Below is one of my favorite videos of Charlie, because it really shows the gratitude he shows towards pretty much everything in life – whether it’s a new high-tech gadget, or a beautiful evening sunset.
Socially, 4th grade was a hard year for him. His very best friend had relocated over the summer and moved to another school. So Charlie was going into 4th grade without his best bud. Shortly into the 4th grade year, his only three other friends all moved before Thanksgiving break. It was very difficult to lose the four friends he had bonded so well with. Then, Charlie had a hard time connecting with other kids, most of whom had been together since kindergarten in the same school, while Charlie had traveled around, attending the schools where I worked. Not an ideal situation, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
He knew that he was going to have to wait until middle school to get his first smartphone, because that was the standard in our house. But because of his difficult year, and how badly he missed his friends and just wanted to text or call them, Santa surprised him at Christmas, a little early, in hopes of giving him a little joy. He got his first (and only) iPhone.
His older sister and brother received them when they entered middle school because they were attending magnet schools far away downtown, in not the best area of town, and because of various after school events and other independent things they would be doing, having a way to stay in touch with us was mandatory. Pay phones, (the means of communication when I was their age), really don’t exist anymore, except maybe in NYC where I hear they’ve been unwittingly repurposed as street urinals. But they are increasingly harder and harder to find.
In today’s world, it’s almost impossible for teens to get by without having a smartphone. Some parents choose to deny their kids this “luxury” – but I don’t envy them one bit. I’d rather have my kids exposed to the latest technology early on, when they’re still under my care and I can teach them, they can make mistakes as all kids will, and we can turn their mistakes into learning experiences.
My older two kids have also told me that their friends who are more restricted with cell phone use/internet use, etc., “go crazy” when they visit a friend’s house where there is access to those things. They don’t know the proper way to use smart phones, social media, and various newer technological advances, because they haven’t had enough experience with them yet. They don’t understand the expectations of social media etiquette, or how to network online – key components they will need to master to succeed in several different fields of work. Conversely, it’s nice to have my kids regularly serving as my technology teachers, for free.
Why iPhones? Four words: Because they were free. We’re not rich. The kids have pretty inexpensive data plans. My husband worked several years for a company that provided tech support to Apple. In the years that he worked there, he consistently won every contest they held and received, over time, free iPod Shuffles, iPod Nanos, a mac mini, iPod touches, iPhones, iPads, a MacBookPro, AppleTV, iPad mini, and more. The gifts were extremely generous.
Yes, I know, lots of folks think kids – especially in 4th grade – don’t deserve iPhones, but the truth is, nobody has landlines anymore, and I’m not fond of giving my personal cell number that I use for work out to 4th grade kids. Besides, our kids have to maintain good grades and make good social choices in order to keep these things. They are very good at complying with this rule. And that’s enough reason for my husband and me.