the world.