How old ought a person be whence first they get their own mobile phone? I’m not keen on today’s technologically advancing world, so if I did bring up a child, I’d want to bring it up outside playing in the mud, not inside pestering me to buy it a smartphone.
But I hear that today’s kiddies don’t want mud as much as they want smartphones. Back in my day, kids didn’t have phones and they – we – were just fine thanks.
My friends came knocking at my actual door if they wanted to see if I was playing out. They rang my landline. We wrote each other letters, on paper, and posted them to each other even though we saw each other every day. I got a pager when I was 16, which as far as I can remember was only used by my friend Laurence as another means to make crap jokes, this time via the medium of a poor sod in a call centre taking down his ‘witty banter’ verbatim. Then I got my first mobile phone, which I hated just as much as every other phone I’ve had since.
Back in my pot smoking, jobless, Bob Marley-is-my-hero days, my housemate instigated an excellent rule. In the smoked filled den of our sitting room, there were to be no mobile phones littered across the table. The sitting room table was a sacred place, it would seem, for ashtrays and Rizla and bits of weed and scratched CDs. Mobile phones totally changed the ambiance of the room, man.
“I have, like, 50,000 friends,” he told me. “Because I’m a badass.”
I liked that rule though – it kept people who were not in the room out of the room, if you see what I mean.
Fast forward 12 years and everywhere I look, people are relying on their phones over actually being present, conscious, mindful, in the moment. Waiting for a bus? Send a text. Date gone to the loos while you are in a restaurant? Tweet. At a gig? Better film the singer, so you can show your friends how dark it was in there and how close to the front you weren’t able to get.
I tend to leave my phone out of sight, out of mind, much to the fury of my husband. I once missed the opportunity to fly in a helicopter with him because I was galavanting about a meadow (might actually have been a shop) and didn’t know he was trying to get hold of me. 40 missed calls and an argument later, I promised to try not to have my phone on silent so often. That was about four years ago. Phone is still on silent. In your face, helicopter ride!
For a while, I hear, kids of today were getting phones as they moved up to secondary school. Parents tell me that once your kid is old enough to be without you, their owning a phone is actually quite reassuring. Plus you can find out what time they are planning to grace you with their presence for dinner.
But now, research shows, kids are asking for phones from an even younger age. I asked my nephews (12 and 9 years of age) about this for they are children and they said it was true. The 9 year old said he’s wanted one since he was 5, but just because ‘I want to play games and break it.’ Encouraging.
Most of the 12 year old’s friends have phones. Most of his friends have i-Phones, no less. I asked the younger nephew if his friends had phones and he said: ‘No, except for Stanley Kench.’ The image of a nine year old boy called Stanley Kench being the only one in his class with a mobile phone really made me chuckle.
The elder nephew told me he’d wanted a phone since he was 8 and got one when he was 11. ‘Because I’m a badass,’ he added.
Conversation moved on to school. How was it, I asked. ‘Awesome, I have, like, 50,000 friends,’ he told me. Then added: ‘Because I’m a badass.’
But I digress.
My nephews live in Glastonbury, where crime is probably not as rife as London, where around 6000 phones a month are stolen off kids. So if I had a kid and if I couldn’t get it to play in the mud so cut my losses and bought it a phone, it would bloody well be a cheap brick that does the bare minimum. ‘CALL MUM’ and ‘PLAY SNAKE’ perhaps.
Which is not very progressive of me and in itself returns me to the decision kids and I shouldn’t mix. My dad always says you’ve got to move with the times. He’s pushing 70 but he’s a whizz on the computer, although he did blame the one i-Mac he ever owned for breaking when he spilt tea on it, thus returning to PCs because surely they wouldn’t shut down if he ever spilt tea again.
When I was a child, he bought me a space hopper because that’s what kids had in the 1980s, even though when he was a child what he wanted more than anything was a Kodak box camera, for 2 pounds and 10 shillings. I don’t remember him lambasting the decline in popularity of the Kodak box camera and refusing to buy me a space hopper just because he didn’t have one when he was a child. Progressive, see. Not like me.
In the interest of progression, I asked my nephew what he wanted more than anything. ‘A camera,’ he said. 60 years after my father hoped for a camera, my nephew is hoping for one too, which I find warming. Perhaps the space hopper years were just a blip.
I finish with an unrelated but informative point. In interviewing my nephews for this piece, I thought it important to check what they were hoping to be when they grow up, seeing as they are nine and 12 years old and their answers might need to be archived for future nostalgia. The 12 year old already had his sights set on realistic career choices, sadly. Professional photographer was number one. The nine year old, so scrumptious I could spread him on a crumpet, said, in all seriousness and without missing a beat: ‘Dragonologist, Lego inventor and assassin.’ Imagine that on a business card.
With that, my nephews gave me a ‘bro-fist’ for being a great aunt and went to bed. Interview complete.
Now then. Who do I talk to about becoming a dragonologist myself?