“The fact that everyone has cell phones changes everything.”
I’ve heard this said more times than I can count at writers conferences, retreats and critique groups. The commonly held belief is that because so many people have access to cell phones, they are no longer in danger or out of touch with parents or other authority figures. It means that your character and her parents can always reach each other.
Sorry. I don’t buy it. Why? Because it isn’t true. With cell phones, we may feel safer and more connected, and to an extent we are more connected, but we are not as universally collected as we like to believe.
The reality is that cell phones are fragile creatures. I have known phones that were destroyed by falling into the toilet (2), falling into a lake (1), being dropped (I have no idea how many), being run through the washer (1), being dropped into the fry cooker (1), and being flung across the room by accident (1).
They are temporarilly misplaced when left in jacket pockets, on chargers or in cars.
They are lost when they fall off the roof of the pickup truck.
They go dead when the battery runs out.
Then there are dead zones. At least one local high school is intentionally blacked out so that students can’t use their phones. My son’s school is iffy at best. He normally waits until he’s outside to call me because of this although I’m not certain what causes the problem. My father’s apartment complex is the same way but I know what the issue is here. Many of the residents wear fall monitors that are electronically tracked. The level of electronics in the building interferes with the phone signal.
Although many people have cell phones, it doesn’t mean that your young character, or their parents, cannot be out of reach. It is simply up to you as the author to determine how this might come about and use it for the betterment of your story.