The conversation is inevitable and like most parts of growing up is occurring even earlier than ever. Children are asking for cell phones anywhere from the 2nd grade on up. The reason is that so many other children in their class have them and somehow, someway cell phones have weaseled their way into childhood necessities like pencils, paper and crayons. Giving a child a cell phone is not necessarily a bad idea; but it does seem that many parents forego all intellectual judgment and financial scrutiny when making the decision. After all, do they really need one?
Before you break down and try to keep up with the Jone’s or cave to social pressure consider a few things. Most school systems across the board have stringent policies about cell phone usage during school hours. They are clearly an interruption to class time and with capabilities like texting and internet access can easily be abused and used to abuse classmates. If they are forbidden to use a cell phone in school; why give a child a cell phone to take to school? For so many children who do not have the gifts of self discipline it seems like an open invitation to trouble.
Secondly, consider the cost. Children really believe that money grows on trees and they may see their innocent text messages and lengthy phone conversations about what so and so was wearing as harmless. Once you get the bill; you might see them differently. Parents might threaten to make a child pay for the bill if overused; but realistically few elementary, middle and even high school kids for that matter can afford a $400 bill. Another consideration is the fact that within schools and children’s venues there is going to be theft and there is going to be forgetfulness. Providing the top notch Iphone for a child who can’t even keep up with their own toothbrush or pencil is not just ridiculous; it is just plain ignorant! If you are giving a child a cell phone; make sure it is one of your oldie but goodies or buy something for $15 at Wal-Mart! Prepaid; although more expensive at the onset may be the best bet for youth cell phone users because it avoids the shock and horror that comes with overages or the disappointment that results from leaving it in the cafeteria, loaning or having it stolen. If your kids balk at having to use a dinosaur; give them the choice to either take this one; or not have it!
There are also some other altercations that cell phones and children seem to invite. The whole text and picture fad has opened up a plethora of indecent things to young children. Although they might not understand the implications for taking pictures of themselves or others in either promiscuous or private moments; it can be legally prosecuted. Teens use these devices to play out battles and social clashings in school and can easily forward rumors, gossip and other painful information to hundreds of people within an instant. Certain things can be legally prosecuted and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out who will be responsible for footing that bill.
Giving a child a cell phone should be looked at as a privilege. Yes, they can survive without it. No, you are not saving their life by giving them the phone. Chances are in the event of any large scale national emergency or even a localized school fire or shooting- cell phones are one of the first things the government will shut down. It seems that when your child begins to drive or spend hours away from home unattended at band camp or ball practice; that the time to have a cell phone is upon you. Prior to that’ it is just silly! If parents would begin using their heads and stop trying to ensure that their child has everything they want but doesn’t need; spending more time providing the things they need but don’t necessarily want like supervision, control, limits, boundaries and rules, the cell phone conversation would be non-issue until they are driving.
Speaking of driving, take a look around as you shift through the streets of your town or local market places and see how many young people use cell phones. You can’t order a drive through burger or stop at a traffic light without seeing some young person chatting endlessly – paying no attention to anything that they are supposed to because a cell phone is glued to their ear. What is this generation learning about smelling the roses or enjoying the moment?
Giving a child a cell phone is a familial decision – but one that should be made thoughtfully and with rules that a parent can enforce. They really don’t need them. They really aren’t allowed to have them in school and they really are a distraction to adults and children all around. When we were young we used hand me down bats and clothes before our parents were willing to foot the bill. When we got the new stuff it was a Christmas or birthday present and we cherished it. Why suddenly have parents begun to feel so sure that children of today are entitled to things like cell phones or laptops? If you are considering giving a child a cell phone it is wise to hammer out your reasons for doing so before deciding whether or not to do. If it is needed, useful and conducive to something positive for either you or your child, then do it! Otherwise you should probably wait a few years until the cell phone is actually warranted!