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Hey, dad, I found a phone

My kids found an old cell phone at the park the other day. It was working and unlocked but without service, probably a child’s toy that had been dropped and left behind. I would just have chucked it in the nearest garbage can, but my 8-year old was adamant that he get to keep it.

“What good is it without service?” I asked him.

“I can get service.”

“Not without me signing for you, which isn’t happening.  Besides, you don’t have money to pay a phone bill.”

“You could pay for me.”

“Not a chance.  You might as well just get rid of it.”

“But Dad, it could play music.”

“Which you would download how?”

“And I could take pictures.”

“Uh, huh.”

“And have it for a clock.  Please?”

“Fine, you can keep it.”

The two days since that concession have been crazy. He carries the phone with him everywhere, takes video of everything, plays it back at top volume, and switches his ring tones endlessly, just to hear them play. He’s so distracted he has trouble responding to basic instructions. Actual conversation is pointless. I tell him to put it away 50 times a day.

Last night, at 4:30, despite my explicit instructions not to set the phone’s alarm, I was woken by his most current ring tone blaring from the room next door. He was sleeping through it without any problem, of course, but I couldn’t disable the alarm without his password. I had to shake him awake and spend several minutes explaining to a groggy child that he needed to turn the stupid thing off.

As I was laying in bed, trying to get my adrenaline charged body back to sleep, it occurred to me (with a fair amount of terror) that this was only the beginning. If a single child could cause this much havoc with a single phone that didn’t even work, how much trouble would I be in once all three of them were old enough to own phones that were actually functional?

I know that phones are an unavoidable part of our culture now, and I’m resigned to the fact that my kids will have them eventually, but these past two days have convinced me to hold off as long as I possibly can.

Luke Hill is a stay-at-home father of three boys, aged 10, 8, and 4.  He has fathered, fostered, adopted, or provided a temporary home for kids anywhere between birth and university.  He has taught college courses, adoption seminars, camp groups, Sunday School classes, rugby teams, not to mention his own homeschooled kids.