As Michael starts middle school in the fall (GULP) – I am faced with the unpleasant realization that we are entering into “tween” territory. Among many other choices on the horizon, I have to decide whether or not to get my prepubescent child a cell phone.
I absolutely love the telephone. If I could make out with anyone in history it would be Alexander Graham Bell. I spent my entire teenage years calling people on something in Connecticut we called “Total Phone” which was basically call-waiting. I used *69 like a boss throughout my highschool years. I used payphones regularly. I even gave out payphone numbers at the beach where we stayed in the summer and would leisurely ride my bike to payphones and casually accept phone calls at an agreed-upon time from boys I was “talking to.”
By the way, when you were “talking to” a boy – that meant there was a boy that you liked, and instead of actually going on dates – you just talked to him on the telephone….for hours. My mother (who also enjoyed talking on the “total phone”) could be found in our kitchen regularly walking around, cooking, watching dishes, and watching Days of Our Lives with a long curly telephone cord trailing behind her. We would walk into the kitchen and have to duck under the cord to get to where we were going and would stand by her side patiently waiting to tell her something, as we had strict instructions not to disturb her while she was on the phone. When my phone calls started to interrupt her too much, she installed a new telephone line in our house with my own telephone number so that I could talk for hours without disturbing her. I would talk and talk and talk to my girlfriends and boyfriends without ever wanting to hang up….
So when my child, that is going into middle school requests a telephone – I totally get it. However, it’s just not the same as it used to be. Nobody actually speaks on the phone anymore….and it’s also connected to the world-wide web.
On one hand, he will be riding his bike to school, and I would like him to be able to reach me if he needs to. My overbearing mother side imagines him huddled under a tree in a rain storm, or popping a tire and needing a repair, or crashing his bike into a stone wall and needing stitches (it’s happened – click here) or the worst case scenario –
getting captured by ISIS like the guy in Homeland, being kidnapped.
I hear soooo many stories about the trouble that kids get into with their cell phones and social media – that I am torn.
Michael, just last year in the 4th grade, got in big trouble at school for using inappropriate emoticons. Yes – you heard me correctly “inappropriate use of emoticons in school.” Apparently, in the library, the kids had access to a messaging system that included all of the Apple emoticons that we know and love. My precious angel decided to message a girl in his class – telling her via emojis that she was a “pig” and that she smelled like “a pile of poop.”
I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal. However, the girl’s mother
a feminist lunatic a woman concerned with her child’s body image – felt that the poop and pig emoji’s were an assault on her child’s self-image as a woman.
“I think that that the pig and poop emojis are just irrestible to boys,” I whispered to Mr. Gaga after we yelled at Michael and sent him to his room. “I mean – in the 80’s I would have just written out on a piece of paper “You are a loser and a whore and I hate you.” and folded it up into a perfect triangle and pushed it with my foot to the desk next to me…what’s the difference?”
Mr. Gaga rolled his eyes – as he often does – and we moved forward. However, I stored this little episode away in the corners of my mind.
Can a tween boy really be trusted with social media if he cannot be trusted with a simple fake symbol of poop? Probably not.
Does it help that his mother just bought him a new beach float and clearly does not acknowledge appropriate use of certain offensive emojis?? Probably not.
I am in a work environment where I meet new people daily and we chit-chat about motherhood. Once I reveal to my new friend/client that my child is entering into middle school I am flooded with stories revolving around how social media and cellular technology can swiftly destroy children and family life.
Recently, one mother told me a story about how her 6th grade girl had friends that sent”nudes” to boys on “snapchat.” Bad enough that small children are misguided and troubled enough to do such a thing – but there’s the recipients (small pre-teen innocent boys) that are the ones that get into big trouble. The boys receive said “nudes” and happily share them with friends, and then are in danger of being arrested for child pornography.
“Well do they just send pictures of themselves in a bikini?” I asked this mother naively.
“NO! They are naked!” she insisted.
“OH! So they send pictures of their boobs?” I asked with utter horror.
“Yes ….and sometimes their vaginas.” she whispered.
Let me just reflect for a minute on what kind of pictures I would send my friend when I was a mere 11 years old in the 6th fucking grade.
I can tell you right off the bat – I was into my looks – so for sure – if I was having a good hair day – I would definitely document that and send that shit out for the world to see…
And then of course I have a shoe obsession – so in the 80’s I had some pretty cute shoes that I would be sure to send a pic of…
I am painting myself to be a pretty cool 6th grader – but if I am being honest – I cannot be one hundred percent sure that I might not have even posted a photo of my best friend at that time….
No matter what – I sure as hell would NOT be taking a picture of my fucking vagina! I didn’t even want anyone to know that I wore a bra at that time in my life. There’s no way I would take a racy picture and send it to my classmates.
After talking with that enlightened client – I burned rubber all the way home to have a talk with my son.
“You cannot have a phone when you go to middle school.” I broke the news as gently as possible.
“Why not?? Everyone has one!” he pled.
“Well because your classmates will be doing inappropriate things with their phone and I am trying to protect you.” I answered soundly.
“Mom, it’s fine!” he argued, “I won’t do anything wrong.”
“It’s not just you that I am worried about. If you have a phone next year – what will happen is that you will download some app – like Snapfish – and then one of the girls in your class, let’s just say (insert future slut’s name here) will inevitably send you a picture of her boobs.” I said gravely.
He stared blankly. “She will?” he asked with the horrified innocence of a 10 year old.
“Yes. Yes she will. And what will you do when you open your phone one day and see a boob?” I asked expectantly.
“Mom – if I open my Snapfish app and see a boob – I will delete Snapfish and throw my phone in the garbage!” he answered seriously.
I realized in that moment that my little 10-year-old is truly not interested in the least, in seeing a boob at this time in his life.
“Well, Michael, at some point you might like seeing the boob – and then if you show anyone …..anyone at all…even your brother….you will be arrested and thrown into the nearest jail.”
“I won’t do that!” he insisted.
I stared into his eyes. I believed him…..
For a second.
But then I snapped out of it.
Images of teen boobs and my child in a jail cell floated in my head.
“You are not getting you a phone.”
I have made my decision…..
I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM DOING – BUT I THINK I AM MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE?? FEEL FREE TO GIVE ME ADVICE IN THE COMMENTS…..XO, LADY GOO GOO GAGA