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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Today At A Softball Game ...

Today I attended a girls' softball doubleheader to support the child of some good friends. A few minutes before the first pitch, many of the assembled parents and grandparents were buzzing about the coach and a "radical" decision he had made earlier in the week while preparing for an away game. It seems this crazy-man produced a small lockbox and instructed all his players to place their cell phones inside with a promise to return them when the bus was on its way home later in the evening.

It seems the coach, like me, sees cell phones as a possible distraction in life, not just the God-sent gift society thinks they are. I had the opportunity to speak with the coach and ask him a few dangerous questions.

Why'd you do it? "Last year, I had a player taking photos and texting with a friend in the stands. Not only is it disrespectful to other players, but it's a dangerous distraction with the alert noises and ringtones."

Why not just a ban during actual playing time? "I want my players preparing for the game, getting focused ... not flirting with boys online or texting another player three seats away on the bus. Getting your head in the game should be a focus, not planning your social calendar."

What have parents said? "A few have been very supportive, but some see it as a personal punishment for their child. I'm surprised that they get more riled up about cell phones than how their child is performing on the field."

What about a double standard - do you have a cell phone "on you" during games? "There are different rules for coach and players, I'll admit. I'm the adult with responsibility for these young adults. I need to be reachable to parents not attending games or to opposing coachs and officials that might need to notify me of a delay or change while in route to a game. My phone is on 'vibrate' durings bus rides and games, and in fact I usually give it to my statistician for monitoring so I don't even have to worry about it."

I SOOOOOOO support this guy. Let's face it ... we need our cell phones for communication and emergency situations. And I guess we have to support our human habits to gossip, record nearby happenings like FOXNews, and support YouTude with more Star Wars hamsters, laughing babies, and surprised kitties. But we need limits, especially teenagers.

I've done some research and it's alarming the number of legal bans, high school handbook entries, and pending cyberbullying legislation aimed at distancing students and their "cell appendages" on school property and during school-related activities. And why are such extreme measures needed, you might wonder. In Wisconsin, a female high school student had to be officially arrested and fined for refusing to stop disrupting a class by texting. In Connecticut, high school students used cell phones to start and escalate a student brawl by inviting more participants and enflaming the situation with texts and phone video footage. And excuse me for sounding like Ms. Manners, but in an Oregon high school a cell phone ban was finally instituted when students disrupted an assembly presented by a holocaust survivor with their ongoing texting and cell phone use.

Personally, I use my phone sparingly. It's a phone. I don't use it to write. I don't use it to take vacation photos. I don't use it to run a business. And I respect the rights of those who do use cell phone applications to manage their lives. But rude is rude. I don't usually answer my phone when I'm having a face-to-face conversation with someone. I don't put others at risk by talking or texting from my phone when I'm driving. And I have pleaded with my niece and nephew to not stick their faces in their phones at family and social events.

POINT OF RANT: Cell phones can make life more manageable and interesting, but they shouldn't become the focus of our lives.

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