Shengliver’s Note: Some years ago, at the beginning of a new term, a senior 3 boy in a celebrated high school in Jiangxi Province slayed his class director in the teacher’s office. The cause of the homicide, according to the press, was that the teacher had confiscated the boy’s cell phone. Interestingly enough, Chinese parents, teachers and other adults have a very different attitude towards the gadget from that of the teens who use it, covertly or overtly, in their life day in day out. In this entry, my readers will read about a conflict that one of my teens had with her parents over her phone. It might help you get a better idea why the boy in Jiangxi should have stabbed his dear master.


The day Lijun enrolled in high school, her parents got her a mobile phone though a school rule bans the use of the gadget on campus. To call friends and family, the teens are advised to use the payphones installed in the schoolyard. Most of the students have to live in a hall of residence because it is a boarding school. And each dorm is equipped with a payphone as well. Lijun was happy that her parents were so generous. The parents said a mobile would enable Lijun to stay in touch with them at her convenience.


One term into high school, however, Lijun began to see the real point of being equipped with the phone. On the weekend, her father or mother kept calling her up to track down her whereabouts. If she was shopping in a mall or eating in a restaurant, her parents would urge her to go back to the dorm on time. They also asked her who she was with. Lijun felt her mobile worked like a tag on a beast or a criminal.


Worse still, sometime in the middle of the term, the father subscribed to a service from China Mobile so that he could monitor the daughter’s use of the phone. It worked this way. Anytime Lijun turned on her phone, a text would automatically pop in from the father, warning her not to use the phone at a wrong time. The father’s message never failed to annoy the girl.


It gradually dawned on Lijun that her parents did not trust her, and therefore she was not happy about it. One Saturday evening she was having a meal with a girl classmate in a restaurant when the ringtone went off. The mother started to accuse her of hanging out with a boy when Lijun told her that she was actually staying with a girl in a diner. Lijun got fed up with the mother’s suspicions.


Things seemed to be heading for the worse in the winter holidays. One evening while the family were watching TV, Lijun’s phone started to ring. She took the call, finding it was from one of her ex-classmates in middle school. The caller invited her to go out and have a chat. And so Lijun walked out into the night.


This former classmate of Lijun’s had given up on education after junior high. He had joined Chinese migrant workers and found a job in a factory somewhere in South China. Having been separated from each other for one year and a half, Lijun and the boy had a nice little tête-à-tête, reminiscing about the good old days.


When Lijun came in from the dark after the chat, she was greeted by her mother’s piercing eyes. The mother started to interrogate her about her talk with the boy. Lijun found she could not stand it any longer. She smouldered in angry silence. Then the mother said, “I have heard everything. The boy is a bad egg. He has stopped schooling. Why are you still hanging around with him? Will he have any good influence on you?”


Lijun stayed silent. Thinking of the mother’s eavesdropping on her conversation, she felt flames being ignited inside. The mother went on to reach for Lijun’s phone. She meant to check out the boy’s number and find out who he was. At this point, Lijun erupted. She yelled, “Stop it, you stupid bitch! If you dare touch my phone, I will smash it. Who the hell would need a phone? Why did you get it for me?”


The mother was stunned. She turned red, then purple, and then blue. The girl’s rebellion froze her. What followed was a long-lasting cold war between mother and daughter, neither side willing to take the initiative in breaking the ice.


What maddened Lijun was her father’s nosiness. The father flicked through all the messages stored in her phone without her permission, when she was not with it. What the father did more than hurt Lijun.


In the journal, Lijun expressed her exasperation at her parents’ way of dealing with her phone. It sounded as if she were really going to trash it one day.


Lijun’s parents are among the millions of Chinese mums and dads who blunder when it comes to dealing with their teens’ phones and other personal stuff. They do not respect their children’s privacy. Typical behaviour of this nature is reading the diary, letters and/or texts without the teens’ permission. Such behaviour will lead to nothing but the youngsters’ repulsion and their trying to cover everything up, decent or indecent.


Even if at times parents do need to look into their child’s privacy, they would do good by going about it in a tactful manner. Once a teen withdraws into his shell and clams up, it will be impossible for adults to reach into his inner world.


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