My five-year-old recently received a pearly pink Princess phone for her birthday. You know, the pretend kind with the preprogrammed keys that say things like, “Prince Charming isn’t in at the moment, please leave a message!” and “Hi, this is Sleeping Beauty. I’m taking a nap right now, but I’ll call you as soon as I wake up.”
After a cursory examination, she promptly passed it to her (extremely stoked) little sister.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked her, surprised.
“Because that thing’s lame,” she explained. “It doesn’t have a camera or a stylus.”
This is the same child who didn’t get a perfect score on a recent vision test because she couldn’t correctly identify the “telephone” icon. Hello? The illustration she was shown featured one of those desk-top rotary models with the heavy, curved hand piece that sits up on two pitchfork-shape prongs. She clearly could see it; she just had no idea what it was. Sure, she might have spotted a picture of a replica “retro” phone in one of my Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware catalogues, but it’s not like she’s ever been in the same room with one or heard it ring. To her, a phone either looks like a skinny silver piece of toast inexplicably fashioned with a miniature keyboard and a nifty photo-viewing screen (my BlackBerry), or a fat, black remote control (the cordless house phone).
Raising kids in the techno-age is daunting. I only caved in and sprung for an iPod for myself last year, and already both of my kids are begging for their own. I had no intention of getting them a computer this soon, but on the first day of preschool I watched the other kids line up to show off the mouse-wielding skills they’d picked up over the summer, and realized my 3 year old is already woefully behind the pack. In an economy where some of us are genuinely concerned about paying our mortgages, the last thing I need is two doe-eyed darlings asking Santa for “toys” that cost more than my first car (that I had to push uphill in the snow, both ways… oh forget it, you know the story).
We need to ban together, as parents—because if your child gets the latest MP3 player/iPhone/Playstation/Wii Will Rule the World, it’s only a matter of time before I’m gonna hear about it. At the very least, can we all agree that none of us will get our kids their own cell phone until they are old enough to vote? My theory is that if there’s nobody else to call, they might just give up on the idea.
A mother can dream.
Jenna McCarthy is the author of The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties. When she’s not txtng her babysitters, she can be found online at jennamccarthy.com.