You know that movie, Poltergeist? The one where the little blonde girl, Carol Anne, gets trapped inside the TV in her parents’ bedroom?
That crap’s real, yo. It can happen.
Here’s how I know: my thirteen-year-old daughter has been trapped inside her phone since June. It’s true that her body goes walking around our house sometimes, but I’m pretty sure her mind is always locked in that 4×3 inch screen.
I wasn’t going to get her a phone. Like, ever. I’ve seen all those stories about what teenage girls DO with their phones. It’s a cautionary Lifetime movie every time you watch the news.
But then, somehow, I got convinced that not allowing her a phone was like those mothers who wouldn’t let their daughters listen to the radio, or, you know, wear pants. Lord knows, I didn’t want to be one of those mothers.
So, instead, I’m one of those other mothers who stand around complaining about how their kids are always on their phones, texting, or facetiming, or whatever it is that those rascally kids do these days.
We try to set limits, we do. No phone during school work. No phone after 9:30 pm. No social media (gasp). No nekkid pictures (duh).
Still, it’s hard. Not everything she does on that phone is a waste of time, after all. She’s taught herself guitar and ukelele. She’s mastered the top knot. She’s planned her sister’s birthday party. She’s taken and edited a portfolio worth of photographs. And… she’s also watched every freaking episode of The Office. So, it’s kinda a wash.
That’s was why I was actually sort of excited when she screwed up, did something age-appropriately stupid and unacceptable, and got herself grounded from electronics for TWO WEEKS. The fact that this coincided with Christmas was all the better.
For two whole weeks, she did nothing but play with her sisters and brother, read books, draw, go for walks, and play music. It was bliss. Well, except when I wanted her I actually had to get off my duff and walk around until I found her – no shooting her a text to come downstairs.
I had high hopes that her little break would help stop the madness. But, no. She got her phone back on December 29th and though I’m fairly confident that she’s still alive in there somewhere, I wouldn’t bank on it.
It’s not that she’s up to anything unsavory online. We check her history, her email, and her messages regularly. (Don’t start with me about privacy – she has zero expectation of privacy, which is pretty much how we should all view our online lives.) We aren’t looking for “I hate my mom, my brother is a jerk, etc.” We’re just checking to make sure she’s safe and being a good digital citizen.
Still, there’s just so much WORLD out there. And not all world is good world. Take the news, for example. Zoë gets notifications from CNN about breaking news. So, every time there’s a bombing, or a shooting, or a wildfire, or an abducted toddler she hears about it. Usually, before I do. I don’t like the idea of my sweet thirteen-year-old being inundated with all that ugliness, but I feel a little ridiculous demanding that she remain oblivious to world events. Hell, when I was in eighth grade we got extra credit for reading the newspaper.
And the texting. Ugh, the texting. I know friends are important, particularly if you’re homeschooled and not surrounded by teenagers (for better or worse) from 8-3 every day. Still, how much can you really have to say every fifteen minutes? She has to silence her phone because I’ve developed a twitch set off by that little chime.
C’est la vie. Until we come up with parameters that work for us (Any suggestions? Anyone?), some way to balance the good with the bad, I guess I’m stuck secretly hoping she gets herself grounded again.
I could be waiting a while. She’s a much better kid than I was. Damnit.