Once upon a time, long ago…
Like at least 15 or 20 years, back when everyone smelled like Clinique Happy and Steve Madden platforms and wide leg jeans were must haves, hardly anyone had a cell phone. But everyone had a house phone perched on their kitchen counter.
I remember that phone ringing and literally running to answer it in an all out race with my brother. I SPRINT because heaven knows if he answers the phone before me, and it happens to be a boy I like, the poor guy will be grilled like a pork chop until he begs for mercy. Or hangs up.
If I did somehow make it to the phone to answer before anyone else, I would stretch out that coiled cord as far as I could and curl up in a corner on the cold kitchen floor. Because unlike
all the other kids my age, I was not allowed to have a phone in my room. And also? I wasn’t allowed to use the cordless phone. So I spent HOURS of my life, tethered to that old phone, doodling hearts all over whatever pad of paper was next to it. And my parents, brothers and sisters could hear every. single. word.
It was agony.
But it was also brilliant.
Although my mom trusted me completely, it also must have been nice for her to hear what I was talking about. If she wanted to, at any point she could have heard full conversations that I was having with anyone I was talking to.
That house phone was my safety net. And I didn’t even know it.
Everyone had a house phone. If I went to one of my friend’s houses for a party, or for the night, and I got sick or something shady was going on and I was ready to leave, I could always sneak into their kitchen and call my mom.
Yet another safety net.
The death of the landline
Life is so completely different now. In a world of instant emails and social media, almost everyone has a cell phone, and hardly anyone has a house phone. It’s become an absolute necessity, and also blazing hot topic among parents.
Being relatively strict parents, my husband and I always agreed that we would not consider a cell phone for the kids until they were in high school. Until the day my phone rang, and a sweet little girl asked to speak to my oldest. “Um, sure?” I handed over my phone and for the next hour the child flitted around my house like a little sprite, happily chatting about nothing in particular. When she handed me my phone back, I had three missed calls and four texts.
There was, without a doubt, a phone situation in this house and it needed be handled.
So after discussing it with my husband and my family to see how they dealt with it with their own kids, we made a decision.
We bought a cell phone for the kids. But for the house.
Hear me out.
It was actually cheaper for us to buy a cell phone and add it to our plan than it was for us to buy a house phone. Because I seriously looked into it. I wanted the cord and all. Luckily for my children, it just didn’t make sense.
So, we purchased a very basic cell phone. Before we even let them touch it, we added several safety apps to lock. it. down. But kids are smart. Lightyears smarter than us. SO we handed it to them and let them try to get into it. And with some tips from my law enforcement bestie, when we thought we had it locked down, we added more.
Social media in any form is completely out of the question for several more years.
They begged us to let them text. We did a text trial run for 24 hours and then sent it to the chopping block. Texts and videos coming from other kids at 7am on a Saturday? Too soon for all of us. They are allowed to text their daddy and I and that is it.
Everyone understands that this is Mom and Dad’s phone that we are letting them use. It stays in the kitchen at all times. In a cabinet. And they can call their friends if they want to talk. They do not have free range over this phone and are not allowed to sit and play on it.
My girls are getting to the age of slumber parties. And now that land lines are a thing of the past, I had some concerns about them sleeping out but having no way at all to get in touch with me, aside from using a parent’s cell phone. In an emergency, if they get sick, if I need to get in touch with them, or if they just want to leave, they are able to bring this locked up brick of a phone with them.
I can also text them a sweet goodnight, check on how the party is going, or let them know I can come get them if they need me.
I know my kids aren’t completely innocent and I’m not oblivious to the fact that they’ll probably go behind my back to try to break through the barriers we’ve set up on this phone. We check it regularly and have firm rules regarding its use. I’m hyper aware of the dangers of cell phone use, especially in children.
But, I need my girls to have the same safety net that I had.
And since the phone lives in the kitchen, I can screen their calls just like my mama did, and I can hear every conversation they have. I also purposely leave the phone on without charging it so that when they do go to use it, it has such a low battery it needs to be plugged in.