I have a 16-year-old son who has never developed the skill of owning a mobile phone. He had one once and there was always ‘something wrong with the battery’. He bought another cheap one about six months ago and that also ‘doesn’t work’.
He’s not a billy-no-mates, he is very sociable and has a huge circle of friends who text each other constantly. He has never had any problem in contacting and meeting up with them, he has never missed something important because he is uncontactable by mobile phone. He manages to live the life of a modern child without the most basic of tools that a modern child needs.
My daughter on the other hand, being the last of four children, got a mobile phone much earlier than the others, in fact her brothers bought her one for her twelfth birthday (I’m already feeling old-fashioned, I know that’s considered late these days). So she set off to secondary school fully equipped to interact with her peers. I read a report recently which said that teenagers send about 100 texts a day, which means they are probably also receiving about 100 texts and I believe this, all hers come when I am watching something on telly or reading a book and really need to concentrate. I read the same sentence over and over again, punctuated by ‘beep beep’ ‘beep beep’.
This week she tried to do something weird with her mobile phone and broke it. It took three days for a new sim card to arrive so she experienced three days of being an old-fashioned girl.
She was remarkably unfazed about this. It might look like her life depends on her mobile phone, and losing it would be like losing a limb, but in fact she absolutely didn’t care a jot.
Like her older brother she just employed what teenagers have always used to communicate with each other and keep in touch with what’s happening. Magic, telepathy, collective consciousness and inner tracking devices.
I’m sure neuroscientists will one day discover which specific cluster of neurons and connections make up the inner sim card of the teenage brain, but meanwhile it’s good to know it’s still there ready to be employed when necessary. Just as dishwashers take up space, make a noise, are a bit of a hassle, and don’t render us incapable of washing the dishes by hand, the mobile phone is just an unnecessary gadget which pretends to be doing a job our teenagers are fully equipped to do by themselves…