Kids and cellphones. It drives me crazy. I work with someone who literally bought their two-year-old an iPhone. No, I’m not kidding. I am being completely serious. I didn’t have a cell until a couple of years ago. It just wasn’t a need of mine. When it became a need, I went and got one. But a little kid? Call me crazy, but when you are too young to be left alone for a second, when you are chauffeured around to every destination, go no places on your own, you have no need to be reachable at all hours and in any locale. And besides, the only person who should need that type of contact with you at that age had better be a parent, and aren’t you with one of them?
Read: “No, Evan, you CANNOT have a cell phone!”
I did, however, let him have a Facebook account and email, with the password known to me and the username set as the email address, so every stinkin’ time he gets a like, a comment, a message, a friend request, I know about it. It’s a pain for me, as my phone vibrates non-stop almost, but it is necessary to keep him safe from himself and from others who prey on kids. And as a result of these other internet uses, he inherited an old smartphone of ours that no longer has service. He could still use the wi-fi functionality at home to email his new friends. (A long story that will have to be told at another time.)
So this has been going on for some time now. Fast forward to now. Well, to a couple of days ago. He is currently at his grandfather’s house for his annual summer visit, when he gets to fly planes and boat and jet-ski to his heart’s content. See evidence here:So this past Saturday, he calls. John answers the phone. I can hear the worry in John’s voice. He’s asking what is wrong. Then I see John roll his eyes, say, “Oh my God, talk to your mother!” as he thrusts the phone at me. Evan is completely hysterical. I can barely understand him. I get him calmed down and then it starts to become clearer: the phone he was using–my old one–finally bit the dust. He is 4 hours away. He cannot email his friends or anything, and he is going to be down there for awhile due to some health issues John is having. (Oh my GOD, that makes it sound like John has the plague–he doesn’t. You’ll understand later.) I assure him we will find a solution, hang up the phone and go to work on this little issue.
I could do any of the following:
A. An iPod Touch. It has wi-fi and messaging capabilities. Maybe Grandpa could take Evan to get one and I could reimburse him. Nope, they’re too expensive, so I can’t ask someone to do that for us.
B. Send Grandpa to get Evan a cheap pre-paid cell and reimburse him for that. Ehhh. Wouldn’t that give Evan a long-distance phone number?
C. Call our cell carrier and see if they can sell me a cheap smartphone to have shipped down there to Evan. Hmmmm. And that is when it happened.
They tell me that I have a family plan, and that if I add a line, they are giving away free iPhone 4S’s.
And that, since we have unlimited talk and text, Evan could call and text however much he liked and it wouldn’t run up our bill.
And that they have this service called Smart Limits that allows us, as his parents, to limit what he is allowed to do on his line. For example, he would only be able to make purchases with a credit card and not simply by billing to the cell bill. We could limit who he calls, who calls him, how much data he can use (the other sure-fire way for me to one day get a $800 cell bill in the mail!).
Triple Shit. Evan got a cell phone.
An iPhone at that. Which may have been free to me, but is still a $500 phone. And I don’t think it was a bad decision. He’s starting middle school in the fall. He’s still a little awkward, but he’s blossoming socially. He’s making friends. Just before he left, he was outside playing with some friends and lost track of time because nobody wears a watch anymore and none of the kids had phones. He’s getting to the age where he will be old enough to drop off at the mall to hang with friends or be permitted to have a house key and let himself in after school. Not quite yet, but soon. It was time.
Of course, he could completely make a fool out of me. I wired money down to him with orders that, as soon as the phone arrives, he is to take it the local AT&T store and buy an OtterBox for the damned thing. This will minimize the chance that it will be destroyed on accident. Given how badly he has begged me for this for a couple of years, it isn’t likely that he will destroy it on purpose. And the smart peeps at the phone company have limited his ability to drive me to financial ruin with the thing. So I have moved forward with calculated risk.
And besides, he is growing. How is he going to prove he can be responsible without the opportunity to prove it?