Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cell Phones...A Parent's Dilemma or Dream?

Are the days of passing notes in the hall or during study hall gone?

Ever since the cell phone industry has started making their products extremely affordable, the issue concerning children and cell phones has grown. Schools are having problems balancing parental concerns and security issues. Some schools prohibit cell phone use (and actual possession) altogether. While some others just institute an “out of sight, out of mind policy.”

The issue is whether the use of these devices by children (anyone under 18 for the sake of this article), is for their convenience or ours? Even some of the most diligent parents who would never consider putting an internet enabled computer in their child’s room can be lulled into handing over a cell phone for their own piece of mind. While I certainly like the idea of being able to get in touch with my child at any time, what are the real advantages? And, what pitfalls should be avoided?

  • Disney Mobile (as well as some other companies) has introduced a cellular service that enables parents to track their child’s whereabouts by means of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and their home computer. Other phone manufacturers have started to design phones specifically for children. These phones contain certain parental controls that allow us the ability to prevent text-messaging, block web access or to dial only certain numbers. These features can definitely help us make the decision on whether or not to get our child a phone.

  • Besides the obvious element of distraction, cell phone use by children raises some other issues with educators and schools. A recent study found that 1 in 5 teenagers use the web to cheat. With most phones now having the ability to access web based functions the problem of cheating may increase. Especially, when parents (and teachers) may not be fully aware of a device’s capabilities. I would suggest every parent either receive complete detailed instructions from their dealer or read the phone’s instruction manual cover to cover before handing it over.

  • Another area that needs to be addressed when considering a cell phone for your child is cell phone etiquette. Are you a good example of cell phone etiquette to your children? Children need to learn what constitutes appropriate usage. There needs to be a clear set of rules in place before a child should ever receive this privilege. Also, parents should carefully review all bills and statements and question every unfamiliar number. I would suggest that a cell phone be treated like a loaned household item, not as the child’s personal property (even if they’re the ones who are paying for it). An item, which must be produced on demand, for review, or revocation.
  • Some Tips:

1. Regard cell phones as a privilege to be earned, and revoked as needed.

2. Research products and choose one that suits your and your child's needs and responsibility level.

3. Familiarize yourself with all the phone's features and operations.

4. Periodically check your child's phone for message content and for dialed and received calls.

5. Contact you child's school to find out their policy on phone use.

6. Review all cell phone bills for usage information.

7. Teach proper cell phone etiquette and set the example.

There’s certainly a lot to consider when making these decisions. We know our children best, we also know what’s best for them. We need to balance our own wants and needs with our child’s responsibility level. In an effort to provide a complete picture on this topic I’ve listed some great links below. Thanks for stopping by, any thoughts or comments?

Further Information On This Topic:

MSNBC Article: Cell Phones and Kids, Do They Mix?

Should We Ban Cell Phones In School? An NEA Article

Tracking Children Using GPS Cell Phones


Stepping Over the Junk said...

I have two young girls and I know that when they are (if I let them) walking three blocks to school, they will have a cell phone on them. When I was young, my parents didn't let us wander off or anything on our own, we barely went anywhere without them, but when I got to dating age, man, the cell phone would have been of good use. My plan is this, since I will teach my kids manner, ethics and responsibility with money: 1) they have a cell phone for emergencies 2) if there are any calls except to home or preapproved people merely for check in for safety or transportation, the kids pay for it. Set own billing rate in household, not the billing rate of cell service (meaning, charge more). There is no reason a 10 year old should be sitting on a street corner or bus chatting to friends about a belt or something. I was never allowed to talk to friends on the phone when I was young in the house, unless to make plans or have a quick 10 min conversation or for homework info. 3) when the kids get home, they hand over the phone.

Sorry, this was long

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