Monday, May 15, 2017

What iPhone addiction looks like in my teenager

This is the ugly story of iPhone addiction. It might sound somewhat tongue in cheek, but it's as serious as it can be.

The Intervention: it's Easter Sunday and Zoe comes downstairs to get her phone as soon as she wakes up. Even on Easter morning she has to have it close to her. At Grandma's house for Easter dinner the only time she's not on her phone is for the cash egg hunt in the backyard. I spend the entire day telling her to put her phone down. I can't even remember the straw that made me finally take it away, but that's when she went into full on addict asshole. Talking back, disrespectful, dismissive, contemptuous, the normal teenage BS, only much, much worse. My breaking point came when she ran out onto a 4 lane highway. As if she were a clueless toddler. She knew she'd gone too far as soon as she did it. We've now been a week without the phone. This is how that week has gone. 

The "I'm part of the Problem Monday Morning:" I have to fight the urge to give the phone back to her for the walk to the bus stop. It's a rule that she has to text me when she's on the bus. It's a safety thing. But after all, her sisters before her all survived the walk to the bus stop without a phone, so I conquer the fear. 

Monday afternoon: I have flown to St Louis and Zoe calls me from our home land line about 2 hours after her bus drops her off after school. 

Me: What's up? 
Zoe: Nothing. Just hanging out. How are you doing? 

Zoe hasn't asked me how I'm doing in weeks. Months. Clearly, she's feeling me out to see how likely it would be that is give her her phone back just like every other time. She doesn't ask. We have the best conversation we've had in a month at least. 

Tuesday, Day 2:  I don't get home til almost midnight. Zoë's sister says she hasn't asked for her phone. 

Day 3: I get home from work. Zoe is in the living room watching TV with her sister. I can't remember the last time she's watched the Disney channel. All the shows are new to me. I make dinner and listen to her commentary. Just before bedtime she comes into my room and sits on my bed. I can tell she wants to ask for her phone, but she doesn't. 

Day 4: She goes to her dad after school and I don't hear anything. 

The "Zoë's dad is also a big part of the problem Friday morning:" Zoe's dad texts me this: 

"Zoe got stung by a bee last night. She cried and wanted to call you but you've taken away her phone." 

Day 5, Friday evening: Zoe does her homework without being told too. She and her sister paint their nails. She cleans her room. We haven't argued all week. 

Saturday, Day 6: Zoe draws and writes all day. She and her sister set up the laptop she got for Christmas. No mention of the phone. 

Day 7: Sunday. Zoë's aunt asks when she will get the phone back. Zoe says she was going to ask for it "tomorrow." I swear she's almost relieved of the burden of it. 

Monday morning, Day 8: On her way out the door to the bus she asks if she can ask for her phone back. "It's been a week," she says. I say yes and tell her I've restricted all but her phone, text, and email. "We are going to ease back into using this phone and there will be daily limits and content limits." 

"Ok," is all she says. A week ago she would have protested vociferously. I think we've made major progress. But I am fully prepared for her to come home transformed back into addict girl.