As our college boys conclude their perpetual Christmas break (What’s it been? Two months?), I offer 10 sure things with college kids and their phones.
1. “My phone is so old!” Seemingly a long time ago — like maybe four years — phones had one purpose: to use to talk to people. Moms bought them for their teens for “safety reasons” — you know — “in case they have a flat tire, run out of gas or get kidnapped.” And then conversation went the way of the Dodo bird, phones stopped facilitating safety and started jeopardizing it. And every year or two, new technology, features or something else kids don’t need give them a platform for an upgrade.
2. Huge phone bills. They come thicker than “War and Peace,” more confusing than a Tom Cruise movie, and are singularly responsible for spiking the blood pressure of parents everywhere. Understanding the billing codes, charges, fees and roaming charges is labyrinth worthy of a Stephen King novel. When you interrogate slacker dude about the mystery download, he says something like “I don’t know. You’re so negative!”
3. Twitter. Experts say Twitter will replace texting. Which means the bag phone you’ve saved for little Johnny isn’t going to cut it.
4. “Have you seen my phone?” Boys lose their phones. Typically in obscure places — their jean pockets, underneath car seats and in their beds. And then they ask you where it is.
5. “That’s my privacy!” Try to read college boy’s messages and atrial fibrillations follow. But this is an opportunity you shouldn’t waste. For instance — need to get them out of bed for church? Hold their phone and pretend to be reading their messages. Seconds later they are showered, dressed and ready for the handshake of peace.
6. Phone insurance. We are all skeptical with those ubiquitous protection plans. When it comes to laptops, cell phones, and sons who live in a fraternity that doubles as a Coors recycling center, however, your default reply may not be the best option. My experience is that when you decline this, their Droid seems to find its way in a ‘beverage’ at the Wheel. But when you’ve paid for a three year-policy, enough to buy nine flip phones? No claims.
7. Old school: Let’s go to Chucky Cheese! New school: Let’s go to Verizon! For teens, the phone store is Shangri-La with fine print they’ll never read. For parents, it’s repeating the same message in various forms: “No.” “Next phone.” “Next year.” “Didn’t I just say no?” “I’m leaving now.”
8. Purell please. Experts say the average mobile phone now carries more bacteria than a toilet seat. They cradle one and won’t touch the other. Go figure.
9. Dead battery. I’ve heard it thousand times on Sunday morning when I’m doing the NYPDBlue interrogation — who, what, when, where. “Dad, my phone died!”
10. Leverage point. College kids are world-class negotiators. My sons could take Scott Boras to the cleaners. Skills acquired after years of dealing with a lawyer-dad. But nothing evens the scale quicker than the control posed with the phone. Need Slacker to get a haircut, clean his car or complete that summer job app? His coveted data plan is your game changer.
Great Bend native Matt Keenan writes a column for The Kansas City Star. His book, “Call Me Dad, Not Dude,” is available at Borders and online at thekansascitystore.com. Write to Matt at his website, matthewkeenan.com.