In the mad rush to get out the door in the morning, I’ve left behind my keys, my wallet, and my MetroCard (The card those living in New York City use to get on public transportation). By the time I realize my mistake it is always too late (or I’m too lazy to run back to my apartment) and I make it through the day as best I can without these vital tools of a New Yorker.
But I have never, ever, forgotten my cell phone. If I realize, half-way down the block, that I have, I run back for it. When I chaperone school trips, I’m that weird lady who pulls out a charger and plugs my phone in to the nearest outlet, be it in a Starbucks or a courthouse. It’s my lifeline, and I feel strangely vulnerable without it; like this will be the one day my mother has an accident, my best friend has a break up, or my apartment catches on fire.
I use it for music. I use it for reading. I use it for maps, and games, and to keep track of my notes. I use it when I’m bored, I use it when I’m tired, I use it when I’m stuck between stations on the subway. My phone goes with me everywhere, and I am never without it.
Your teens are the same way. They would rather go without water than a data connection. They use their phones for enjoyment and work; reading and classifying if an animal is a llama or a duck (it’s a harder distinction than you might think). Their phones have become constant companions and guides. I wrote in my last article about what this means for the next generation of digital literacy; training on these devices is paramount is we want to produce a generation of informed information and device users. But no less important that providing information and training is providing consumable content– stuff for teens to do with their phones.