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. 

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