My daughter Hannah is 10 and a half years old. In a week and a half she will be starting grade five. And the fact that no one has a home phone anymore (including us) is killing her social life.
When I was 10 I had a number of friends in my neighbourhood. I also had their phone numbers, for the family phones that sat attached to the walls in their kitchens or living rooms. If we wanted to get together to play we could call each other and find out if we were free. I remember asking my mom if I could go to my friend’s, or have my friend over. Sometimes the answer was yes, and other times it was no, but we could make plans for later. It made summer vacations, when we were bored and missing each other, much more palatable.
We got rid of our home phone about four or five years ago. Both my husband and I had cell phones, and it just made sense to cut what had become an unnecessary expense. By the time we got rid of the landline we mostly only got telemarketing calls on it, anyway. A lot of other people have made the same call and gotten rid of their landlines. According to an article from this past February more than half of children and adults under the age of 45 (i.e. – my family) live in a house without a landline, and the number is only growing.
Here’s the problem, though: I don’t want to let my daughter use my cell phone as her phone. My iPhone feels much more personal to me than my home phone ever did. I’m not okay with Hannah using my phone to call her friends. I’m not okay with getting phone calls from her friends on it. And I’m definitely not leaving it with her when we’re in different places. And most of Hannah’s friends’ parents? As far as I can tell they have the same deal.
Hannah does have her own phone – my husband gave her his old iPhone, but it doesn’t have a SIM card. It’s essentially an iPod that could be a phone but isn’t. She can use FaceTime and iMessage, which means that she has a way of connecting with other iPhone users, including me and my husband and her grandparents. However, many of her friends don’t have iPhones, or don’t have any kind of phone at all. And many of her friends also don’t have landlines, or email addresses that they check regularly. So Hannah’s “phone” is essentially useless and she has no other good way to get in touch with her friends in the neighbourhood. As a result she sees her friends less than I saw my friends when I was her age.
In a few years, once these kids are 12 or 13 or 14, I’m guessing they’ll all have cell phones of their own and be more than able to connect with each other. In the meantime, though, the onus remains on us as parents to manage their social calendars. Since the kids can’t get in touch with each other the parents have to text and email to set up play dates or arrange to meet up somewhere. By giving up the landline we’ve become responsible for keeping our kids entertained for a few more years, until they all have texting apps of their own.
It’s not all bad, staying connected to our kids. And I certainly wouldn’t want my 10 year old to be glued to a texting app. There’s plenty of time for that later. For now, though, I’m realizing how a decision you make for one reason can reverberate in unexpected ways in other areas of your life. So if you have a six year old and you’re considering whether or not to keep your home phone, you might want to hold off on your decision for a few years yet.