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October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
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Are Cell Phones Making Our Children Dependent?


        As my husband deteriorated from his chronic illness, the first thing we did was get him a cell phone. This goes back many, many years. It was before cell phones for individual use was common. It was a safety feature promoted by the many organizations that dealt with chronic illness. In this way, as he became more dependent and could do less for himself, he could call and get help. If he ran out of gas (because he had that habit of letting the tank go to empty) and was unable to walk to a gas station, he could call, explain and probably get someone to deliver the gas. If his wheelchair got a flat tire, he could get help without being dependent on a bystander. We felt that the cell phone gave him back some of the independence that the illness had taken away.


 


         Today, everyone has a cell phone. Even very young children can have their own phone so that they can be connected to their parents. Most people feel it is a safety feature that allows the children to contact their parents, at any time, in a moment. And though this is true, I wonder if the cell phone in the hands of the independent does just the reverse of what it did for my husband. For him, because he was dependent, it gave him more independence. However, for our children, isn’t the cell phone taking away the independence they should be developing?


 


         In my travels, I have eavesdropped on many cell phone calls. This was not done deliberately.


 


         Many people are in the habit of talking on their cells, loudly in all public places, as if there is no one in the crowd who can hear them. Further, they talk about any subject. A sense of privacy and priority seems totally lost. It is even very easy to think the person standing next to you is talking to you, since the cell phone has now become almost invisible. More then once I have said, “excuse me?” to the person next to me, mistakenly thinking he was talking to me when he was on the phone. This seems to be especially true of the younger cell phone users, and I have noticed a trend that concerns me. Being seconds away from parents’ advice is helpful, but calling with every minor problem to ask parents what to do, may make children very dependent and interferes with their developing any problem solving skills.


 


         On a recent plane trip that was riddled with inconveniences, I was seated next to a group of teens. At every stage, they called home for advice. The plane was having problems and was going to take off late. Then they were going to give us another plane. The teens called home asking what they should do at every new development of the travel problem. Could their parent call the people who were meeting them and tell them they’d be late? Should they wait on the plane or in the terminal? If they went into the terminal, they had to be back in 45 minutes, so could Mom call them in 40 minutes and remind them, as they had no wristwatch? What should they do with their carry-on? Was it safe to leave it on the plane if they went into the terminal?


 


         Finally, after many delays, we were given another plane and this one did take off. But, when we landed, their luggage wasn’t with us. No surprise to me, the cell phone was whipped out, and the parents were asked what to do about the problem. Whom to speak to? What to say? What should they wear if the suitcases didn’t come? How would they get their clothes? Etc. Etc. I wondered what would have happened if they didn’t have cell phones. Perhaps they would have learned how to solve these problems themselves.


 


         When I think of cell phones and dependence, I wonder if it is the cell phone that is making our children dependent, or is it us? That awful expression comes to mind. It’s not guns that kill − it’s people who do the killing.


 


         How children use their cell phones is up to the parents. I guess, whether cell phones are used for dependence or not, is up to the people who use them and the rules for their use set down by the person paying the bill − the parents. How does your child use his cell phone? Do you need to say, “I think you can figure out what to do by yourself. I have faith in your judgment” and let them learn by experience? Or do we want them used as much as a tool of dependence, just as they are used as a tool for independence for those that are chronically ill?


 


         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com or through the Jewish Press by regular mail.

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More Articles from Ann Novick

When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/are-cell-phones-making-our-children-dependent/2006/11/29/

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