As most of you know, we’ve got a kiddo heading into middle school this year. It’ll be his first year riding the bus to school so we bought him his very own cell phone. As expected, he couldn’t get his nose out of it the first couple of days. I’ve gotten text messages including pictures of my parent’s cat. He has played with it so much that he needed to charge it 3 times the first day.
And that’s okay. It’s new. He needs the opportunity to explore it and get to know the capabilities. That said, now that he’s had a few days, we are coaching him on what is the appropriate way to use it. Like so many other things, it is a useful tool and should be handled responsibly.
We took a walk down to the bus stop the other night so that he would know where it was. On the way, we spotted different things and quizzed him about what he had seen. Sure, that car was turning into a driveway, but it is still important that he notice it was there. We also talked to him about the phone explaining that when he got off the bus, he needed to stick it in his pocket for his walk home. We told him, “Keep your head up and pay attention.” We don’t want him to be the type of person Tam is talking about here. The received text message will still be there when you get home.
We are not training our son to live in any sort of fear, but only to be aware of what is going on around him. You can’t react to something that you didn’t observe. Too often, I watch people go about their lives in their little bubble. Sometimes it’s the cell phone. Sometimes it’s the ever present ear-buds. And often it’s just some internal distraction that prevents observation.
Flipping open your cell phone so you can text your friends prevents you from seeing the man waiting on the corner. Or seeing the unlatched gate where that aggressive dog lives. Putting on your headphones prevents you from hearing that car screeching your direction. Your eyes and ears and early warning devices. Don’t let technology take them away from you. What you miss may not be dangerous. It could be a friendly greeting from a neighbor or the sight of kids in the park.
Maintaining an awareness of the world around you can certainly help in keeping you safe. It is not the the only thing. As Caleb points out, situations can change in the blink of an eye. You need to be able to react quickly and appropriately. Had he had his nose in his cell phone, that night could have played out far differently.
Our society with it’s instant contact and answer has ironically made many of us islands. We will check that email or text the exact moment our pocket buzzes at the expense of missing that neighbor just waiting for acknowledgment. We communicate with our thumbs and miss the waves and smiles that only real life can bring. The text can wait. It’s not worth missing the real life contact. And it’s certainly not worth being oblivious to a potential threat. Really, is your social media worth your life?