THE BLOG

Errant Tween Phone Home

06/29/2015 04:39 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

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My wife and I have succumbed.

My son got a phone last week.

Given my previous post questioning the wisdom of graduating elementary school (Graduation Degradation), I awkwardly acknowledge the phone was a graduation present.

Well, it was more a concession to the wave of pressure caused by other parents capitulating ahead of us.

One of the other mothers had briefly tried to resist the surge of expectation that the kids would get a phone for graduation. Her effort to organize the parents came to naught.

Her fall back plan was to give her daughter an old flip phone, but when I spoke to her after the graduation the daughter had a brand new iPhone 6. The mother noted it was better than her own phone. This would have been the perfect moment for Siri to offer the definition of the word vanquished. But Siri has no sense of humor.

My son got his mother's old iPhone 5. Complete with a watermark on the screen. It is actually a wine reduction but he is still too young to get that joke.

I don't subscribe to the argument that children need mobile phones for emergencies. Anyone reading this probably got by without them. They need them to be part of the social scene. Kids organize everything on the phone. Moving to New York hasn't been easy for my boy, so it was reassuring to witness him being involved in the social plans.

We have reserved the right to look at his texts, which provides us with real information for lessons in appropriate social interaction. Like any technology it can cut both ways but so far so good. He hasn't been bullied or cast out of any group chats.

I had to set the phone up on the Family Share with which we control his purchases and he can share our apps and music. After sending the kids to bed at 8:30 I sat at the computer and set everything up.

First, I had to do a little housekeeping.

I changed his four-digit PIN; 0000 is more of a passport than a password. I noticed he had misspelt Mum in his contacts. I corrected that. Apparently he had two dads with remarkably similar phone numbers. My wife and I are upending traditional gender roles but I draw the line at female-lead polygamy. So I deleted the Dad with the other number.

When I put the phone down the buzzing started. Text after text came in. So much vibration I was worried the phone was going to etch its imprint into the table top. I couldn't resist glancing at some of them. Any juicy morsels of gossip were well hidden in the digital detritus. It was a pointless stream of emoticons, acronyms and greetings.

The next day I was relieved to discover that at least one of the girls at school was desperately trying to get out of the group they had made for all members of the class. Then someone else made another group and the torture started again.

Two of our rules are;

  1. No phone in your bedroom.
  2. No using the phone after 8:00 p.m.

As the texts kept flooding in until after 9:30, I allowed myself the satisfaction of being, at least in this rare case, on top of my child's behavior.

Case in point, I'd let bedtime slip over the last week and the kids were getting a little ratty which is why they were all in bed by 8:30. They were all a sleep within 15 minutes. Trouble is my son got up and started texting before 6:00 a.m., which woke some other boys.

"R U awake?"

"am now"

The last app I synced to his phone was Nike+ Running. Keeping the kids off screens is a constant battle so part of the phone deal was to run his age in kilometers every week.

The aerobic obligation was going to be measured in miles but that seemed archaic; the use of miles that is. Given his history of complaining bitterly after running a tenth of a mile, multiplying that one hundredfold was quite a few steps too far.

Children can't create a Nike+ profile, which is ironic as it is just the sort of health-centered social media engagement that should be encouraged, but they can still use the app to track runs.

This morning was my son's first jog. He is behind the weekly schedule but he still resisted the idea. He even tried to turn a few spots of rain into Noah's flood. But after his lesson I relieved him of the burden of his trombone, opened the app, began a run, told him the scenic route, hopped in my car and drove off.

Lest I give the impression I gleefully left him in my dust, I will concede the ground was a little too damp for that.

After twenty-six minutes and 3.16 km (almost 2 miles) he came loping down our street, grimly trying to hide the fact he was quite pleased with himself.

Thirteen-minute miles! Either his journey was interrupted by a series of texts or he really does run like his Mum.