Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Two of my children have cell phones. The rule in this house is that you don't get a cell phone until you start high school. I figure, up until that point, how often do you really need to talk on the phone, and who do you really have to call? And at that point, (high school) the kids having cell phones is just as much for my convenience as theirs, as they become a little busier, more social, harder to keep track of.

The other rule in this house is that we all share minutes, and each line is only allowed 250 "emergency" texts. The kids monitor those texts very carefully, because if they go over, the per text rate is ridiculous and they have to pay it. Since you pay for texts coming and going, they are very particular about who they text and how often. And I like it that way.

They each asked for unlimited texting for Christmas, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way--knowing what the answer would be, and I gave them a big fat NO, with a smile. For one thing, it's an unnecessary expense, and one I can't afford anyway. But a bigger reason I said no is on principle. I will never buy unlimited texting because I don't believe in it.

Have you ever noticed how if you have money in your pocket, you spend it? If you keep junk food in your cupboards, you eat it? If you have comprehensive cable packages, you watch more TV? And if teens have unlimited texting, they literally try to text unlimitedly?

I hate that.

I see teens completely and utterly addicted to texting. They text at the dinner table (rude), they text while they're with other friends (rude), they text during school, they text while standing right next to the person they're texting(weird)! And you know what else? They say nothing! The majority of their texts are filled with gossip, nonsense code, sexual innuendo (or not so), and ridiculousness. They stay up into the wee hours of the night texting instead of sleeping. They wake up and immediately begin again. All of this "communication", ironically, keeps them from actually communicating! I have seen kids have ongoing texting relationships with other kids that they have never and would never actually speak to in person. That doesn't even make sense! And meanwhile they have no time to talk to their parents, their brothers and sisters, or have real conversations with friends and romantic interests. I don't think it's right.

Typing texting code into phones allows a certain anonymity, a certain boldness, an artificial uninhibitedness that doesn't exist in face-to-face relationships. Mix those ingredients with a teen's desire for independence and their raging hormones, and sometimes what you get is shocking. Sexting is rampant, and being fiercely prosecuted by law. Text bullying and harassment are even alarmingly common. It's a false sense of security to be able to just type away in such a private, uncensored way and never really have to be accountable in face-to-face.

I have heard teens brag about their 6,000 or 10,000 or 14,000 texts in a month. One month! What a time/talent/energy black hole! It's as if because they have no limits, they will try their hardest to push them anyway. I don't think that's a good principle. Life has limits. That is a true principle. What can we really do as much as we want to of? Even worthwhile and valuable things that we wish we could do limitlessly are hedged in by other necessary things that we just have to do as part of life. It's all about balance.

I'm all for communication. I don't mind the kids talking on their phones with friends (though they have parental curfews set so their phones shut off at certain times). I don't mind their friends coming to our house to hang out (which means eat me out of house and home). I'm a big fan of conversation and talking things out, whether those things are just run-of-the-mill teenage chatter, budding emotional or romantic feelings, or even disagreements or arguments. I just think it should be real talking, not texting.

When a kid has a limited number of texts, they are very careful how they "spend" them. They're a little more particular about who they give their phone number to. It gives them the ability to make their own decisions and use their independence within a reasonable boundary. There are times when a quick text message is so convenient and useful. And being able to text just a little makes the kids feel "cool", which is an important ingredient in a teen's life, but as with many other areas of life, indulgence isn't necessarily better.

If I were to give my kids unlimited texting for Christmas, it would cost me $29.99 (plus taxes) per line per month. That's over $700 for one year! $700 for something that doesn't improve their communication skills, uplift them, or improve them. $700 to waste more time, talk less, read less, learn less. No thank you.

If they have that much to say, I'd rather spend the $700 on journals and stationary and stamps.


Leslie said...

I agree completely with you. We have parental controls that only allow testing at certain times of the day. Yes he still texts 5000+ a month but he only has a 5 hour window a day. It also saves my minutes and forces him to use the home phone. Most family plans are $30 a month for the entire family.

The Fear Fam said...

Amen!! You put my feelings into words perfectly. I'm an adult and I only have 250 texts to spend per month. :)

Heidi said...

My daughter has a cell phone now that she is in high school because of convenience for she and I. She never "gabs" on it and there is no texting available. She doesn't miss it one bit. However, she does spend a chunk of time on FB when she has time.

Sarah said...

Amen! I fully agree with this! I think it's ridiculous that kids in 6th grade (and younger) have cell phones! What is the point?! I've told my kids they can have cell phones when they have jobs to pay for them.

isshou ni said...

Exactly my feelings! well put.

Shelley said...

AMEN from me too! I agree completely. Perhaps you should create an essay/article on this topic and submit it to parenting magazines and/or LDS publications? It's very well thought out, and you make excellent points. More parents need to read this!