Have you ever tried to take a bone from a dog? Trust me, it’s a very dangerous thing to do, even if the dog is a beloved member of your family. In fact, when it comes to taking an object away in a typical household, there is only one thing more dangerous: taking a cellphone away from a teenager.
You’re likely to endure a combination of S-words: scratching, spitting and snarling.
In most households, the parents are paying for both the cellphones and the cellphone plan. But before they handed the cellphones to the teens (or even pre-teens), they did not get them to sign a cellphone usage agreement. A good cellphone usage agreement goes something like this:
“I, the undersigned teen, being of unsound body and mind, do hereby declare my undying love and affection for the adults who have kindly granted me the use of a cellphone, AKA my parents. In order to enjoy the privilege of using the cellphone, I agree to the following:
1. The cellphone belongs to my parents, who retain the right to take it away from me without any notice, even if I’m in the middle of uploading a video to TikTok called ‘Funny Musical Sounds from Various Body Parts.’
2. I will not use the cellphone when I have homework to do or an exam to study for, except in dire circumstances, such as when my parents have posted something on social media and need a ‘like.’
3. I will not bring the cellphone to the dining table, unless I intend to take photos of my mom’s amazing cooking to post on social media.
4. If my parents ask me to share all the messages I’ve sent and received, I will not laugh in their faces. I will turn to the side and laugh.
5. If my parents take me on vacation, I will not spend the entire trip staring at my cellphone. I will also stare at my siblings’ phones. And now and then, when my parents point out something in the environment, I will look at it. There is life outside cellphones and I will try to discover it.”
Unfortunately, most teens have not signed a cellphone usage agreement. This makes it extremely difficult for a parent to take possession of a cellphone. A desperate parent will occasionally turn to the internet for help, searching for the nearest “Teen-Cellphone Separation Service.” If they’re lucky, they will find a local business that they can call.
Parent: “Please help me. My teenage son is addicted to his cellphone. I tried to take it away, but he’s holding it tightly and threatening to call Child Protective Services.”
Business Manager: “Don’t worry. I will send Rocky right over. Rocky has never met a cellphone he couldn’t remove.”
Parent: “I don’t want him to hurt my son, just take his phone away.”
Manager: “Rocky is very gentle. He follows our three-step plan. The first step is to ask for the phone politely.”
Parent: “I tried that. It didn’t work.”
Manager: “If that doesn’t work, Rocky will threaten to take photos of your son’s messy room and post it on social media.”
Parent: “That might work, but I’m not sure.”
Manager: “If that doesn’t work, Rocky will shoot your son with a tranquilizer dart.”
Parent: “Oh no!”
Manager: “Don’t worry, it’s the same dart they use on the lions at the zoo. Perfectly safe and very effective! Just shoot the lion and grab the cellphone.”
Parent: “Lions have cellphones?”
Manager: “Every now and then, a visitor will drop a cellphone into a lion’s enclosure. And next thing you know, there’s a Doordash delivery from Outback Steakhouse.”
Considering parental struggles, you may be surprised to learn what one American boarding school has managed to do. After students returned from remote learning during the pandemic, administrators at Buxton boarding school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, noticed that the students had forgotten how to interact with each other. “They had spent so much time glued to their smartphones,” Peter Beck, the head of Buxton, told the New York Post.
So what did the school do? It banned smartphones, allowing students to use only simple phones without social media apps or internet browsers.
And guess what? The students somehow survived. “They’re spending more time doing academic work, creatively expressing themselves through art, getting to know one another and getting to know themselves,” Beck said.
You mean it’s possible to get to know people without smartphones?
I’d better let my kids know.