Head Up

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?

5 thoughts on “Head Up”

  1. For a few years, I was a step-parent to a pre-teen boy. The boy walked to and from school (less than half a mile) due to our work schedules. The boy was incredibly intelligent (he read on a post-high school level in third grade), but we were always concerned that he would get so engrossed with a bug or something, that he would wander obliviously into danger.

    Amazingly, in three years, he always made it to school and home just fine. One day in the snow, my sister-in-law saw him walking home and tried to give him a ride, but he wouldn’t even get in the car with her because we had told him not to get in the car with ANYONE unless we knew about it.

    I guess he was listening after all.

  2. First car phone I ever used was a radio phone, delivering pizzas back in 1970 or 71. Left the place, dialed my first phone number, told them I’d be there in whatever amount of time, hung up and realized I’d negotiated three intersections and stop signs and had no recollection of any details, or if there were any other cars at those intersections. Made me wonder what sort of mayhem would happen when everyone started getting these new-fangled cell phones. Tough to stay aware with phones and earbuds.

  3. I’ve had that same discussion with Silver many, many times. *sigh* I feel like a failure.
    Earbuds in ears, eyes and hands on Nintendo DS. Yet she feels she’s still paying attention to what’s going on around her. I do hope it’s nothing serious that proves her wrong.

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