Rachel over at Alas, a Blog has a post about a study which found that cell phones harm family relationships. Cell phone calls apparently make their lives so complex that the stress overwhelms them.
I couldn’t find the study itself after a bit of searching, but still this result doesn’t surprise me. People are handcuffed to their cell phones. You see it all the time — parents arguing with their kids via cell phone, mothers fielding “emergency” calls from their families in all kinds of awkward situations, fathers calling home from the grocery aisle to make sure they’re buying the right brand of diapers.
Our family has two (count ‘em) cell phones, so you wonder if this might happen to us. Somehow, I don’t think so. First off, neither of the phones “belongs” to anyone. Most of the time they just sit in the kitchen charging up. The main time we use them is when a child is off at some activity and needs to call for a ride home. No one is ever expected to be “available” at any time to take a cell phone call. I think in this sense, we’re not real cell phone users. But if a requirement of owning a cell phone was having it available at all times, I wouldn’t own one — I couldn’t stand the constant interruptions.
Some parents believe that it’s essential that they are available to their children at all times. What if a child got sick or injured? I hate to break it to you, parents, but you’re not that important. Presumably you’ve left your child in the care of another adult. If the injury is something you could take care of, it’s something they could take care of. If it’s not, they are just as capable of calling 911 as you are. Even if you don’t have a cell phone, they’ll reach you eventually.
What happens instead is you get calls for every little thing. How does Johnny like his macaroni and cheese? Can Susie stay an extra 30 minutes? Who cares, people? Figure it out for yourselves. When our kids were old enough to stay home along while we went out for a brief errand, we’d take the cell phone along, but we’d tell them they could only call us in a real emergency. (There needs to be blood or broken bones, we’d say). The only time we got a call was when the power went out. (Resourceful kids — Jim was playing games on my laptop, and Nora found the one non-cordless phone in the house to make the call.)
I’m not saying we’re some sort of model family with the way we handle our cell phones, but I do think that the key is that we own the phones, rather than the other way around. As the kids head into high school, here’s hoping it stays that way.