As many of you know, my son Jonathan graduated high school a few weeks ago. (Yes, he’s the one in the photo with arms raised!) It was an incredibly proud moment! That evening, Jon attended our town-wide Project Graduation event, an all-night substance free party just for the graduates. It takes place at the local Park and Rec with a ton of fun activities for teens from 8pm to 4am. Planning for it starts in the fall with fundraisers, town donation and food requests and volunteer coordination. No small feat to pull off a teen party for 400!

As a first time all-night volunteer, I was rested and ready for the night. The graduates were excited as the eight school buses pulled up to the facility and they were ready to party. I and five others instructed the kids to drop their bags by their last name letter posted on the wall. And, oh by the way, you need to leave your cell phone in there. “WHAT?!!” they all said in disbelief. “No cell phone?! What am I supposed to do without it?!” Boy, were they upset about that!

Now, both of my sons have a cell phone and text like madmen. BUT they also get angry when a group of kids get together and everyone is on their phone. They really want to have the human moments that physically getting together should afford. So imagine kids that have never experienced a cell phone holiday, ever. Now they HAVE to interact with their peers face-to-face for 8 hours. Certainly there was plenty to eat and do at this event peppered by many opportunities to make money – bingo, basketball competition, movie trivia, etc. What kid doesn’t want to make money?! And at the end of the evening was an incredible hypnosis show. People pay top dollar for this kind of entertainment.

Apparently there were many kids who couldn’t handle this. About half of the 400 kids decided to call Mom or Dad to come pick them up early because they were “bored” or “tired”. Really?! Give me a break! And to add to my dismay, I only overheard a few say “thank you” to the front desk monitor when they were handed off to their parents. They obviously didn’t appreciate all the work that went into the evening on their behalf (gratefulness is another topic I might write about!) nor could they deal with their relationships without their phones.

Besides being totally taken aback by this ungrateful behavior, I am wondering what will happen to this generation as they get older. Will they ever be able to handle person-to-person communications without their phone? I’m not optimistic. But here are some things we can do to model better phone behavior:

  1. No phones allowed at the dinner table. Just talk to each other. Period.
  2. Turn the phone off at night. Everyone needs to just sleep.
  3. When together with friends, discourage phone use. Be with who you are with.
  4. Model good human relationship behavior. Excuse yourself if you absolutely HAVE to take a call or reply to an urgent text. Better yet, turn the phone off when with others.
  5. Consider taking a day or more away when everyone leaves their phone at home. Okay, if you need to have one in the car for emergency purposes, I get it. But otherwise, no phone availability.
  6. And of course, don’t text and drive!

If you have any ideas on how to help this generation foster better human relationships without their phones, I’m all ears! Thanks for listening.

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