Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Trouble with Texting Teenagers

I love everything about technology except how it's passing me by. As a proud member of Generation X, I tend to embrace all things pop culture including social media. Yet, interestingly enough, I am also intensely loyal. So while I was the first to sign up for a smart phone I’m still toting around a six year old Blackberry.

In other words, I’m super proficient in outdated technology.

Even as a child I would have wanted a cell phone. Especially when my parents forgot to pick me up after Girl Scout Troop 989’s cookie rally. But back then parents
didn’t give kids cell phones, they gave them quarters. Sadly for me I couldn’t
locate a payphone and so I sat abandoned, forlorn, fingering my worthless
twenty-five cents.

This will never happen to my kids because they have their own phones. Quarters, of
course, would be a much cheaper albeit unrealistic option.

Funny thing about cell phones; teenagers don't use them to actually talk to people.
Communicate? Yes. But talk? Not so much. My kid, and every other kid with a
device, spends more time staring down at their screen than they do in actual,
real life conversation.

Think I’m exaggerating? My last cell phone bill said my kids sent over 10,000 texts
in one billing cycle. I’m starting to believe I could pick my kids out of a line up based on the tops of their heads alone.

I don’t know about you but this is not why I gave my kids a phone.

Believe it or not we have pretty stringent rules when it comes to cell phones. For instance, my kids know that the phone in their hands is actually mine. They cannot password protect it, they cannot bring it to the dinner table and they must turn it in every evening at bedtime. In addition, I reserve the right to confiscate it at anytime and they are not allowed to delete the phone’s

Admittedly, this last rule has been quite difficult to enforce since their thumbs move faster than the speed of lightening. By the time I say, “Hand over your phone” they have, in two swift motions, performed some cell phone voodoo so that when they hand me the phone it is wiped pretty clean.

Tricky rascals.

Did I mention my kids don’t have smart phones? If all that time and effort is solely
focused on texting can you imagine if they had the ability to tweet, poke, post
and SnapChat? I might never see their pupils again.

When I was a kid, my friends had to ring my house and risk my dad answering the
phone. It was humiliating. And it was good for me.  Call me old school but
I don’t want my daughter’s dates to bypass me. I want to meet them, talk to
them and generally scare the crap out of them. I can only hope my sons’ date’s
fathers would do the same.

Listen, if you don’t have kids you’re probably not concerned with who’s poking who or how many likes and retweets are happening out there. But parents, our kids
care. They care very much. Kids today are being affirmed by how many contacts,
friends and followers they can garner.

It’s as if sometime between giving my kid a cell phone for security reasons and today, 
their devices have turned into a worthiness odometer.

Parenting is tough. Parenting a kid who’s more technologically connected than I will ever even be able to comprehend is inconceivable.

All I know is that I resolve to figure it out. Even if that means cutting back to a
pay-as-you go plan. However it would be just my luck that their minutes would
run out the one time I'm running late. They would be left in some dark and
abandoned lot, quarterless and forgotten and I'll regret not sticking with the
unlimited plan. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!

Stephanie is a mother to five children who dreams of upgrading her cell phone. She is a
parent educator for the Monmouth-Roseville Tiny Titan preschool program. She
can be reached for questions or comment at

Q. Without turning into a phone nazi how much more can I keep my kids safe and teach them what is and isn't unrealistic usage of their phones? Seriously...I'm asking here! Your comments are welcomed...

Also, check out this TED talk for a great message about being connected but also alone by Sherry Turkle:

p.s. sharing is caring! If you enjoyed feel free to pin, tweet, or share. If you're reading this you use social media responsibly. :)

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