My son Daniel is ten and not very responsible for taking care his things. We bought him a cool hat at the start of the school year...it got used in a school project and was never seen again. We have purchased cool shell necklaces, wallets to keep his money in, and lately a rather sharp pair of sunglasses. What did not get lost got sat on and utterly destroyed. So, as you can see, our son has a history of not being nice to his things...and we have had this discussion with him often. The last item to bite the dust were the sunglasses which became the last straw for us...no more accessories no matter how cool because they will not get taken care of. While this exasperates us, it's also probably totally normal for a boy of Daniels age.
However, his tendency to lose/destroy things is never far from my mind with I hear the question, "Dad...Can I have a cell phone?" To which I usually reply, "But Daniel, you just destroyed that pair of sunglasses we bought you that you SWORE you would take care of. There is no way I am buying you a hundred dollar phone your going to leave at school or step on when you leave it on the floor." That usually killed the conversation cold and Daniel would wait until he thought I didn't remember the last time before innocently sliding the request into conversation again. No way was Daniel getting a cell phone....no way, no how...never. If he did lose it or break it he would use all his minutes calling someone sitting on the opposite side of the room from him or butt dialing someone in Thailand.
The other day, as I was picking all the kids up at school, we rounded the corner onto the sidewalk to see two girls from Daniels class sitting on the front fence texting each other with brand new android phones. To which my silent thought was..."What the hell?!!!" I knew that at least one other student from Daniels class had a phone...if more kids had phones that the cell phone conversation was about to get a bit more difficult. An non-chalantly as I could manage I asked Daniel how many kids had phones in his class. To this he got very quiet and thought for a while. "At least five." he finally answered. "Oh", I thought...silently shocked. There are only about 20 kids in Daniels class..that's about a quarter of his class...and most of those kids are Daniels same age. "Are their parents crazy?", was my first thought...though I know it wasn't a particularly kind one.
I know that kids in Daniels class have had facebook pages for at least a year but I have not even considered that for Daniel because I know whats out there. Now..my private concern is that I am hampering Daniels social development by being what I think is a prudent parent. Ten is simply too young for cell phones and facebook....maybe in 8th grade...a very tiny, almost undetectable maybe. At that age they are walking to school on their own and going to after school events. Being independent means needing a link home and if it ties them to their friends...o.k. I can deal with that.
We are living in a different world than the one in which I grew up in. One in which people are connected in amazing ways that MOST of the time are positive and beneficial. For example, YouTube can be one of the best ways for young gay kids living in rural areas the ability to see something different about being gay than what awful things they may hear from their families....and things like the "It Gets Better Project" just may save a few lives. But, at the same time, rumors fly at electron speed...bullying now follows you home and creeps out through your computer screen....and very little of our personal information is safe from someone determined to exploit it. Those things are scary enough for adults to manage...its scarier to think that it's just one more dimension of modern life that we need to teach kids to watch out for.
In my heart I still believe that ten is too young to be swimming in the electronic ocean...the sharks are just too big and too many. But am I wrong? Is this just becoming the way things are? One day Daniel will have a cell phone and probably a collection of social media pages...all closely monitored by his parents....but that day is not today. I can't change what I feel is still the right decision just because "all the other kids are doing it." However, I know the day is coming when it will be time for Daniel to learn to swim in these waters and how to watch out for the sharks. "Always swim with a buddy" they say...When the time comes, I will be that buddy even long beyond when he thinks I have let him go alone.
Until next time dear readers....