Monday, July 16, 2007

Does this count as an argument for... or against... teen cell phone ownership?

It was twilight time for the old Curmudgeon -- not literally, you understand, not with the Sun setting -- but in that uncertain period when the late news has ended and the appropriate History or Discovery channel has yet to be selected. I was sitting in my recliner, flipping through the channels drowsily, my laptop computer open and still running a game that I had been playing earlier.

Soon though, barring any interruption, I would surrender myself into the arms of Morpheus.

Long Suffering Spouse had already surrendered; she was apparently sound asleep on the couch.

Youngest Son was at the desktop computer. He had commandeered the Internet connection some time before and was busy chatting in a couple of IM windows and checking his investments on Protrade.

Bet that perked you right up, didn't it? A 14 year old managing investments? But this Protrade is the latest thing in fantasy sports. You sign up and then 'buy' 'shares' of teams or players. You can sell your shares, too, and you can gain or lose value in the market. And it's free.

Anyway, this was our tender domestic scene the other evening. Middle Son was out -- which was how Youngest Son got a turn at the Internet -- and Younger Daughter had gone up to bed already. She's been grounded lately -- again -- and, without being able to use either the phone or the Internet, she tends to retire at a decent hour.

It was at this point that the phone rang.

Long Suffering Spouse's startle reflex was immediately triggered. She hollered; I jumped. Youngest Son was right by the phone; he picked it up.

"No," he said in response to the caller's inquiry. "She can't come to the phone now. And she won't be able to come to the phone for some time." He hung up. Younger brothers tend to be very smug when big sisters are grounded.

"Who was that?" asked Long Suffering Spouse, awake and alert now and ready to charge into action. It's a maternal thing.

"It was for Younger Daughter," said Youngest Son.

That being entirely unresponsive, I decided to try my hand at asking the same question. "Well, yes, but who was it on the phone?"

"Some guy," said Youngest Son, more responsively perhaps, but still shedding no light on the actual identity of our late caller.

This was not Youngest Son's fault. I have observed that people -- especially young people -- do not identify themselves when calling anymore. Part of it is that -- our household excepted -- young people call directly to other young people via cell phone. The caller ID on the cell phone tells you that Jim or Jane or Bob or Dreamy Guy is calling because you, the cell phone owner, have programmed that name and number into your phone. In such cases, self-identification would be redundant.

But not at our house. And the caller ID is no help because, unlike land lines, cell phones just come up as "Cellular Call" or some equally unhelpful description.

I had actually looked forward to answering the phone when boys called for my daughters. "Hello, Mr. Curmudgeon," I imagined the call might go, with the caller hitting two octaves in these first seven syllables, "this is [Insert Actual First and Last Names Here]. May I speak with your daughter?"

This has never happened once. Older Daughter is 23; Younger Daughter will soon be 18. *Sigh*

But back to our story: We quickly surmised, and Younger Daughter subsequently confirmed, that the caller was a New Boy.

They're all alike, these New Boys, or at least all the ones that call for Younger Daughter are all alike: They can not screw up the courage to call during the hours when normal people are awake. They call instead during Teen Time, those hours after curfew and before the birds start chirping in the new morning.

In some families, this might not be a problem: New Boy would reach Younger Daughter on her cell phone and Sleeping Parents would never be the wiser.... Say, wait, is that a problem or not?

As long-time readers here know, my children have each received a cell phone when they've gone away to college. Middle Son bent the rules a little: He used mine toward the end of his high school career. I didn't need it during the hours that he would be most active. So I could take my own phone to and from work (lucky me). If I worked late, however, I might accidentally get Middle Son's calls.

In fact, I got more calls from teenage girls during Middle Son's senior year in high school than ever I did when I was a teenage boy.

Long Suffering Spouse is weakening, just a little, now that Older Daughter and Oldest Son are off our cell phone plan. She's thinking that -- before DCFS comes to get us for so depriving our children -- maybe we should get Younger Daughter and Youngest Son cell phones of their own. Even though Younger Daughter will be only a high school senior this Fall... and Youngest Son only a freshman. "It's different now," she tells me, "there are no more pay phones and it might be easier for me, picking up Youngest Son from football, for example."

But I don't know....

There are these 10:45pm phone calls. Or 11:25. Or 1:10am.

Is not getting awakened by an incoming call to one's teenager an entirely good thing?

I say Younger Daughter should train each New Boy to call during reasonable hours instead and be prepared to identify himself by first and last names when I answer the phone. But I seem to be increasingly on my own on this.

Am I?


katherine. said...

being a single working mommy for most of my life....I love cell phones...and I love my kids having cell phones. The oldest (now 25) didn't have one when she started driving...but the other two did. I was grateful more than once. Flat tires on mountain roads...need I say more?

Now I have one all grown up and living in the big away from home at college and an almost 17 year old who is all over the map. I LOVE CELL PHONES.

Also...when they are on MY plan....I can say things like..."I'm paying for this phone you damn well better pick up when I call." (and I can read the bill to see who they call...and who calls them.....)

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

shoot i don't know crumy. my youngest child is 37 now and that is his only phone. has been for years. aw what the heck, let 'em have the danged phones, otherwise they'll be dinosaurs. oh, wait, that would be like father, like son? no? sigh... just take your vitamin and don't worry about it. let lls make the decision! ha ha

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I've noticed that people rarely identify themselves as well, expecting us to know.

Linda said...

For what it's worth, even when people call at work to schedule ambulance trips and what-not they never say who they are but will say "this is the ED". Uhm, the entire ED? And which ED might it be? We deal with at least five of them if not more. Apparently it would be too difficult to say "Hello, this is Sally from the Backus Hospital ED." Polite? Yes! Going to happen anytime soon? No!

That said (sorry, thought I was still doing the Moaning Meme there), I debated long and hard before giving Amanda a cell phone as I didn't want the late night sneaky calls or the over-run minutes or any of that but then it just seemed impractical to NOT give her one when I would be needing to pick her up after band practice, etc. It has turned out to be a lifesaver on more than occasion and like Katherine said, if they are on your plan then you can see exactly who calls and when! There are some advantages here - truly!

The Curmudgeon said...

Katherine -- I have no problem giving my high school kids my phone when they go out in the evening... I'm not using the phone at that time and I agree totally about the comfort factor in the kid being able to summon help in the event of a flat, etc.

But their own phone? All the time? I see your point... and Linda's.... but still....

Bee -- You probably have it figured out right: Long Suffering Spouse will probably just tell me what to do and then I'll do it.....

Shelby said...

You are not alone and since you asked - yes, the new boys and old boys too should id themselves when you answer.

"If parenting is easy, you're doing it wrong."

MommasWorld said...

ManSon had girls calling here at all hours of the night. I politely ask who is calling then inform them he is asleep. 9 times out of 10 he is awake but I do not wish to have these calls coming in when I am in bed. I am quicker to answer the phone by my bed than ManSon is to answer the one by his bed two floors up. "In my day" (giggling hystarically for having the chance to say in my day!)..if the phone rang after 11 pm it was a family crisis of near faital proportion, not some form of love sickness.

Cell phones for teens could be a good idea IF the student is willing to keep the phone turned off during school hours unless State or National disaster strikes. Otherwise the cell phone Mom and Dad pay for becomes a paper weight in a teacher/principal's drawer until the end of the school year.

This Monday there was a large note posted at the check in desk at Snow White's daycare..."Parents - if your child is caught with a cell phone it will be confiscated until the end of summer." I am lost for words when I think of an eight year old with a cell phone. They call out a huge cry for help when they cannot find their favorite toy but can be responsible enough for a cell phone?

Where fibers meet mud said...

Identfying yourself is a good thing as I am not always wearing glasses when I answer the phone and waking up in a fog - y'all sound the same - Hello, this is (fill in the blank) can I please speak to (fill in the other blank)

Was this not a lesson we learned in a classroom one day?