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Kids and Cell Phones

Is it a good idea to give your kid a cell phone?

With my daughters now in third and fifth grades at in San Rafael I can hear the distant ring of a cell phone, and that cell phone tolls for my family. 

I’m hoping to keep my distance between the kids and cell phones as long as possible, at the very least until they get into .  If they needed cell phones that would be one thing, but at this point we pretty much know exactly where they are at all times and how to get in touch with them.  So why should they have cell phones?

Currently the most compelling argument my older daughter can come up with is the fact that all her friends have them.  When pressed to name names, very few come to mind.  Still I know there is going to be enormous pressure on them to keep up with their friends who will join the wired ranks, and having a cell phone is cool.  When a child gets a cell phone though, particularly one with Internet access, I believe it becomes infinitely more difficult to make sure they aren’t getting themselves into cyber trouble.  See Gabrielle Cullen's insightful San Rafael Patch article from last week .

Then there’s the question about what kind of effect do cell phones and their radiation have on our kid’s forming minds?  I try to limit the amount of time my daughters spend on my phone, and it’s really no more than a few minutes every couple of days.  I’ve also been training them to use the speaker phone, so they are learning to alienate others at an early age.  Seriously though if they were to spend a lot of time on the phone, and if they had their own they likely would, then the health questions would be more important.

The really cool thing to me about the smart phones is that owning one is like having a computer in your pocket.  My iPhone picks up my email, surfs the Internet, keep notes on a pad that helps me stay organized and it’s even got a calendar.  I’ve used my iPhone to take pictures, it’s got a stop watch and I’ve got an app to keep track of the San Francisco Giants and 49er game day action.  Believe or not I still use it to call people too!  My kids play computer games on the iPhone which they’ve downloaded onto it, and I’m sure that’s one of the most compelling reasons why they want a phone.

Perhaps one of the biggest bonuses for kids is the texting capability.  I have an unlimited texting plan on my phone because of my business, and I’m sure my kids will go text crazy once they have their own phones.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as their texts are not malicious in any way then the texting will be good for them.  I see the opportunity to text as a chance to practice and improve spelling, as long as they don’t lean too heavily on the acronyms.

All that being said I’d prefer to wait until my daughters are in high school before they get cell phones.  At their age that’s literally an eternity away, so I’m holding them off one year at a time. 

If you are a parent of a Vallecito Elementary School child and your child doesn’t need a cell phone, please do myself an all the other holdouts a favor and don’t get your child a cell phone.  Just say no to your kids who want cell phones, otherwise it just gets more difficult for the rest of us.

tata August 26, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Sorry I disagree. We had to get my daughter a cell phone when she was walking home from school and was alone for 30 mins before I could get home from work. She is in 4th grade. It's easy to say no to a cell phone when there is someone available to pick the child up or when someone is at home waiting for the child. If your daughter was walking home alone, would you offer the same advice to parents? It seems a bit light hearted to say don't get your kids a cell phone
Andy Falk August 26, 2011 at 08:44 PM
Hi Tata, I can see where in your case a cell phone is very important and I'd absolutely do the same thing if I were you. In my case fortunately we don't need cell phones, yet. Light hearted is who I am and what my column is about ...
Michael August 27, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Just when did parents start believing that they must have 100% contol of their children 100% of the time? I think parents are creating a generation of kids afraid to do anything without their parents hovering over them. Giving cell phones to little kids is just another form of this never ending paranoia. OMG leave a 4th grader home alone for 30 minutes... the horror of it. As much as the MTV crowd would like us all to believe I do not believe that we live in a more dangerous world just one where anything bad that occurs is shoved into out faces almost instantly. We do seem to live in a much more paranoid world. I blame much of this on the non stop media that surrounds all of us. Our government is constantly painting us a picture of fear and just how scary it is out there. They thrive on fear as it provides them with a way to try and control our thoughts. Kids need to be able to go out and play without their parents hovering over them all the time. In the summer we used to leave after breakfast and play all day with our mothers rarely even giving a second thought as to where we were or our safety. Boys and girls rode bikes without helmets, played with sticks and bugs, got dirty, climbed trees, ran, jumped crawled etc. And OMG we walked home from school without our parents, no cell phones, no GPS just us. Wow! Lighten up a bit and stop buying into the scare tactics being fed to us.
Andy Falk August 27, 2011 at 06:10 PM
I've gotten a lot of important feedback since writing this column on kids and cell phones. Michael brings up a cogent point, are we as a society overprotective of our kids and are we hyping up the innocuous? I prefer to err on the side of caution where my kids are concerned, as paranoid as that may seem at time. Is it detrimental to have constant tabs on my daughters? If they were aware of it the answer could be yes. As Michael points out we have to let kids be kids. Then again I'd be very interested to hear more opinions on this matter and find out if anybody has any specific experiences with kids where cell phones made a tangible difference in their children's safety. I suspect officers from SRPD have a few tales to tell where cell phones were important to child's safety.

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