I will confess. I am one of those people who spend an insane amount of time on my Blackberry every day. Ask my editor; I took her out to lunch and she practically had to pry it out of my hands so I could eat my meal. While it started as a business tool, I use it now for everything from the grocery list, to managing a hockey team, to the family calendar, and, just in case my boss is reading this, I definitely use it for work. Definitely work most of all. Some nights, my thumbs hurt. I have become techno-mom.
However, I think that I am, for the most part, still able to communicate with my fellow mankind without this aid, when the circumstances require it. I spent the first 40 years of my life without the ability to text anyone, and if necessary could give it all up.
Our kids are not so lucky. They have grown up with parents who could reach each other on cell phones from the time they understood what any type of phone was. Fisher Price put the first mock cell phone in their hands, and they’ve never looked back. I recall the horror my husband, The Rational One, showed when I gave our grade seven aged son a cell phone, rationalizing that he would be travelling to and from school on the TTC and ‘needed’ one.
“What if he needs help?” I explained to him, “he’ll be able to call us.” The Rational One snorted at me. “What? He can’t yell HELP and run like the rest of us? Technology in the hands of a kid that age is a bad idea,” he warned. I try not to say this very often, but he may be right.
The teenager’s reliance on these devices was never more apparent to me than when, in a moment of Dr. Phil-type discipline last week, I decided he would have to do without his cell phone for a day. It was the consequence (or to use old school terminology, his punishment) for displaying a total lack of respect toward his brother. You would think, however, I had suggested he give up food for a week. His eyes reflected the panic of a deer on the opening day of hunting season. He sputtered, he stammered, “But, but, but…Mom! You can’t! How will I find my friends at lunch?”
Hmmm, I thought. How will he find his friends at lunch? Then I gave my head a severe shake and got a grip. Innocently, I suggested “Perhaps you could make your arrangements before classes start, as to where you’ll be eating today?”
“What?” he screamed. Apparently in high school, it is totally uncool to speak of anything in advance of it happening. Planning, for instance, is uncool. Being in the moment is all that matters. One must only do things as they are BBM’ed, otherwise you might look desperate.
Okay. My second suggestion to just wander down to the lunch area and find his friends was greeted with similar outrage. There is no wandering around in high school either. One must travel with purpose, in a pack of identically clothed friends, appearing nonchalant and unconcerned; while concurrently BBM’ing about what else might be happening in other places with other identically clothed friends.
I tried a third suggestion, which I thought was obvious – just look around to find your friends. I was summarily rejected again and was out of suggestions. He would just have to figure it out. Dr. Phil and I were standing firm — the Blackberry was suspended for the day. I respectfully submitted that every time he thought about texting that day, and discovered his device missing, he should remember that he also needed to treat his sibling with respect.
Horrified and defeated, he headed out the door to Day Three of high school, techno-naked. I’m sure he had some choice words about me to share with his pals. I felt a little sick about it, and marginally hypocritical. Clearly my own techno-addictions had started him down this path. Perhaps The Rational One had been right all along. Technology in the hands of teenagers is bad, bad, bad.
The good news is the message (not a text message) got through to him, and our teenager did show a great improvement, in the days following, in his behaviour toward his brother. Life without his Blackberry was painful enough to create behaviour change. It turns out, Dr. Phil’s advice on how to address teenage issues was quite sound. I really should text him and tell him so.
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Love your columns!!