JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

iPhone 5s for fifth graders

Picked up my daughter from school yesterday. We had returned from Florida two days earlier after the long holiday break.

“Hi, Casey!” I said.

“Hi,” she said.

The girl looked unhappy. Which is unusual. Casey is a happy kid—especially hopping out of school. She’s always smiling, half-skipping, jacket hanging off her thin shoulders, book bag 33 percent open.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“Why can’t I have an iPhone 5?” she said.

“Um, because you’re 10,” I replied.

She didn’t like this answer. For Christmas or Chanukah, a slew of her classmates received iPhone 5s. Why, she wanted to know, couldn’t she have one, too? She’s kind, responsible, a hard worker, does well in school, etc … etc. Wasn’t she as deserving as the others?

Sigh.

I love being a parent. I hate this shit. Why, oh why, do 10-year olds need iPhone 5s? Hell, why, oh why, do 10-year olds need cell phones? I know … I know—what if there’s an emergency? What if they need to reach home? But what sort of parent puts his/her 10-year-old kid in a situation where there’s an emergency phone situation—sans phone? If you’re at a friend’s house, there’s a phone. If you’re at an after-school activity, there’s a phone. If you’re out riding your bike or shooting hoops in a driveway, you can’t be too far away.

More to the point—the iPhone 5. Why? Why? Why? Why does a 10-year-old kid need an expensive, multipurpose communications device? Or, put differently, why do my kid’s classmates have a nicer phone than I do? Seriously, it makes no sense. Are parents itching for their children to spend even more time staring at a glowing screen? Do parents like the idea of their kids Googling “hookers” and “Taylor Swift” and “big titties”? Do we want our offspring, at age 10, texting one another? Starting up Instagram and Twitter accounts? I know I sound 90 here, but … I’m lost. Totally lost. I think back glowingly to the days of my youth, when Gary Miller and Dennis Gargano and Jonathan Powell and Scott Choy and John Ballerini and the gang would meet up in someone’s backyard and play football, or flip cards, or did wheelies on our bikes. The center of our worlds were, well, our worlds—not small glowing objects that promote themselves as communication devices, but actual limit/reduce genuine communication.

Much, I understand. iPhone 5s are status symbols. iPhone 5s are cool. They’re expressions of personality—modern-day belt buckles, in a sense. But why do parents allow their young kids to own one? What’s the lesson? The point?

Ugh.