On the first day of being connected and keeping your moments…

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Tali has a smartphone.

I got the iPhone 6 last Friday (which is a whole other post), which means that I handed my old phone to Sam, who in turn handed his iPhone 4 down to Tali. It was quite a ceremonial process as everyone cleaned out their phones, took off their own cases and then replaced them with new cases. There were probably angels singing somewhere.

But T hasn’t had the greatest history with phones so far.

We gave her a little flip phone in fourth grade to use for emergencies since I was working so much and we had a new babysitter. It only had six family members programmed in and other than those people, she couldn’t call out or receive calls, but it was lost after three months so we replaced it with a cheaper version. In fifth grade, the dog ate her phone. She paid for a replacement, but the phone was again lost for months, then found for half a second and then lost in the move in April. Long story short, even though many of her friends had phones in fifth grade, Tali wasn’t old enough for one. Even if it was just for emergencies.

But now in sixth grade, in middle school, EVERYONE has a phone. At first I thought she was exaggerating. But then I started doing my own parental poll and was surprised to find out that suddenly all of my friends had given their sixth graders phones, too. And the truth is, she does probably need one. (BTW, thanks to all of you strangers on the soccer field who have called on T’s behalf to ask me to bring her something she’s forgotten for practice!)

But as excited as she is for a smartphone (“OMG, now I don’t have to text my friends from your phone!”), I’m sad to see her enter the world of technology addiction sprinkled heavily with middle school peer pressure.

Many of her friends have Instagram accounts and over the past year, she has borrowed shared my account to see what her friends were up to. On my account, it meant that everything was very parentally supervised. But it also meant that suddenly she knew when she was being left out of an activity by a good friend.  She learned to obsessively selfie in all situations. Unfortunately, she learned duck face.

And even more unfortunately, she became a little less able to live in the moment.

I get this. Technology is an addiction, for sure. Outside of work situations, is it really necessary for me to always be in contact with everyone?  When I forget my phone or I’m completely out of power, I feel naked and actually quite vulnerable. What would happen if I needed to call someone? Do pay phones even exist anymore? But mostly, the safety concern is more of a justification. What if someone is texting me something funny and I can’t get at it right away?  I’ve become addicted to something that rarely serves a need. And my husband and teenager are in the same boat.

We have a family tradition of turning off our electronics every Friday evening for about 24 hours during Shabbat. It’s a really difficult task and sometimes the world steps in and interferes. But from the very second we do put the phones away, I feel this relief that all we have to focus on is in the room with us. We have our moments back. And adding one more data account to our family suddenly makes this weekly break feel even more necessary.

Though Tali is going to have to continue to wait for her own Instagram account and we’ve installed pretty strong parameters into our router (score one point for technology on the parents’ side!), the girl practically skipped out of the house with her phone this morning. Within moments of getting to the bus stop, I received texts packed with emoticon hearts and smiley faces. This is a big step toward independence and teen-dom, and I’m excited for her.

But I’m still going to do everything I can to keep her moments alive.

 

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