Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kids and Cell Phones: A Necessity or a Toy?

To purchase a cell phone for my 12-year old daughter or to not indulge her and appease her friends? That is the question of the day.
If you are the parent of a “tween” (a new term defining a child between the ages of 9 and 12), you no doubt have been hit up repeatedly to buy them a cell phone. My two tweens (ages 12 and 10) have both given me their own very good reasons for having a cell phone. These reasons range from being able to call home if Mom is late picking me up from basketball practice to calling home for a ride if I miss the bus to keeping in touch with friends visiting Florida on Spring Break.
These are all very good reasons if you are a tween. My personal favorite is  what if I’m attacked while walking the dog along the path. My response was that you do have a dog with you and the only thing that would attack you is a deranged deer or an angry Canadian goose. However, from observing most kids who have a cell phone, they rarely use it to place a call and primarily text each other.
My kids have a hard time believing that I was 30 before I got my first cell phone and somehow managed to survive all of those years without a cell. It is not surprise that I have not given into my kids and bought them cell phones. However, many of you out there have. I believe that the majority of the 6th graders at my daughter’s middle school have a cell phone. THIS IS ABSURD!!! And yes, I blame you parents. Let me explain why.
For starters, this is suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Every public place has a phone. And I stress, Minnesota. Do we Minnesotans not emphasize our “Minnesota nice”? Any adult would be more than happy to share their cell and let a middle schooler call home or help them find a phone to use.
I’ve discovered that this whole cell phone indulgence has a domino effect. One kid whines enough and gets it for say hockey practice because all of the other hockey players have one. The hockey player’s friend desperately wants a cell phone too so he berates his parents with excellent “tween”  reasoning until they give in. This continues until the whole circle of friends has a phone. Then it moves onto another group of kids. And on it continues.
As an observer, the cell phone phenomena amongst kids is all about social networking and texting each other. They rarely use the cell phone as an actual phone and the majority seem to use it mainly for texting from dawn until their cell phone drops from their strained fingers at night. Pity the poor child who doesn’t have a cell as they idly stand by while their friend rudely texts away to someone else.
lIf your child must have a cell phone, guide them through cell phone etiquette and set limits on their phone use. Take it away if it gets out of control. 
If I have offended you, I apologize. But I do not see giving a 12-year old a cell phone as a necessity of life. It is a privilege and should be treated as such. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't Give Up Norm!

Minnesota politics are starting to resemble New Jersey or Illinois.
Last week, Democrat Al Franken was deemed the winner of the 2008 US Senate race over former Republican US Senator Norm Coleman. This has been a contentious race right from the start two years ago. And it shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
For those of you who have not been following the Minnesota US Senate race since November, let me fill you in. Following the November elections, Norm Coleman had a very slight lead over Al Franken but the race was too close to call. So according to Minnesota law, it went to a recount and then an election contest. This has gone on for over 4 months with a boatload of problems. Some absentee ballots were counted in one county while some similar absentee ballots were thrown out in another county. Some missing votes turned up unexpectedly. Other ballots went missing. Some ballots were counted twice. See where the problem lies:  inconsistency in counting the votes.
This “counting of ballots” problem could have been easily solved if local election officials had consistently and uniformly followed existing state law that sets guidelines for counting absentee ballots. Instead, each Minnesota county counted their ballots differently.
Norm Coleman is doing the right thing by appealing to the State Supreme Court to include more ballots. I can understand the Democrats argument that Norm should just give up and concede to Al Franken as, at the moment, Al is ahead. Now if Al was a couple of hundred votes down to Norm, do you really think that Al Franken would hand over the Senate seat to Norm Coleman? Not in this lifetime! The Democratic Party would raise a huge stink to include more ballots in the recount in hopes of gaining more votes for Al Franken.
Now this could go on for another 6 months if each side keeps appealing and it ends up in the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. I say it cannot be resolved as neither side will ever give in. So, let’s just have another election-–Al vs. Norm and be done with it. 
You may be wondering how does this affect a suburban Mom like myself? For starters, it’s the ideological battle between conservative and liberals in the US Senate. If Al wins, the liberal White House has gained another seat in the US Senate and can more easily pass liberal-leaning legislation. Then there are all of the issues that affect us–taxes, education, health care, etc. 
If you live in Minnesota like I do, where you live determined how your absentee ballot was treated. Suburban counties took a much stricter view of the law than urban counties that included larger cities like Duluth, Minneapolis, and St. Paul. Any way you look at it, there is a lot at stake with the outcome of this race.
A redo election may be months off but for now I’m urging Norm Coleman to stick to his guns and not give in until every vote is counted or Minnesota has a redo Senate election in the near future.