You Know You’re Making an Impact When…

Hi Readers! You know you’re making an impact when marketers start to try to make a buck off you, as did this one. A friend who runs a parenting magazine got this public relations pitch:

Dear _______:

There has been a lot of discussion about “free range parenting” — letting your kids wander to the park or take the subway alone to build independence. I’m wondering if you’re be interested in writing an article about how cell phone GPS locator services make it easier for parents to let go.

A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that 75% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 own a cell phone — and some 48% of parents use a cell phone to monitor their kid’s whereabouts.

On Tuesday, our company [I took out its name. I’m not giving them free publicity here!] will announce its latest cell phone Safety Plan for kids. In addition to other features, the plan offers unlimited online GPS locator services for parents. Would you be interested in speaking with a mom who relies on our company’s unlimited GPS locator services to make sure her 6th grade daughter is safe throughout the day? This parent perfectly illustrates the challenges faced by busy modern families. In an era where sending even 6th graders to the park without an adult can feel risky, GPS locator services are giving kids greater freedom and parents much-needed peace of mind.

Please let me know if you are interested in talking to our CEO and this parent. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi — Lenore here again. Grrrr! Only with kiddie GPS does a parent have ANY peace of mind? Otherwise, the mom is constantly worried that her 6th grader is in harm’s way? Otherwise, letting her 6th grader play in the park is too dangerous? And how does a GPS prevent anything “terrible” from happening, anyway, you fearmongerers out to make a buck?

I understand how Free-Rangers can embrace cell phones some times. My kids have them now and it’s helpful to connect, from time to time. But I am not tracking them throughout the day and I sure don’t think I need to that, for me to be a “good” parent or for them to be “safe.”

So no free publicity here, guys! Go stalk parents someplace else! — L.

84 Responses

  1. *shakes head and sticks it back in the sand*

    Good grief. LOL.

  2. I think cell phones are more of a curse than a blessing in general.

    I used to like it, when kids weren’t allowed to take their cell phones to school or to camp — but now they are allowed to, and my daughter takes hers because everybody else does.

    It noticeably made it harder for her to get through camp by herself, and it also made it harder for me — there I am sitting at home and getting information and having to deal with it from a distance (and without even knowing the whole story.). Know what I mean?

    (From what I know camp councellors don’t like it either, because it makes it harder for them, too)

    So long,
    Corinna

  3. That’s a fairly revolting attempt to turn free-range kids into a marketing opportunity, but I do think that mobile phones make a lot of parents happier about letting children go off unsupervised and that can only be a good thing.

    Whether the children are actually safer with mobile phones, or just more likely to be a target of mugging is a separate issue.

    My son is nine and goes to the park by himself. Only two other boys his age are allowed to do this and one of them has a mobile phone and communicates with his mother on it while at the park. So, it’s thank to this mobile phone that my son has a playmate. That’s a step in the right direction to getting more children out and about.

  4. The boy has been bugging me for a phone and i say no because i find an 8yo with a cell phone repugnant. I trust him to be where he says he will be, if i couldn’t trust him,he wouldn’t be going to the park without me. We’ve had lots if talks about the responsibility that comes with freedom. If he needs to talk to me he can come home. If he needs to check in to say he’s at a friends house, he has to put the parent on the phone, so he can use *their* phone. He can barely keep up with a sweater and i’m supposed to give him a cell phone? Puhleez. Maybe when he’s 10 but even that seems to early for a kid to have his own cell phone.

  5. In my opinion a child is old enough for a cell phone when they are old enough to pay for it themself

  6. Oh hysterical!!! In every sense of the word… why do people think we have to keep our children “under house arrest” in order for them to be safe… I just don’t want to live in my child’s pocket!!!

    I have two boys (11 and 13) doing a course at our cities (Cape Town) aquarium this week and at the end of the day my husband said he would meet them on the far side of the Waterfront because that was where he could find parking more easily and he thought they would enjoy the walk through this busy, fun shopping district packed with people and tourists etc. Well did I get a phone call from one of the parents to say didn’t I think it was totally unacceptable that our kids were allowed to “just wander off at the end of the day” and she wanted all the parents to sign a letter to say our kids had to stay indoors with a security guard until their adults arrived… So I mentioned that we thought it was a fantastic opportunity for our guys to have a half hour explore on their own and stop and buy a snack and generally unwind after a day of hard work. My parenting name is M.U.D. She didn’t wait to hear the rest of my argument – most crimes happen within the home/family with people you know; there are many people the same age as my boys who are fighting in wars around the world; or raising younger siblings alone… I didn’t get a chance to say my piece for Free-Range Kids because before I got all my thoughts in a row she said: “I just don’t know why I called.” And then she hung up!!!

    Meanwhile safely at home with my younger kids who were all under adult supervision… an armed and very dangerous unsavory character tried to break into our property. It turned out fine, we have a great neighborhood watch who apprehended him but it could have been messy. It isn’t really adult intervention that makes your kids safe!!! A lot of terrible things can happen right under our watchful eyes.

  7. My kids have had cell phones since they were 13 and 15. Not so I could track them but so they could call me if their event let out early so I could pick them up.

    There is a certain peace of mind to being able to talk to your child when you need to. The operative word being need, but to track them using the GPS just stinks of I don’t trust my kid to be where they said they would be.

    Not sure if I would enjoy a world where I cannot trust my children’s judgement.

  8. it would seem that the marketer either does not understand the concept here or is trying to exploit the nagging fears parents have. Its a way of making over-protective parents feel like they are actually giving their kids freedom but not really.

    this is faux freerangeism.

  9. “I think cell phones are more of a curse than a blessing in general. ”

    I agree. What cell phones have done is allowed people to become unpredictable and unreliable about keeping appointments and schedules. Fifteen years ago if a bus was arriving back at a closed school after a sporting event, you knew it was going to be there at the stated time, not early, and not late unless there was an emergency, because there was no way of contacting parents for pickup if the time wasn’t as stated.

    Now, everyone has cell phones, so people can mess with other people’s schedules for any old reason, because you can always call and let them know. In fact, most of the time these things aren’t even pre-arranged; it’s “I’ll call when I need to be picked up.” And because of that, everyone HAS to have cell phones whether they want them or not, because everyone is constantly doing that to you.

    I appreciate the convenience cell phones provide given that unpredictability, but we’ve lost something in people being reliable and considerate of others with the convenience of just being able to call and change things, constantly.

    OTOH, I have a relative who was always doing this to people BEFORE the cell phone age, so at least she’s not making people nuts quite so much anymore — people are no longer showing up wondering why she isn’t meeting them when she said she’d be, or calling to “let them know” after they were already en route.

  10. The supposed “peace of mind” reminds me of a story in my local area about 15 years ago and how parents like to have “peace of mind” to feel they are in control when really they are not at all. It’s all about feeling that your kid is safe, the kid isn’t actually any safer. In 1993 there was a pre-teen girl in our area that was abducted, they found her body a short time later. Parents were freaked. A couple of weeks later another girl about the same age went missing. Her parents, fearful because of the first missing girl had bought her a device that made very loud sounds when activated. She was to push the button if anyone ever tried to grab her. She was walking to a friends and vanished, neighbors heard this horrible sound and found the device laying on the ground, they had no idea what it was and could not turn it off and it was so annoying that they buried it in the yard to get some peace. That girls body was later found also. The electronic device did not make the girl any safer just gave the parents “peace of mind”. The fact is the vast majority of kids sent out to play everyday come back at the end of the day, there is no technology that can prevent what happens to the very few unlucky ones. All you can do is play the odds.

  11. My 13 year old doesn’t have a cell phone yet. He swears that he’s the only kid he knows without one. But, he’s not going to be allowed to carry a phone until he’s willing to sign a contract at home and pay a monthly fee.

    That said, I hate that now it’s just assumed each kid will have their own phone. It’s challenging for him to find a phone to use at school or other events if he needs to contact me. And if he’s done early or is running late, the only way he can let me know is if he borrows someone else’s phone. He hates that part but still isn’t willing to fork over his hard earned cash to pay for his own cell.

    I must be a really bad mom too. He’s been going to park to play by himself since he was five years old.

  12. One afternoon my niece didn’t come home after school, she went to a friend’s house without permission or letting her mom know where she was. Instead of grounding her until she’s 25, sister bought her 10 y-o a cell phone. What the heck?? The other day my son (also 10) took off in a blizzard and was gone for an hour. I knew he was safe (until he froze) because I’d allowed him to roam the neighborhood this summer. As we were driving around looking for our son, my husband commented, “this is where your sister would buy the kid a cell phone”. I commented, “over my dead body”. Kids don’t need adult responsibilities (which caring for a cell phone is) until they are adults.

  13. I can’t see how a cell phone can make any kid safer about being alone in the Big Bad Real World (where are they living now, anyway, Never Never Land???). It’s obviously convenient being able to communicate when unforeseeable events keep you, but that is useful only to give peace of mind to whoever is waiting for you (what are you going to do, change the “kid’s” tyre for him? Really???).
    A bad use of cell phones will lead to exactly the opposite of being safe. Parents will neglect giving their kids good advice and preparation when they let their children go out by themselves. It seems to me it’s just an extension of an umbilical cord that should have been cut ages ago.
    I’m more with Lynn: my kids will have cell phones when they can pay for them. I can help about getting them a job, if they need references…

  14. I would use a GPS locator only on a teenager and it would be because I thought they were lying and sneaking out!

  15. My 9 year old has a cell phone. It’s not so I can keep track of him, though, it’s because he’s deaf and can’t use a regular phone. So, if you see my kid out with a cell phone, please don’t roll your eyes, there really is a good reason for it. 🙂

    I do think, though, that there is no reason for most 9 year olds to have a cell phone.

  16. Oh, and my son’s phone is pre-paid and only used for emergencies.

  17. My birthday passes by & just like that, the nuts come out to play, yikes.

    I guess Lenore’s response, fittingly 11 days before Christmas, makes her “The Nutcracker.” Ha ha.

    You know what bugs me? Parents that let their 4-6 year-olds play with their phone. Fat chance of me doing that ever! If someone is trying to contact me, I don’t want them getting hung up on & having to listen to my kids rattle off “daddy’s in the potty and getting a fussing from mommy for his stinky farts” when they’re trying to get an important message to me. Also it just makes a kid want a phone even worse & nag endlessly for one of their own.

    If they’re bored & want to play games, I say–give them a Nintendo Ds or Game-Boy. As for “emergencies,” besides the excessive dependence that breeds, you know full well it won’t used strictly that way, they’ll call all their friends & yack and all the minutes will get burned up. Then they’ll gripe because “it only makes calls, I can’t play games on it.” That & they’ll leave it somewhere and their parents will be spending left & right for replacements.

    No thanks.

    Here, here to “Lenore the Nutcracker,” ha ha.

    LRH
    Blackberry Bold 9000 (yes ironically enough I’m posting all of this via my cellular, how ironic ha ha.)

  18. Mmmm. My son uses his for emergencies only. As a matter of fact, he started with 60 minutes on his phone, we have to add more minutes but not because he’s out of minutes, he has plenty…he’s out of time. Gonna lose the minutes if we don’t add more!

  19. Someone above mentioned the adult responsibility of caring for a phone. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen friends say something like “my kid just lost/broke their cell phone/camera and so I’m looking for a good deal on a replacement”

    WTF? Just recently a friend admitted that his kid broke the camera, and his limit on a replacement was about $250. WTF?

    Our 7 and 8 year olds got a used camera off kijiji – cost us 10 bucks. No way in heck they are getting near mine or my wife’s.

    And if a kid loses or breaks an expensive piece of electronics like that, buying them a new one is only acting as an enabler. Mind would not have one in the first place, but if they did and broke or lost it, that would be it. No more.

  20. Like Kim says, phones at least for me are for emergencies only. If these parents are so paranoid, and insist on tracking their children, why not do it the right way. Spend the money and chip them. Cellphones break, get lost, stolen and run out of batteries. GPS chips don’t. Or is that too EXPENSIVE? If that’s what’s keeping these parents from doing so, then that means they just put a tag price on their kids safety. Which means that a certain dollar amount gets them to start thinking, “well, maybe they don’t really need this, and can make do with this instead”. lol Which backs the claim that one of the big reasons why heli parents are so protective over their kids, is for their own self gratification, and only a small part in the kids safety. Because deep down, EVERY parent knows what we’ve all been saying here. It’s their own fears that keep them from using their heads. But that doesn’t mean they can’t react to their own insecurities. I think some people needs some growing up to do, before they start having kids.

  21. GPS tracking is nuts, why would I want to GPS a track a phone? becasue any child not wanting to be tracked would just leave the phone at home, and any potential abductor will no doubt be sure to ditch the phone? Tracking maybe able to tell you where the owner once was, but beyond that has no useful advantage. My 9yo has a brilliant device though – its called a watch! She knows just how to use it….

  22. EricS: You’d be making sense if these crazy people weren’t of the mindset that chipping their kids is good. Amazingly enough, there are people out there saying that chipping, just like we do for cats and dogs, would be an easy solution. It’s not far off, and considering how cost effective it is for a dog or cat, not as expensive as you think.

    As far as cell phones – my kids, 9 & 10, both laugh when they see kindergarteners with cell phones. They’ve never once asked me for a phone, I’ve never told them I wouldn’t buy them one (I won’t), and my son tells me, “When I’m an adult I’ll get a cell phone, but I’m a kid, kids don’t need them.” Wisdom from a child of 9 – music to my ears.

  23. I don’t feel that cell phones are the evil devices people are making out to be. However, I have a real problem with this company thinking that this GPS device in any way endorses the free-range philosophy. Being able to track your child at any given moment is hardly letting go.

  24. Hey Larry, I play on my phone, am I to expect my children to act more mature than me? :p

    Seriously though, your kids don’t really answer the phone like that do they?

  25. I’d go back and forth with the marketer on the “it doesn’t actually make your child any safer” angle and write THAT story. I’m sure they’d love to see that.

  26. What’s really interesting is that the marketer knows that fear and tracking is notpart of the Free Range(tm) gestalt. If they did, they’d approach you directly Lenore. It’s not like you’re hard to find or get for an interview or to hire for a piece. And who better to promote their product?

    So, no, they ‘get’ it, well enough to stay away from Lenore.

  27. 1) Having cell phones means an excuse TO WORRY, “why didnt you answer your phone” instead of to ASSUME everything is fine if he isnt calling. Calling to check in is just an excuse for parents who like to worry.

    2) Dont cell phones cause brain and testicular cancers? Most authorities are saying that if nothing else they are not really good for kids to have on their bodies even if they are not actively talking on it.

    3) No GPS can tell you that your 6th Grader just went into the closet with a boy to make out or is trying a smoke out back of the school. Presumably you will normally know your child’s general whereabouts. The GPS can only get you an address not tell you what they are doing.

  28. It seems they missed the whole point and haven’t actually read your site.

  29. i’m reminded of mrs. weasley’s clock from harry potter – the one that didn’t tell the time but instead where each of her family members were. knowing their location does not mean that you can prevent shenanigans.

  30. I’m sure when (not if) one of my kids is abducted, it will give me great peace of mind to know I’ll be able to retrieve their phone from whatever gutter or trash bin their abductor threw it in as he dragged them, kicking and screaming, to his nondescript white van.

  31. “Dont cell phones cause brain and testicular cancers?”

    No. Ironic scaremongering is ironic!

  32. How, exactly, would GPS keep kids safe? This is what I’m not grasping. It’s like the underwear joke in South Park –

    Step 1: GPS!
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: SAFETY!

    The only benefit of GPS is the same benefit as dental records – once your kid is already in danger, it can help you find them… if the criminals are stupid enough not to ditch the phone first chance they get, that is. That’s stupidity on par with not wearing gloves when breaking and entering.

  33. I should mention that just last year there was a case here in Ottawa of a brazen kidnapping in broad daylight from a family home. And 18 year old was taken, and she was rescued a short time later due to the fact that all cell phones these days have GPS in them. But as it turns out it was not her cell phone – the prime suspect was her ex BF and they found him pretty quickly by tracking his cell.

  34. Pentamom, you know what is even more of a curse than cell phones? Cars. Yeah, before cars you didn’t have to worry about pick-ups and drop-offs and all such hassles, because nobody went farther than they could walk anyway. They also contribute to a significant increase in rudeness because people going places never smile and say hello anymore, since they are just zooming by in cars.

    I have yet to see anyone articulate a reason not to get a cell phone that isn’t simply summarized as “they didn’t exist a little while ago and I don’t like change”.

    janiemc, RobC, and Uly, can you show me where you found the data showing what fraction of abducted children have their pockets searched and their cell-phones dumped?

    The benefits of cell-phones are small, but the costs are small, too (this is true of many things, from bike helmets to 2-ply toilet paper). Adding GPS to the phone is an even smaller marginal benefit than going from no phone to a phone, but the marginal cost is negligible too.

    In an abduction, even if the phone is dumped, the location track allows police to know where the abduction occurred and therefore where to search for witnesses. If the phone isn’t dumped, even better. If the kid manages to dial 911, even better. What are the odds of each of these scenarios? I don’t know and I don’t really care; because all cell phones have GPS in them now and the benefits of GPS are ancillary to the primary benefit of communication, which is what drives the purchasing decision. I wouldn’t pay extra for more GPS features (like parental tracking), but my bet is that they will be bundled into the package in the near future anyway.

  35. I thought someone was going to respond to me like that.

    I like cell phones. Four of the seven members of my family (everyone 16 and up) now have one. I just think that there is a downside. I don’t think that just being able to change your schedule at the drop of a hat is *entirely* good, although of course there are times when it is a real benefit to be able to do so. But there was value in learning to make, and keep, arrangements with other people. I think that people are genuinely losing that skill, I think that is a bad thing, and I think it is largely attributable to the ubiquity of mobile phones.

    That doesn’t mean I think the whole world would be better off without them.

  36. Pentamom what you are saying is no different than the claims that the rate of crime as a percentage of population has gone up in the past 20, 30, oh pick your years. People are not bailing on plans at the drop of a hat any more than before. The only difference is before cells you sat at where ever waiting, and waiting, until you give up and go home or they get to a land line and tell you they bailed.

    People haven’t changed, the only thing that has changed is how they go about doing whatever it was they felt they should do. I guess I don’t like devices getting the blame for a human’s choice.

    Another example is a story I read about how people walking down the street are ignoring people around them and messing with their devices. The blame the devices. If I am walking down the street texting or responding to an email I still look up and smile to anyone I pass. The device didn’t change the social behaviors what it does is add an identifier to those that would have ignored you anyway. The difference being they would have looked right past you as if you weren’t there before they had cell phones.

    I hope that makes sense.

  37. ok, I think we all need a Tuesday treat. I had a friend forward me this link and it is a hysterical set of lessons from a woman she follows. Be advised it’s on the stir but if you just think of everything over there as a joke (which this link clearly is) you’ll be fine.

    http://thestir.cafemom.com/column/ill_advised

  38. @Nicola: aces! 😉

    @bushidoka: Like we always say, most abductions or assaults are done by someone already known to the victim. Usually someone pretty close. Case and point. “Stranger danger”…pppft.

  39. Delurking, I don’t have the stats. I don’t know if anybody has come up with stats for that. I certainly don’t think that cell phones are bad for young people to have – certainly a cell phone would have made my life easier as a teen, I would not have had to keep calling people on pay phones! – nor even that GPS is bad. To my knowledge, plenty of phones come with GPS already, in case you do have to call 911 and track your buddy.

    However – and this is important – if you’re at the point where you’re resorting to GPS tracking to find your kid, odds are that your kid is no longer “safe”. GPS doesn’t keep anybody safe. It just helps find them once they’re not. With luck, they’ll still be alive.

    I object strenuously not to GPS, but to a. fearmongering (I don’t know of anybody who has ever needed to be traced with GPS on their phone, or have a friend or family member found that way, so it’s a nice bonus just-in-case, hardly a necessity) and b. inanity.

  40. @seriouslyjustjo: Actually crime rate has gone steadily down, even as far back as 40 years ago. Not by much, but it has declined. To be more specific, violent crimes have gone down. Petty crime (possession, shoplifting, misdemeanor stuff) seems to have slightly gone up.

    I do agree with you that it’s the individual, and not the device. But it’s the device that “helps” people along like cattle. Take the device away, people will adjust. Just like cars, owning and driving a car is a privilege and not a right. But the way some people are behind the wheel you’d think they own the roads and the city they are paved in. If you look at it even deeper, it’s the companies making the phones that advertise it to make life more fun and organized for the person that owns it. In a sense, companies make mobile devices like the “forbidden fruit”. But I digress. Nothing wrong with any devices. Just a matter of how it’s used is what determines whether it’s useful or detrimental.

    I usually walk right through people not paying attention when they are walking. After all they bumped into me. Not the other way around.

  41. bushidoka That was me that mentioned not letting my children play with my phone, because someone is going to calling to speak to ME or to the wife, and while I am free-range I also expect respect for a person’s property to be learned, and that is probably the #1 thing that I expect this with.

    seriouslyjustjo I agree with you about “don’t like devices getting blamed for a human’s choice.” People can still honor committments to each other, cellular phone or not. That said, I do expect my children not to play on my phone even though I am, for one reason–it’s MY phone and I don’t want them using it, not even to call 911.

    Which brings me to something else–I could be wrong, but frankly I don’t want my children knowing how to call 911 at least not yet. The reason? Like a cellular phone itself, it’s an adult responsibility. One of my nieces, about age 5 or so at the time if I recall, tried to call 911 because she was hungry & she thought that was an emergency–and her mother is NOT at all the type to neglect in that way at all. They may call if my wife & I get in a shouting match, even though there is no physical violence. Or, if we temporarily can’t find one child and are panicking, the other child may call the police–do you want the police to know that, for a minute, you couldn’t find your child?

    Children don’t understand that, sometimes, police being around is a bad thing, even for us law-abiding people. Until they can make good judgment calls, I don’t want them knowing how to call 911.

    LRH

  42. Ugh, I’m not talking about not honoring commitments. I’m not talking about a moral flaw, so I’m not suggesting phones make people evil. I’m talking more about a certain regularity and dependability to life, that in some contexts actually translates to a useful skill people should have.

    Example: what if people grow up believing that as long as they are courteous to notify people when plans change, no one should ever actually expect them to keep the original time and date of an engagement? I’m not talking about facilitating unreliable people being unreliable, I’m talking about a whole cultural sense developing where there *is no longer any such thing* as a planned social or business engagement that both parties expect to keep, even if something else comes up — even among people whose inclination is to be reliable. It’s just that there *won’t be any such thing* as being reliable anymore, since there won’t be any expectation that what I tell you today, I’ll do tomorrow, because as long as I call you tomorrow morning and tell you I won’t do it until next week, it’s all good. (I’m also not claiming that this translates to the “big things” of life — like if people have cell phones they’ll bail on their marriages or something.)

    But that the loss of that kind of social expectation could have repercussions for working relationships and more, so I see it as a drawback.

    And I hope no one is arguing that technology doesn’t change our social expectations?

  43. I used to say I wouldn’t get my kids a cell phone until they were old enough to drive (convenient to have one if the car breaks down), but then I realized – oh, wait, we don’t have a land line. Oooops. Sucks if the kid has to call 911 (or me or anyone else) while I’m out – and I’ve taken my cell phone with me. Fortunately, babysitters have their own cell phones these days, but when my kids are old enough to be left in the house alone while I go out for an hour or two – I’ll be sure they have a cell phone of their own. Okay, I guess it will be the house phone. But it will be available for taking with them if necessary for some reason.
    I like the savings of not having a land line, but I realize it means my kids aren’t learning phone manners. I should start having them answer my cell phone for me to practice.

  44. The GPS tracks the cell phone. How people can believe it keeps kids save when it’s not even tracking the actual kid, is beyond me.

    Someone once robbed my sister’s cell phone. GPS wouldn’t have prevented that…

  45. Someone once robbed my sister’s cell phone. GPS wouldn’t have prevented that

    It might have helped get the cellphone back.

  46. @ pentamom – I agree to a point. I think the cell phone has led to plans becoming “How about we meet around 2. I’ll call you when I’m on my way” instead of a firm “Let’s meet at 2.” I know that if I have told someone I’d meet them at 2, I’ll try to show up at 2. If plans are left more vague, I’m more likely to be less careful about time and may not be on my way until 2:30. Also, it is so easy to call at 2 and say “I’m running late” that people are less careful with time.

    And, Larry, I love having a phone for my child to play with. If I can get a few minutes more chat time out of lunch with a friend because my daughter is playing “the piggy game” (aka Angry Birds), I’m happy. While I’m definitely not a believer that my child needs to be entertained at all times, there’s only so long that you can expect an unoccupied 5 year old to sit at a restaurant table. And I don’t have to worry about a 2nd device. If the phone rings, my daughter hands it to me.

    I’m all for kids having a cell phone and my daughter will probably have one at a younger age than most – beats buying a home phone for her to use since we don’t currently have one. But tracking their movements on their phone is just creepy.

  47. I agree somewhat with Donna & Pentamom about honoring times. It stinks when you plan something and then, last minute, people bail on you because–sometimes anyway–they just decide last minute “nah, I don’t want to.” Not that I’m a hardcase, but flexibility can be taken too far as well.

    And Donna–if you let your child play with your phone, that’s your business 100%. I’m just saying that I myself get tired of calling someone & not being able to get them because their children are playing with the phone, I always tell them–if you’d make your children respect your property & leave the phone alone, someone could get a hold of you. Yes the 5 year old can get bored–but that doesn’t entitle them to MY PROPERTY to be entertained. (And them, say, getting up & running around loose will get them a harsh respond VERY FAST in my case. In my day, at that age, I’d had my butt spanked hard for even THINKING of doing that.) I have my toys, they have theirs (maybe a Nintendo Ds or Gameboy), I believe in “separation” that way.

    But that’s the parent’s business, not mine, but if every-time I try & call them about something important I keep running into that, then yes I say something. Adult-to-adult, I don’t want to have to go through your child to talk to you, I don’t expect them to talk to my child to talk to me.

    LRH

  48. “I don’t feel that cell phones are the evil devices people are making out to be.”

    Same. We built our house in 2004 and don’t even have a phone line run to it, so no phones except cell phones are available if you’re on our property. Which does mean that as the kid gets old enough to stay home alone or have friends over when we’re not there, he’s probably getting a cell phone.

  49. @Nanci:sad story you shared, but very true how even having a cellphone is no guarantee of safety. A cellphone may be a convenience, but I think too many parents are led to believe it gives their child this magical shield to ward off various societal bogeymen.

    This reminds me of a couple of years ago, when my BIL/SIL panicked over a convicted sex offender’s release from jail to live with his father a few doors down from their home. At the time, my niece was 9, and they were panicked about this guy being in the area. The cellphone, they claimed, was for my niece’s “safety.”

    Cut to two years later: said sex offender has moved away, and my now 11 y.o. niece has lost about three cellphones to date, or uses them to make frivolous calls. Not an emergency, if you ask me. Besides, if an actual danger were to happen, most kids would be too panicky to even use their phones properly.

    For the record, said sex offender was a then 19 y.o. male who had consensual relations with an underage girl, in her teens.

    My 7 y.o. daughter had told me that when she was at day camp this summer, one of the other 7 y.o. girls in her unit had a cellphone, and then asked when she could get one. To which I answered, “You don’t need one.” “But what if I need to reach you?” she asked. I answered, “I have a cellphone and home phone, and the staff at your camp knows where to reach me.”

  50. “I myself get tired of calling someone & not being able to get them because their children are playing with the phone, I always tell them–if you’d make your children respect your property & leave the phone alone, someone could get a hold of you.”

    Hmmm. You telling me that I need to teach my child to respect my property so that you aren’t inconvenienced in trying to reach me, would probably have you moved to my screen-this-persons-calls-until-they-stop-calling list pretty darn quick. I don’t think that having a cell phone obligates me to talk to anyone when they want. I frequently let my calls go to voicemail because I don’t particularly want to stop what I’m doing at that moment to talk to the person calling.

    My child does play with my phone but she also respects my property. She will not touch it unless she asks for permission first. She also knows not to answer it. She stops playing her game and hands me the phone if it rings. I’ll decide if I want to talk to the person at that time or I want to let it go to voicemail and let her to continue to play her game. Respecting my property doesn’t mean that she’s never allowed to touch it. She also has some toys that I occasionally play with.

    What did you do before cell phones? Back when there was but one home phone? Did you also protest children answering the phone? This is really no different. Our only phone is the cell phone. Yes, it is technically mine (but isn’t everything in the house?) but if my child wants to make a call, it must be done on that phone since we have no other.

  51. I let all three of my kids play with my smart phone.

    A DS or gameboy costs about $200! Then, if it were theirs, they’d have control of it. In that my phone is mine, they can while away the time waiting (in a doctor’s office, say) – and, when I want it back… it’s mine.

    And, it also makes calls, texts, email, and GPS. Necessary? No.

    Convenient? You bet.

    Something that my kids will actually own? Not until they pay.

  52. I’ve never understood the philosophy that “my kid needs a cell phone so I always know where he/she is.” Well, unless you’re tracking them 24/7 by the GPS, you only know where your kid SAYS he is. Him calling to say “I’m staying after school for some math tutoring” doesn’t guarantee he didn’t go to the arcade at the mall.

  53. I have a friend with an 11 year old high functioning autistic son. The boy is homeschooled and because he also still has meltdowns, the mom does not leave this boy with anyone because of this. Not even his own father, who is actually likely to have a meltdown at the same time.

    One day she told me she wanted to get him a cell phone. “Why????” I asked. “Because I want him to be able to call me if he needs to.” “When,” I asked “are going to leave him anyplace alone?” “Oh, yeah, maybe I could spend that money some other way…”

    My kids, also homeschooled, do not have cell phones. None of their friends have them either. I don’t want them to have their own until they do all of their own laundry. I am already washing rocks and worms that they forgot to take out of their pockets, I don’t want to wash phones. I already washed two of my husband’s phones.

  54. @Emily
    In the sixth book, the Weasley clock was stuck on “Mortal Peril” unless they were traveling. :o)

  55. In regards to GPS, I never plan to implement that (even if my teenager were to decide to be rebellious as many do). I’m glad my parents didn’t have it. I would have felt that my privacy was being violated for one thing. Knowing where I was at all times would have been akin to reading my diary at that time. I also would have felt a severe lack of trust of their part, and felt as though I couldn’t take care of myself (which I certainly could… and still can)! Even though children do need guidance and loving care, they’re not property. They have rights to privacy. They have the ability to make their own decisions, and should be free to make their own choices… even if they’re the wrong ones.

  56. Electronicly tracking kids lets a parent let go?

    Only of their sanity.

  57. The letter got one thing right: sending a 6th grader to a park alone can “FEEL” risky, not that it IS risky. Good thing our feelings can be tempered by common sense. Otherwise, everytime I FEEL like someone’s in my house when I hear strange noises at night, I won’t behave as if someone IS in the house. LOL🙂

  58. I don’t know when my kids will get cell phones, or whether they’ll buy them or get them for Christmas at such time. But I will say that if they were teens right now, my concern would be about the texting. I would like my kids to perfect the art of speaking to others. And writing actual sentences using actual words. And just sitting and thinking a thought or doing a deed, without feeling the burning need to send someone a text about it. KWIM?

  59. I find it strange that so many freerangers here have a grudge against cellphones. Why would 10 be too young to have one? It’s like any other freedom. Your kid has to earn it and be able to handle it. Unfortunately, many parents lived in an age where cellphones didn’t even exist, so their own experience isn’t really a good measuring stick to put against their children’s lifes.

    @lynn: I was very much like your son until recently. I didn’t see the need to be accessible 24/7 especially since cellphones were not allowed in my work area and since I used the commute back home to get in some extra sleep. If anyone wanted to call me, they could call me at home or send an email.

    Now that I’m on a job hunt, a cell phone is starting to be much more appealing. I can go in for a meeting with one person and talk to another during the commute their to maximize my chances…

    I applaud your kid. He should wait until he really wants one.

  60. Donna I hope I am respectful, but let me answer–again, I hope I’m being respectful.

    I can promise you I’m not the type that pesters a person or makes demands per se, but I don’t think it unreasonable that when I’m calling an adult, I shouldn’t have to go through their child to do so. I realize this isn’t the scenario with you, but it’s one I’ve encountered–and I find it tasteless. I’m your friend, not your child’s friend, they’re not the one I called to talk to. That doesn’t mean I hate them or resent them, not at all, but I can tell you I don’t consider my child’s right to play with my phone higher than the right of my adult friends to reach me when they need me either.

    Understand–I’m not saying you ARE that type, just that I’m NOT that type, but I have encountered that type, and don’t much care for it.

    I am a person that thinks–yes, the whole reason to own a cellular phone is to be accessible, not just to be able to access, but to also be accessible. I have seen many people who demand to be able to call someone when they want, but then consider it “presumptous” that the reverse should also apply. What a double standard that is–and rude, if you ask me.

    Not that anyone has to justify their choices to me, you included, but that doesn’t mean I can’t state what I think of it–and to me, unless you’re a high profile person who is on the receiving end of a zillion calls to the point of almost needing a personal assistant to handle them for you, I just can’t imagine someone assuming that posture of “I’m not obligated to talk to you if I don’t feel like it.” I don’t think a person wanting to talk to you at a certain time is “demanding that I make myself available to them.”

    To me, if someone sees me as that, they’re no friend at all. If you can’t always drop everything to head my beck & call, that’s absolutely understandable, and I wouldn’t presume that anyway. However, if you’re always brushing me off because you think I’m “presuming on you,” you must not think a whole lot of me, especially since I definitely wouldn’t be inclined to, say, call someone at work or on their anniversary etc when it can be reasonably surmised it’s not a good time.

    But unless I’m intimately acquainted with your daily routine by the hour, how am I to know that, when I call, you’re busy vs available? How hard is for the person receiving the call to, say, ignore the call but then send a quick text “feeding my kids” or “cooking” or “in the middle of something.” Not that I’m the gold standard of phone etiquette, but I do that all the time–yes I “shoo away” the call, but I at least acknowledge them and let them know the status. It doesn’t take 5 seconds (assuming they called from a cell phone).

    And close friends whom I think may be stranded on the roadside, or families who have expressed distaste at my failure to return calls? I don’t say to them “how dare you presume that I have to talk to you when you ask me to,”I see it for being that they value me as a person in terms of wanting a relationship, and I honor their requests. I don’t “shoo” them away just because I’m “not in the mood”–if my wife is around, I have her tell the person what’s up so at least they know.

    Frankly–yes, I think I owe them that.

    Obviously, if you’re in the middle of, say, cooking and don’t want to burn the house down, or you’re fixing something and really focused, it’s understandable to sort of “time shift” things. Then again, not to be “anti-Free Range,” but what if it’s a close friend stuck on the roadside with a broken down car–and they find out you didn’t answer them because you found their call “intrusive?”

    Understand I’m not saying you’re a rude person–if that is in fact what I’m saying, forgive me for disrespect–but again, It takes me all of 5 seconds to text-back “cooking” or whatever, and at least this acknowledges the other person, while keeping me “in the flow” of what I’m doing right then.

    If someone is going to regularly put me off because they think of calls as an intrusion into their life, and it’s not like I’m calling at times which I know to be bad, believe me–they will be off my friends list a LOT faster than I’ll be on their “ignore” list.

    LRH

  61. PS (and I’m sorry if the post was too long)–if someone doesn’t answer a call, I don’t give them any hard time about it. Typically, when that happens, shortly later they will see my call on the caller ID, they’ll call back, apologize and explain what they were doing–and I am completely cool with that.

    Heck–I forgot to add, with me, I bike-ride sometimes, or play basketball with the MP3 player on, and I’m unreachable. I don’t apologize for that to someone who calls–unless it’s my wife and it was important. I’m certainly not going to put those things on hold because someone MIGHT call, or strap the phone to my head-hip and stop every 5 seconds to answer every beep. Further, I don’t expect anyone else to either. Yes that would be presumptous or rude of me to do so.

    Still, if I see “missed calls” after, I callback quickly & say “I was playing basketball with my MP3 player on I didn’t see your call until after,” and it’s fine. If someone, on occasion, fails to do that when I’m the caller, I’m surely not going to ditch them as a friend because they dared to live & I happened to be the victim of bad timing.

    However, if they REGULARLY don’t return calls because they consider it “intrusive” even when it wasn’t meant that and waiting for the later callback was fine with me, to me it’s not that I’m “failing to respect a boundary,” they’re just being–frankly, an ass, if you ask me. So, again, they’d be off my friends list a LOT faster than I’d be on their ignore list–and yes, often-times, I tell them that’s why.

    I have fewer friends for it, but at least the ones that are left are true ones that I can count on–and I certainly return the favor. The rest–we may still be friendly, with me still seeing them in passing and having a pleasant chat–but I don’t call them anymore, and frankly–if they call me, I take my sweet time calling them back. They get a taste of their own medicine, and again–I’m cool about it, I’m not sitting around “how DARE they treat me this way.” I move on, no big whoopee.

    End of a rant, which was WAY too long I’m sure.

    LRH

  62. Larry,

    When you call someone and they don’t answer, do you leave a message? If a message isn’t left for me, I don’t call the person back. If they don’t think the reason they are calling is important enough for a message, then I don’t think it’s important enough to call them back. I can’t stand calling just to chit chat…has to be a reason. Leave a message telling me why you’re calling and I’ll return the call. Don’t and I won’t.

  63. “Children don’t understand that, sometimes, police being around is a bad thing, even for us law-abiding people. Until they can make good judgment calls, I don’t want them knowing how to call 911.”

    Isn’t that the same argument people often make for not letting their kids do free-range kinds of things? “They don’t have good judgment, they won’t be able to get there safely, if they’re accosted in the park they won’t know how to react … ” etc.

    To me, the whole value of free-range thinking is that we educate our kids early and often so that they are able to maximize their biologically underdeveloped judgment🙂 and be as responsible as possible.

    The category of real emergencies is (in my book) pretty small, and I’ve never had trouble getting my kids to understand what is/isn’t.

    Not that this is really a free-range issue, but as another poster said, I also let my kids play with my phone at times. The second a text or call comes in, they know to hand it to me (because if they didn’t, they’d lose any privilege of having my phone). They absolutely respect that it is mine and that its primary function is not games or Annoying Orange YouTube videos.

    I disagree that having a cell phone means I have to be reachable at all times by friends. Frankly, I sometimes struggle with turning my work-brain off and being in the moment with my kids, so I try really hard NOT to be checking email or taking phone calls or texting when I’m with my kids in those few afterschool/before bed hours. If I’m helping someone with homework or hearing about what happened at school that day, I don’t really care who else wants to talk to me. I’m a good and conscientious friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m on call the second someone might want to reach me.

  64. “I disagree that having a cell phone means I have to be reachable at all times by friends. ”

    Same. That’s why I went through and setup the ring tones for those who I will answer immediately–my husband and my parents have their own ring tones. The rest of my contacts list has another, and my “not in contact list” ring is another.

    I will run to answer my husband or parents. Anyone else, well, that’s why all cell phone accounts have voice mail.

  65. I hate talking on the phone. So yeah, I don’t answer if I don’t have a pretty good idea of who’s calling AND feel like talking to that person at that time. My mom used to complain that I never called her back if she didn’t leave a voice mail. She isn’t fond of voice mail. I told her, all she has to do is just say “call me back” and I’ll do it. So now that’s what she does. I always return calls if the caller considered it important enough to leave a voice mail asking for a return call.

    I do remember back in the 1970s, when my sibs and I wanted to do certain things, we had to call my mom (at work) first. Like swimming at the public pool – she tried giving us a temperature guideline, but we manipulated around that, so she made us start calling her. She would answer our calls at work (they didn’t have voice mail or caller ID in those days), but we knew to keep the calls short and to the point.

  66. My apologies, by the way, if I’ve hijacked this thread & turned it into a rant on friend-contact-ability etc. Not my intent.

    Kim Yes I do leave a voice mail & I agree with that protocol. As for chit-chat, not a biggie especially if the friend-in-question meets in person with you periodically for that–lunch etc. My thing is, I know when one marries & has kids etc things change somewhat, and it isn’t exactly the same–but I’ve always disliked it when one practically loses everything about themselves because the parenting thing is ALL they do now. I try & maintain at least the good friendships as best as I can, as long as they know my wife & kids are the main priority now. I don’t hassle them or anything, as a parent of 2 believe me I know–but I’ve always thought that totally losing yourself is a sad thing.

    Dean I understand about the kids/911 thing in the context of freerange, I’ve “just heard too many stories” (I know, what the others always say) about their kids dialing 911 because they were hungry or their parent was frantic looking for their lost child (they were simply in another room in the house). If my child can make the right judgment it’s ok & even a great enpowerment for them to be trusted with 911 as an emergency tool.

    And again not to rehash & hijack the thread into this mini-rant, but while I totally understand what you’re saying, in my case I’d answer the phone anyway & just say “can we talk later” not just blow them off, especially if it’s someone who has shown understanding of what married-parenting life is like with regards of not being able to get crazy late at night etc as we may have years ago. I have a close friend I’ve known since age 8 & he is still single and yet he integrates into our life very well. We definitely don’t yick-yack every day but I still, say, once every 2 months or so, will yack with him on the phone sometimes for an hour. I expect my kids to know that I have the right to my own things & relationships outside of them on occasion, especially where it regards married time (like today, it’s our 10th anniversary, they WILL NOT accompany us with what we go do today). We try to maintain that balance.

    Again, though, my apologies if I’ve hi-jacked the threat into my personal gripe zone.

    LRH

  67. Larry, we are on the same page there. I too have a close friend who is not married and does not have children, and we maintain a very tight bond even though our lives are different. And I fully agree it is OK for things to be none of our kids’ business/not including them. Happy Anniversary!

  68. Donna, that’s what I meant, nothing more. Just that we’re losing a sense of being definite about our plans with one another, and I think that’s a loss. It’s not a big enough loss to make me hate mobile phones, it’s just something I’ve observed.

  69. Given that at 39 I still don’t have a need for a cell phone, I am pretty sure my 10 and 8 year olds don’t need them either.

    I have a phone 6 inches away from me at my desk at work. I can be reached. If I am out and about, I generally don’t want to be reached. If I need to make a call in an ’emergency’ (which are few and far between) I know where all the public phones are in the greater Boston area, and I have occasionally relied on the kindness of friends and strangers (maybe 5 times in my life total have I had to borrow a cell).

    An example of a non-emergency that I dealt with, sans cell phone. Younger son and I finished a cub scout meeting. Husband was supposed to pick us up, but failed to show (miscommunication). So we walked the 35 minutes home in the dark. Now yes, it was a bit cold, but we were bundled up. We had a great conversation, just the two of us, and got a lot of exercise. If I had a cell, I could have called and gotten picked up in 10 minutes. But I would have missed out on a good conversation with the little man. This was a minor inconvenience, but to many folks this would be intolerable. Walk? In the dark?? When it’s cold? EMERGENCY!! But because I make it a habit of figuring out things without that cellular lifeline, it’s no big deal.

  70. A GPS is for lost drives not children. Thanks for standing strong against such paranoid nonsense.

  71. Ironically, both of my kids 10 and 12 have cell phones. However, when they go to the park, pool, friend’s house, etc., our rules indicate their phones are to stay at home–too easy to lose! I do not look at the phones as safety devices. They are communication devices (and toys for tween girls). They use their phones to call/text their friends. They send me a text at work when they leave home to go somewhere after school. I do not return a call to them. They just go and text me when they return. They can make responsible decisions to do activities throughout the day without asking me each and every time. I just like to know for me personally that they are out doing something rather than hankering down in front of the TV all day. As for GPS, I guess this just won’t work in our family since the phones are sitting nicely on the counter in the kitchen….

  72. Larry –

    All I can say is WOW. You seem to expect that your friends drop everything to talk to you or give you a good reason why they didn’t. I can’t imagine being in that kind of “friendship” with anyone. I imagine that you’ve lost a few good friends for this very reason due simply to the fact that they are busy people.

    Sometimes I don’t answer the phone because I’m in the middle of doing something. Sometimes I don’t answer the phone because I’ve spent all day on the phone talking to clients and I just want peace and quiet for a while. Sometimes I don’t answer the phone because I don’t want to talk to the specific person calling at that moment (okay, maybe that’s only when my mother calls).

    I don’t think that friendship requires that I justify myself to my friends any more than I expect them to justify themselves to me. Just because you didn’t mean to be intrusive, doesn’t mean that the call was not actually intrusive at the time. As you said, you don’t actually know your friends daily schedule so you don’t know when you are being intrusive. Nor is their lack of response necessarily indicative of their feelings about you or your friendship. Frankly, it probably has everything to do with what is going on in their lives and nothing to do with you at all and you’re a bit self-absorbed to think that it does.

    If I call someone who doesn’t answer, I’ll leave a message and they’ll call me back when It’s more convenient for them. I’m not going to be offended that they didn’t drop everything to talk to me. I’m not going to even bother to think about why the person didn’t answer. I understand that all my friends are busy people and I’m going to assume that it wasn’t a good time and move on with my life. If we are important to each other, we’ll eventually connect through our busy lives and have a conversation. If it’s important, I’ll text and say that it’s important that I speak to them.

  73. I also don’t have my phone on me at all times. There are many times when I feel it’s appropriate to be away from the technology. Like the 2 hours per evening I get to spend doing stuff with my kids. We may be in a museum, restaurant, library, swimming pool, therapy session. I may be driving and singing with my kids, or spotting them as they do something daring on the monkey bars. I may be in the bathroom! I don’t answer the phone when I’m in the shower (unlike some people) and when I’m hanging around work people, I rarely take personal calls.

    Thing is, I have some people who would call me all day, every day if they thought I’d answer. No thanks. My work partner / boss is like that. It’s about boundaries. Leave me a message, and I’ll call you back when it works for me. If it’s an emergency, say so and I’ll call you back sooner.

  74. @pentamom I agree people who use Tech as an excuse to be rude are simply rude. In my case my smart phone has made me more mannerly.

    I have an App on my Iphone that does GPS with some traffic info. So now my friends and relatives don’t feel like they have to invite me in because I arrived 30 min early and am sitting in my car down the street. I have a general idea of what time I should leave with a little leeway for traffic. I check The GPS about 1/2 an hour before I think I should leave and see how traffic is doing. Now I’m on time if you accept a 10 min window on either side of the “arrival time” as on time. (Movies, plays, other things with a definite start time I’m still 1/2 an hour or so early.

  75. Donna It’s okay, difference of opinion is fine.

    Actually what you describe sounds a lot like what a good friend of mine & I, who is now a long-distance affair, have gone through. (Hopefully I’m not “projecting” that into here.) In college we did everything together. Afterwards we went our separate ways but called pretty often anyway–say, once every 6 weeks or so. When I married 10 years ago (today) he flew cross-country to be my best man, & he was married himself.

    But since then, he does nothing & is very slow, if ever, to reply–and I’ll merely call or email 3 times a year or so. Once in awhile, if I’d email him “need to talk” he would, but meanwhile–with every kid he had (4), when he moved several states away, all over several years–he never bothered to tell. To this day when I merely ask what his kids’ names are, he won’t say, citing privacy.

    Surely I don’t expect him to Twitter or text me everytime he goes to the bathroom, but what a demotion for it to be that I don’t even know his kids’ names, or birthdays so I could, if I wanted to, ship a present to them on their birthday. I totally realize that his “local” friends are more “the deal” for him these days, & it’s likewise with me–but to just throw it away? There’s no good in such a thing to me.

    Other friends with a similar “from local to long distance” setup, though, have done much better, even driving 12+ hours to see me & inviting me out to their place. Again we don’t do as much as we used to, but it’s still somewhat maintained.

    I am thankful for #2 and sad about #1. I won’t badger #1 or do any immature guilt-tripping, but I don’t particularly respectt it either. But you move on & make the best of what’s available to you in the here & now.

    LRH

  76. To this day when I merely ask what his kids’ names are, he won’t say, citing privacy.

    Privacy? It’s their names. And you know him. Seriously? That’s just kinda weird. Did you two have a seriously misspent youth together?

  77. Yeah, I have an ex-“friend” who I don’t tell anything about my kids or what I’m up to. (He has never asked about my kids, anyway, he cares that much.) He is scary, and I want him to just forget I exist. I’m not like that with other people.

  78. Uly Exactly. I’ve told him it would “be nice” to, say, 1-2 times a year if I saw a photo of all of them, even if it was a mailed print. He mentioned “I’m private and you broadcast everything,” with regards to how I post photos of my family online all over, and do so with friends of mine who don’t object (most don’t).

    Even when I mentioned how, once, he mailed me a photo CD & asked me to not publish it online and that I, in fact, honored his request (thus proving that I would respect his boundaries), he STILL was distrustful.

    I wasn’t pressuring him, just saying it would be NICE to, just 1-2 times a year, see what they all look like, or to even just know what their names are.

    Oh well. Life goes on. Others have been much more open and less nervous, and his family has mentioned to me “he’s changed a lot,” so I know it’s not me. The old saying goes “you don’t have to change friends if you realize friends change,” I believe that, but it has its limits, and this is a good example. Nothing you can do at that point but part company & just remember the old days for what they did for you during that period.

    LRH

    LRH

  79. And I can see that and respect that, SKL, but for the purposes of this conversation I’m choosing to assume Larry isn’t all *that* creepy.

    I could be wrong, I guess.

  80. “How hard is for the person receiving the call to, say, ignore the call but then send a quick text “feeding my kids” or “cooking” or “in the middle of something.”

    Well, first they need to have texting enabled on their cell phone, and have a package which includes it.

    I have texting enabled (but due to texting spam, it may soon be disabled completely) but it costs me 20 cents a text because I don’t care to pay $20 more a month for a feature I would very rarely use. In the past five years, I’ve sent 4 texts.

    If someone calls me, I miss it, and they don’t leave a voicemail, I shrug and delete the “missed call” message from my phone. If they do leave a voicemail, I listen to it and decide if it’s necessary to call them back. I don’t think anyone needs to know why I didn’t have time to answer my phone.

  81. Agreed. I refuse to pay to receive spam. I don’t text. text messages don’t cost the carrier any extra traffic. They are carried on existing voice calls.

  82. We have a cellphone which is ostensibly my 11 year-old daughter’s. However, it stays in the kitchen (we don’t have a landline) for use in emergencies, unless we decide daughter is going out somewhere it might be useful to have a phone on her. She can only call me, her father, one family friend and 911 from it. I think she actually makes a call from it maybe 4X per year. No photos, texts etc. If she wants to talk to her friends we make her use google chat (because it’s unlimited and free). Only downside is that I think she has not developed phone manners yet (but then at her age, I’d never used any sort of phone, my parents didn’t even have a landline. So she’ll learn when she needs to). I don’t ask her to answer my phone; if it rings when I’m upstairs she brings it to me, otherwise I’d rather a message on voice mail than a garbled message passed by her.

  83. “How hard is for the person receiving the call to, say, ignore the call but then send a quick text “feeding my kids” or “cooking” or “in the middle of something.”

    But why *should* they? They can just back to you when it *is* convenient. As Donna says, if it’s urgent and they don’t respond, send them a text to give them a heads up.

    Phone interactions, if not critical in some way, should be based on when they are convenient for *both* parties, not “convenient for me, but required for you unless you give me a reason otherwise and go to the effort to inform me of such.”

    Having said all that, I don’t disagree with Larry’s central point that if he wants to control the use of the phone and doesn’t feel it’s appropriate for the kids to be handling it for whatever reason, that’s his affair and he doesn’t need to demonstrate that it’s reasonable. The only point I’d disagree with there is the 911 thing — as others have said, you can teach your kids to determine a real emergency (like saying “you should only call 911 when someone clearly needs help immediately and absolutely cannot get it themselves”) because there have been occasions when a young child has initiated a 911 call that has prevented disaster for an incapacitated adult. I would hate for a loved one to die because a child was forbidden to call 911 under any circumstances, and that teaching won out in the battle between obedience and common sense, which happens with children a lot, especially ones who are generally obedient. That would be far worse than the small risk of a child who was taught appropriate use of 911, doing it inappropriately.

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