WE HAVE THREE mobile phones connected to separate phone numbers in our home and watch with great interest how both of our young children use those phones. I suspect their behaviour will change when they become teens.
We share all three of the phones, trying to ensure our youngest respects how easy it is to break a screen if he drops the handset. He's seen two cracked screens in his three years when his parents placed their phones in precarious places. You grow up by experimenting.
We don't have the hundred euro of extra cash to repair a broken screen so if it happens, we drop back a generation of smartphone and just wait. When that occurs, the phone's primary purpose reverts to calling and answering. That's how both children use the phone now--to ring their grandparents or cousins. I make it fun by connecting big handsets to some of the calls so the calls often feel like they used to when we had a landline. But most of the time, we use the speakerphone capability of the handsets during the half hour calls. It reduces repetition and prevents ears from getting hot. These are special moments that I want to record and revisit years from now.
Our phones hold different games (representing the three different operating systems on mobile devices). Seven year old Mia reads books on the Lumia 1520. She takes photos well with the Lumia 1020 and the iPhone. Both kids like reviewing photos and young Dylan is spellbound when flicking through video clips.
I'm particularly intrigued by how our young children make up stories while reviewing content on the phones. Mia has created basic storyboards on the handsets that evolved into printed books. She has dictated captions to me and watched me produce a Kindle story book for her grandfather's Kindle. She also uses the phones as a portable radio through the TuneIn app.
If I believe the sociological research, the mobile phone has yet to evolve into a social object for both our young children. If and when that happens, the phone might define who our kids are. But I wonder--if they grow up sharing the mobile phones with each other and with their parents, will we enjoy a more open and communicative era when the kids become teens? It's something I'm keen to observe and document.
No matter what happens, I'm writing about it, starting with a blog post that I'm setting aside to publish on September 23, 2021. That's the day Mia will enter her 14th year. Perhaps she will corroborate both this blog post and the one that auto-generates on her birthday.
[Bernie Goldbach is the senior pilot and creative multimedia lecturer in the Limerick Institute of Technology.]