Friday, December 12, 2008

Cell phones...a love-hate relationship

Okay, it may be uncool to admit, but I am not a cell phone person. Just the other day, as I was waiting for my friend, author Heather Graham, to meet me for lunch, I reluctantly hauled mine out of my purse and called to check on her. I got her voice mail and told her I'd be waiting inside the restaurant. Fifteen or so minutes later, a very frantic Heather came tearing into the restaurant and informed me that a cell phone does no good, if I don't answer it.

For once I was actually puzzled. I had, in fact, left it on...something I almost never do. I made her call me. From inside my fairly small purse came a barely discernible ring, something I wouldn't have heard if I hadn't had the purse right up by my ear. She rested her case and I vowed to fix my ring-tone...sometime. It hasn't happened yet, mostly because I don't know how...or care.

Now I do believe a cell phone is great for keeping in touch with kids or in an emergency, but that's it. Very few of us are so important that we can't be out of touch for the length of time it takes to drive somewhere. Nor are we so amazingly popular that we must chat with all our friends while in a restaurant. And hopefully we're not so bored with our own company that we must call someone to fill in every spare second left in our day. At least that's what I'd like to believe. Reality suggests something else.

For instance, and I hate to say it but these are most often women, there are those who exit a store, climb into their giant SUVs, start talking on their cells and then try to back out of a parking space. The concept of hands-free cells apparently hasn't been mandated by law down here in Florida, or if it has, no one is familiar with the law. These people can barely handle the car on a good day, much less while talking on their phones.

Then there are the oblivious, so intent on their conversations, that they're completely unaware of anything. Just the other day -- this time it was a man -- pulled into the middle of the narrow driveway of a shopping center parking lot and then made a phone call so no one could exit or enter while he chatted. To the credit of those of us waiting, no one actually hit a horn. Then, again, I did say a few very bad words.

Or how about the man standing in a pizza shop holding up a line while he chatted into his hands-free cell, rather than actually placing his order. This guy was incapable of multi-tasking. And he paced while he talked. It was quite an adventure for those closest to him.

And none of this gets into how I feel about teens and texting, especially while driving.

So, you might ask, where's the love? I like the security when I'm on the road. That's it. Oh, and I wouldn't mind a phone that could find a restaurant, automatically dial and make reservations, answer email. Then, again, I'd probably never figure out how to do any of those things. I guess I'll be stuck in the Dark Ages for a while longer. In the meantime, I hope some of the cell-phone addicted can get some immediate help.

Sherryl Woods

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Teens, texting and driving

The other day in response to my blog on irresponsible cyclists, Karende wrote in and mentioned a mom who refuses to insist that her child wear a helmet because he'd simply take it off the second he's out of her sight. It made me wonder how that mom is going to cope if ever tragedy strikes and her son suffers a massive head injury.

It also reminded me of two other issues, the most topical of which is teens who insist on text messaging while driving. Many of you may have seen the Dr. Phil episode a few months back in which a mom came on the show with her teenage daughter who insists that she has the skill and attentiveness to do both. Mom worried this wasn't the case.

However, and this is a big one, Mom absolutely refused to do what she had to do to make sure her daughter and others on the road remained safe. While many of us at home and in the studio audience looked on in absolute bewilderment, the mother sat through a tape of the simulation they'd done with her daughter who was driving and texting . . . and running into practically everything on the simulated "road." Ms. Teenager claimed it was an unfair test.

Dr. Phil then had on a young man who'd hit and killed a cyclist because he was texting and driving. He told how devastating this had been for him and his family, the guilt and remorse he felt about what had happened. Ms. Teenager seemed to find his story very sad, but was unmoved about the need to change her own behavior.

At that point, Mom was told she simply had to take the cell phone away from the girl until she could be trusted to be more responsible. Mom said, "Well, I'll do it if I have to." Which part of this did she not understand? Her child was not going to change her behavior without direct parental intervention. The mom's obvious lack of conviction suggested that Ms. Teenager is most likely still on the road, convinced of her immortality and as irresponsible as ever.

Years ago -- and this is my second instance of a lack of parental determination -- I heard parent after parent declare war on TV advertising on children's shows because those ads put them in the uncomfortable position of having to say no to their child. Oh, sweet heaven, isn't that a parent's job? Just because the little one demands a particular toy or a particular brand of cereal doesn't mean he or she has to have it. In fact, if there's a tantrum involved, I'd say that's the perfect time to declare that whatever they're after is off-limits indefinitely.

Admittedly, I don't have my own children, so some of these hard calls have not been mine to make. I do, however, have a very strong belief that it's up to the adults to be adults and make the decisions that will keep their children safe, teach them responsibility, and then see to it that the rules are followed. Is that easy? No. Is it the parent's job. You bet.

When did parents decide it was more important to be a best friend than a mom or dad? I'm sure over the years, I was unhappy with quite a few decisions my parents made, but you better believe I abided by them or suffered the consequences. Those rules helped me, I hope, to become a concerned, caring, responsible adult, instead of the kind of self-indulgent, irresponsible young people that turn up from time to time in today's difficult world. These days with so many things that can steer teens down the wrong path, rules and follow-up are more important than ever. Leniency isn't doing a teen -- or younger child, for that matter -- any favors. And if tragedy strikes, no parent should have to live with that kind of regret. They need to know they did everything humanly possible to prevent it.

If you've seen examples of this and would like to share them, click on the comments icon below. Or if you disagree, share that as well. If your child's favorite argument is that this or that friend is doing it, how do you reply? I'd love to hear from you.

And if you have another topic you'd like to suggest or would like to write a guest blog about a hot topic that you and your friends are talking about, please email me directly at

Sherryl Woods

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