High-wired kids: do they really need to be connected?

There’s a great article in the January issue of Colorado Parent magazine that addresses the question: Are mom’s too wired? For those of you from my generation and older, this doesn’t mean wired as in “keyed up or hyper”. This “wired” means being connected to the cell phone, internet, and social media (much of which can be handled ON one’s phone).

This got me thinking about our kids and their desires to be connected via cell phones and social networking such as Twitter and Facebook.

Each of our kids has asked (begged) for a cell phone at some point or another so we thought it through and came up with these criteria:

  1. You can have a cell phone if you have legitimate (not social) reasons, such as you are going to be at an after school sport, taking public transportation or walking home on a regular basis and there’s no other source of a phone nearby.
  2. You pay for half the monthly service on it (we found a good deal with unlimited calls so we don’t get a scary bill).
  3. It doesn’t interfere with school, homework, sleep, physical activity or being social with your family.

We gave in pretty easily with the two older kids, motivated primarily by situations like Columbine when the kids would need to reach me to say they were in danger. Of course, I didn’t tell them that since it was a classic Mom-being-an-overprotective-ninny thing to say. Totally legitimate though! The older two respected the criteria pretty well, primarily because neither texting nor the internet on cell phones existed at that point. Now that they do exist, it’s a whole new ballgame.

The younger two kids are now in middle school with Grace heading off to high school next year. She has been pleading her case on behalf of herself and her brother who, she says, could somehow share the phone. Her argument is that there have been occasions when she has needed to reach me and couldn’t use the school office phone. But I read between the lines and hear the real truth:  “Everyone else has a cell phone. Why can’t I?”

Why do 12 and 13-year-olds (and younger) need cell phones? Are they away from any source of a phone that much of their lives? Probably not. They just want to be able to text each other during class (and every other minute of the day), talk to each other in private, surf the web for all sorts of bad stuff, I’m just sure, and otherwise, just be part of the crowd.  I get it, but I don’t like it and I won’t give in. So as long as there is no major and valid reason for my younger two to have a cell phone, we’ll hold off.

As for social media, the appeal of that seems to be taking care of itself without my help. My kids hear about prospective colleges and bosses checking people out on these sites to get a real indication of what they are all about. Plus, some of their peers and even teachers have been bullied via social media. They don’t want to open themselves up to that. For now, we’re safe, even though my kids are sure they are the only middle schoolers on the face of the earth without Twitter and Facebook accounts. Fine by me.

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