Does My Tween Really “Need” A Cell Phone?

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My daughter, who is nine, keeps pestering me about a cell phone. 

As in, when can she have one.  As in, so many of her friends have them (so many equaling three, and they all have divorced parents who want to be able to call them directly). 

I keep telling her that we’ll discuss it when she’s older, because right now, I don’t really see the point of her having a cell phone.  I mean, who is she calling?  And where does she think she’s going all by herself that would require her to need to make phone calls? 

In what I imagine she thought was a subtle attempt to persuade me otherwise, she recently asked how old I was when I got my first cell phone.  Twenty-five, I informed her.  I left out the part about how that’s because they hadn’t been invented before then, because it was just more fun to watch her mouth hit the floor and the wheels spin in her head as she tried to come up with a different approach.

But then here’s what happened: we went skiing over winter break, and one afternoon we decided to ditch ski school and lessons and just ski together as a family, which isn’t something we do very often because we’re all at different skill levels.  My husband is an expert skier, my daughter thinks she’s an expert skier, I’m a fairly decent skier, but I’m slow and I’m scared of anything steep or icy or bumpy or crowded, and my son is somewhere between advanced beginner and crying every time he falls down, which is often. 

So anyway, we decided to ski together on a pretty basic blue run, which happens to fork off to another run in the middle of the mountain.  My husband stayed with my son so that he could follow his turns, I stayed behind both of them because, as I mentioned, I’m slow, and my daughter, who was frustrated and annoyed with all of us, took off down the mountain ahead of us.  And by the time the rest of us reached the fork, she was nowhere to be found.

Now mind you, my daughter has skied at this resort at least a dozen times, and it’s a point of great pride for her that she knows every run and every lift like the back of her hand.  She also wears a black helmet cover with an enormous hot pink and neon orange synthetic “ponytail” sticking out of it, so she’s kind of hard to miss.  My point being, that I was not at all panicked.  There were only two ways she could go, they both led to lifts, and we knew she’d be at one or the other.  So my husband and my son and I picked a side, which, of course, turned out to be the wrong way, because she wasn’t at the lift when we got to the bottom.  Still, I wasn’t panicking.  The three of us got on the lift with the plan that we would ski the same run again, except this time we’d go the other way and we would find her.  We asked the lift operator to radio over to the other lift where we knew she had to be, and ask them to look for a girl with a crazy pink ponytail and to let her know we were on our way.

But as we’re on the lift, my husband’s cell phone rings.  It’s a woman who’s found my daughter.  Apparently, she was standing in the middle of the run, crying hysterically.  Now, I have to say, I was kind of disappointed.  Not disappointed that somebody found her, obviously, but that she fell to pieces so quickly.  I mean, she knows this place.  She knew we wouldn’t just leave her.  I understand that she was scared, but really?  Crying hysterically in the middle of a run?  We asked the woman to tell her that we were on her way and that we’d meet her at the lift, and I skied ahead, terrifyingly faster than normal.

Once she stopped crying, do you know what the first thing she said to me was?  “This is why I need to have a cell phone.”  I was like, oh, no you didn’t.  Actually, I told her, this is exactly why you can’t have a cell phone.  She was all, what?  huh?  But I explained that a cell phone is for someone who knows how to handle situations even when they don’t have a cell phone.  Instead of crying, I told her, you could have found a ski patrol person or anyone who works here, and you could have calmly told them that you got separated from your parents and weren’t sure where to go.  And they would have found us.  

But, she argued, if I had a cell phone, I wouldn’t need to do that.  I could have just called you.  True, I admitted.  But what if your cell phone was dead?  What if you didn’t get reception?  What if you dropped it in the snow and it got wet and didn’t work?  You have to know what to do without it, just like you need to know how to look something up in the dictionary in case spellcheck isn’t available. When I know you’re mature enough to do that, then we can talk about getting you a cell phone.  And when is that going to be? she wanted to know.  I don’t know, I told her.  Why don’t you try getting lost again and we’ll see what happens.

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