Do daily phone calls to college kid interfere with independence?
Dear Ms. Smartphone: My daughter started college this month and her school is about 3 hours from home. I am in the habit of calling her everyday and texting too. We chat about everything. Most of my friends think this is OK but one of them says that I should call less- because I am not letting her grow up. What do you think? Vivian, Sausalito
Dear Vivian: When I went to college my parents and I agreed to speak with each other on Sundays, and I had to wait for their call at the dorm’s payphone. New technology brings us new expectations and new etiquette! I have boys and sometimes there is less chit-chat. I miss that.
That said, many girls now report that their mothers are their best friends. Perhaps your daughter feels less need to reach out to new people in college as she bonds with the people back home. Importantly, if you are giving advice to your daughter and helping her make important decisions, she may not be developing the self-sufficiency she needs to navigate the world on her own.
I am not saying that phone calls and staying-in-daily contact will be harmful. I do recommend that you not get in the way of her judgment and decision making…even when you find that to be sub-optimal. She needs to become independent and resilient. Note that at the other end of the age spectrum it changes: many older people ‘live for‘ the daily phone call and encouraging words from their adult children. This is a short answer to a long tailed issue.
Dear Ms. Smartphone: Whenever I’m out in public everybody around me is staring at their phones. This happens out in nature, in class, and anywhere people have the opportunity to open an app. When I don’t look at my phone and just think about things I feel like I’m the odd one out. Is there a way to quell this feeling? Will people ever change or only get worse? Benjamin, Cambridge
Dear Benjamin, There is no doubt that phones have changed our social relationships; in an earlier post I noted that we are closer to those who are further away, and farther from those close by. The other factor is that smartphones are the modern swiss-army knife. We use them to snap pictures, light up the dark, record voice memos, and count our footsteps.
Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am sending a picture I saw on Instagram. It’s of a bride and groom atop a wedding cake, holding phones in their hands. I am getting married this summer. Is it OK to ask guests to come unplugged? …To not bring their phones to the ceremony? We are getting married outdoors in a meditative and tranquil spot. Buzzing phones might ruin the moment. Briana, San Francisco
Dear Brianna: First of all, congratulations to both of you. I have personally been to a board meeting where I was required to lock up my phone outside, and second, at a school exam where backpacks had to be left at the door. I don’t see harm in your request, although guests will have to forfeit snapping their own pictures as you come down the aisle. If you follow on with a wedding reception, will you want to reneg the rule? The KNOT says ‘yes’.