Too strong a connection?

As Krista Knighton ’14 shuts the door to her dean’s office, she immediately reaches inside her backpack for her white iPhone 5. A few steps later, she sits down on a couch in the lounge and begins to dial. Knighton is calling her mom, the first person she wants advice from on whether or not she should drop her language class.

Knighton communicates with her mom often during school both by texting and calling. When she meets with her dean, one of the first things she’ll do afterwards is text or call her mom to let her know what they’ve discussed.

“I count on my mom to help me with important decisions,” Knighton said. “I call her from school to talk about changes in my schedule or grades on tests and essays.”

Like Knighton, 53.0 percent of the 385 students polled by the Chronicle said that they have texted their parents during school to inform them of a grade.

Due to cell phones, students and parents can now reach each other immediately.

“It’s not unheard of for teachers to have a message from a parent waiting for them before they’ve even made their way back to the office from the classroom, and I think that has a downside to it,” history teacher Nini Halkett (Ashley ’10, Patrick ’14) said.  “It’s a little more parental involvement for this age group than we would like to see.”

Though theoretically students would learn how to be independent at school, cell phones are used by so many teens and parents that this may not be the case. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 91 percent of parents of children ages 12-17 own cell phones and 78 percent of American teens own a cell phone.

“I usually have my phone on my desk during class, and if my mom texts me, I’ll open it right away,” Mackenzie Howe ’14 said. “Sometimes she’ll just text me to say ‘I love you,’ which makes me happy.”

Though school counselor Luba Bek acknowledges that it is difficult to do research on this issue, she does believe cell phones have some effect on student-parent relationships.

“The instant gratification that comes from immediate communication with parents could hinder the kid’s ability to self soothe,” Bek said. “Ideally, something happens and eventually you will be able to handle it on your own.”

Bek thinks that ultimately the style of parenting students have been exposed to, not the technology they have, determines what type of relationship they have with their parents.

“The limits that parents set for you, the boundaries you have with your parents, not technology, is what makes you more or less independent,” Bek said. “This is not about the cell phone, this is about the level of trust in the family.”

Matthew Glick ’15 thinks he and his mom have a very trusting relationship, partly due to the fact that they both constantly use their cell phones.

“My mom is fine with anything as long as I text her to tell her where I am,” Glick said.

For Glick, having a cell phone increased the amount of freedom his parents gave him. He said that his parents worry less about him because if they really need to reach him, they can call or text him and he’ll respond.

Furthermore, Halkett  sees benefits to students always having their cell phones with them.

“Texting has been great because generally your kids will respond right away if you text them.  It’s much easier to keep in touch,” she said. “For example, I might be more inclined to let my kid go out at night and stay out late knowing that they could reach me or I could reach them if need be.”

Upper school dean Chris Jones believes that this current generation of teenagers is still trying to figure out where the boundaries exist in terms of cell phone usage.

“A lot of parents feel like even though their kid is out in the world, now they can  be there with them because of this technology,” Jones said. “Before that, parents felt ‘I’m teaching them everything they need, now let me push them out the door’.”

“Every generation learns how to cope with things usually affected and invented by technology, and this is just part of it,” he added.

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