Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Phones Are Coming

We ordered smartphones for our daughters this week.

One of them has reached a point where it's impacting her social life because the native language of her friends is now texting and she is out of the loop in being able to coordinate with them outside of school if she wants to.

The other one doesn't actually want one still, but she'll be 18 this year, and we need to get her moving toward adult accessories like a driver's license (which she is dragging her feet on) and a credit card, and the phone fits in with that. Besides, she has had one too many incidents recently where she was supposed to meet us somewhere and botched it, and being able to call her would have been useful.

So we got to 15 and 17 in terms of no cell phones, which in this day and age is fairly unheard of. I still don't plan to get one as long as I can borrow my husband's spare Army phone when I need to. The 12 year old I don't foresee needing one until high school and then we'll see if it's really necessary.

I'm thinking we may be the only parents around handing our teenage daughter a phone with the express purpose of hoping she will text friends on it. It has relatively nothing to do with emergencies or communicating with us in my mind. I just don't want her out of step with her peers if having a cell phone could make high school in any way more bearable as she plods through it on her way toward art school.

While deciding what phones to get, we had an interesting discussion in our kitchen about how they physically feel. I think part of my aversion to cell phones and touch screens in general is I can feel a vague zap under my fingertips when using them. I really don't like it. Turns out my girls experience that same sensation when using touch screens and they don't like it either. My son and my husband feel no such electrical tingling in their fingers when they use them. I wonder what that's about. (It reminds me a little of how back in the days of TVs with cathode ray tubes I could hear one if it was on, even if the volume was off. I hated that sound.)

At some point I will need a cell phone myself, since giving my daughters a way to call me if there is nothing to connect with is silly. I'm hoping to hold out for another year, but it's hard to know. Since apparently in a week or so the majority of people in our house will have cell phones for the first time, and that could change things regardless of what I would prefer.

In any case, this will be an interesting transition. I'm glad my kids have developed skills apart from cell phones over such a long time. I hope they don't get sucked in so far that they become phone zombies like the ones we see all around us everywhere we go. They say they want to actively avoid that, and I believe them. So we'll see.


  1. For very-basic texting and calling, you can still get a flip phone: no touch screen, reduced phone zombie potential - so that might be an option for you to be on the "receiving" end of contact? You can also get prepaid plans with them; our "second household cell phone" costs literally $115/year (all fees and taxes included) - but we basically only use it for between-spouse texting [from grocery store: "do we need zucchini?", going-to-be-late, etc.] so we never use up the minutes and they're gradually accumulating. Our flip phone doesn't work with group text (can receive, can't send-all) and doesn't receive emojis, but for plain-text texting (or phone calls, or alarm-clock needs), it works well.

    1. Well, we're mostly getting them as a way for my middle child to be able to text friends and do things with them in the way most kids want to. She needs a way to fit in, and this will help. Otherwise we don't have an actual need for them. But surviving ninth grade socially? That's worth it.

    2. Right, I was thinking of a flip phone as the "for you at some point" option, so they can contact you more easily. (but smartphones have GPS options, and some might earn their keep just from that! It's just that sometimes people forget that flip phones are in fact still an option, and they are, and that eliminates a lot of the screen-staring if they're sufficient for your needs - but they likely wouldn't be sufficient for a teen's communication needs because emoji use is Necessary in most circles?)

      And yes, totally worth it! Ugh, teenage socialization... I hope she can get by with texting for the social necessities and can dodge some of the more toxic (bullying, image culture, etc.) platforms where central socializing sometimes occur; it seems like if you want to be in the loop as a teen, you have to acquiesce to some degree to other peoples' socializing terms, though (whether that's spending money on hot chocolate and hash browns at IHOP instead of hanging out in parks or the mall for free, or being on a specific platform). Texting: probably not more of a problem than phone calls, except from the stimulation/addiction/distraction point of view. Some other options, esp. social media-wise: more hazardous.

      Hope all goes really, really well!

    3. I think at this stage if I were to get a phone I would get one based on the camera. A lot of the phone cameras at this point have surpassed regular little digital cameras. I'd just have to figure out a whole different way of getting them onto my laptop.

  2. Replies
    1. I get too much credit for having good kids.

  3. You can always turn off the "haptics" function so nothing vibrates when you touch the screen.