My teen daughter has marked a key milestone in her young life. Among “coming of age” moments, it’s right up there with sweet 16, learning to drive, and being able to vote.
She got a cellphone.
Big whup, you say? When you’re almost 14, and going into ‘real’ high school, having a phone is huge.
That’s not why I agreed to it, though. There had to be more justification for a personal phone than just the Grade 9 coolness factor.
I agonized over it. The advantages were clear. We could get hold of our daughter whenever necessary, without having to chase around for friends’ numbers. If she needed a ride, or a pick-up time had changed, she could let us know. And, if she was in a situation in which parental aid and extraction were required, she could call without having to ask someone for a phone.
And then there were the downsides …
Cost, of course, but that’s pretty minimal if the plan is limited.
The bigger objection was the danger of turning my kid into a version of the teen texting zombies – the kids who hang around, constantly looking at their phones, thumbing away obsessively. I think if they were forcibly separated from their phones, they might go into spasms, or enter a catatonic state.
And then there’s the extension of the whole social networking thing. We struggled mightily against Facebook. At one point, I would rather have had a nuclear radiation leak in my house than Facebook. But the concept eventually became part of my work life, and I succumbed to the great brain drain.
So, anyway, I initially thought a standard phone would suffice. After all, I just wanted to be able to call her, and vice versa. Just a simple flip-phone would be fine.
Teen response: Blank look through half-lowered eyelids.
She was envisioning a BlastedBerry.
OK, maybe I’d consider that. But no data plan.
Frantic wail: “But what’s the point of having a Blightberry if you don’t have Internet?”
The phone salesman was helpful. He could supply a free BonkBerry, and an inexpensive plan that just provided talking, and texting.
How about a plan with no texting?
Limited texting, then.
The salesman pointed out that kids will text her, regardless of the limit, and then we’d have to remortgage the house.
OK. This would have to be solved via my finely honed parenting skills, and carefully chosen diplomatic language that has brought us this far through early teenhood with great success.
“Abuse this phone, and it is gone. Exceed your phone minutes, or start incessant texting, and you will get a little plastic walkie-talkie.”
She understands that sometimes, victories are measured in degrees.
So, after some further subtle negotiation, we exited with a DingleBerry, a limited phone plan, and an appreciative, pleased teen who, I noticed the other day as we were walking together through the mall, was holding her precious phone in her hand.
I broke into a cold sweat.
Mind you, yesterday at the office, I got a text.
“Hey dad, when r u gonna B home?”
It had a nice ring to it, so to speak.
Andrew Holota is editor of the Abbotsford News, a Black Press affiliate.