CUTTING THE (PHONE) CORD, OR NOT



CUTTING THE (PHONE) CORD, OR NOT
Chicago Tribune: Time was, parents deposited an incoming college freshman, along with stereo and other critical worldly goods, into a dorm room, and after a tearful hug or two, that was that. Henceforth, aside from a visit home at vacation time, or the regular pleas for a cash infusion, the generations were never to enjoy -- or chafe at -- the emotional intimacy that comes with living under the same roof.
Many of today's college kids, however, apparently are breaking that long-standing tradition. Wielding cell phone and e-mail with reckless abandon, they bombard their parents with calls and letters almost hourly, asking advice, keeping in touch, discussing all manner of academic and personal matters, according to anecdotal evidence and a story in The New York Times.
Some of the reported conversations suggest that the students may be leaning a bit too heavily on parents for homework help. For example, one George Washington University sophomore told the Times that "I might call my dad and say, 'What's going on with the Kurds?"'
One Chicago father, who talks to his Indiana University freshman daughter every day, acknowledges that "I would feel there's something wrong if I don't talk to her. I don't think it's harmful, but does it prevent her from truly growing up and experiencing what she should? I'm not 100 percent sure."
Great experiences
Hmmm. Much as we endorse family values and a close parent-child relationship, we can't help but wonder if some kids aren't being cheated of one of life's great experiences. Shouldn't the leap into college be, as in years past, a sort of proving ground for adulthood, a chance to show that you can, under controlled circumstances, take care of yourself?
Yes, but a lifetime's habits are hard to break -- for both parent and child. After 12 or more years of being intensely involved in their kid's schools, many parents find it natural to stay involved.
As for the kids, they've come to expect the intense parental support, which apparently includes everything from help writing a term paper to advice on romance.
Much of what's driving this is, of course, technology. In the pre-cell phone era, it was a lot harder to reach a collegian at school, particularly since many students didn't have phones in their rooms. E-mail didn't exist.
Then, too, the zeitgeist was different. Parents didn't usher kids on nationwide college tours; a lot of parents didn't even make the trip when a child left for college. They paid the air, train or bus fare, and showed up for graduation.
Those who study such things say there's no need to be alarmed -- partly because technology often changes culture. They say that the age at which young people have taken on the burdens of adulthood -- job, marriage, family, mortgage -- has steadily increased in the last half of the 20th century. Some call it adult-olescence.
One NPR commentator recently asserted that some studies showed adulthood doesn't really begin until age 34. Or, we'd add, until you start paying that cell phone bill.

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