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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cellphones - The Modern Leash

Do cellphones increase kids independence or are we actually making them more dependent on us? Once upon a time ....

  • Johnny goes to a friend's house to play. (He probably even walks there!!!) Johnny and his friend had a fight, as kids often do. Once upon a time... the friend's parent would intervene to help resolve the problem if necessary. Often times today..., Johnny just whips out his mobile phone and calls his parents to come pick him up. The friend's parent probably isn't even aware of the problem, or the fact that Johnny is leaving.

  • Mary goes on an overnight trip from school. During the night she is scared and becomes anxious. Once upon a time... Mary would have approached an adult accompanying the trip, who would have addressed the problem only calling Mary's parents if absolutely necessary. These days.... Mary is much more likely to call home, even at 3:00am, to be comforted by her parents. The chaperons are not even aware that there is a problem because Mary calls from her personal phone without their knowledge.

Yes, mobile phones enable us to stay in constant touch with our kids. However, is using them as an electronic leash in their best interest? Aren't we making it harder for them to develop a sense of confidence and responsibility? In both of the very common scenarios above, wouldn't the child have benefited more from resolving the problem without parental intervention?

Another side effect of using the mobile phone as a leash is that we are absolving the adults caring for our children, whether it be parents of friends or chaperons on a trip, of their responsibilities towards our children!!!

There are two other interesting posts related to this from the Independent and CourierNews.

No technology in today's post, but some important food for thought. Please feel free to share your thoughts.

1 comment:

Michal said...

Funny that you use these particular anecdotes when using the leash metaphor. I would have though a leash would better be described by scenarios in which we parents have a quicker access to our child, than the other way around (e.g., once upon a time my mother would yell my brother's name every evening till the neighbor's baby's first word was his name; these days I can call my son on his cellular to tell him to come home...).
Kids having quick access to parents is indeed an interesting phenomenon, but I don't think it's related to the leash.
To expand on your anecdotes, I once heard of a kid who called her mom from school since she had a fight, and then she gave the phone to the friend with whom she fought, and her mother gave that girl an over-the-phone pep-talk...
I think the problem here, as well as with the kid who calls at 3:00am (and you know what?, even with the kid who calls his parents to come pick him up instead of walking back home) is a problem of boundaries, rather than technology.
While these two phenomena happen in the same age, they are not completely related, and the tendency to put children on a pedestal, not give them enough boundaries, not expect them to respect our own rights, is much more in the core of the issue, than technology.