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Cell Phones for Kids - How Young is Too Young?
Take a random tween, age 8-12, place them in front of a rotary phone and observe at the blank stare of bewilderment. Yes, gone are the days of the landline, pushed aside by the next wave of technological advancement. Mobile phones are fast displacing landlines in many homes; accompanying this movement is the fact kids regularly use and know how to use these cell phones. The mobility of cell phones means you can be anywhere and have the necessity, or should I say the convenience, of a phone.
Cellular service providers and manufacturers would enjoy nothing more than exploiting the vastly untapped tween market. However, is it necessary to provide cell phones to kids age 8-12? What makes it necessary today? Is the simple the notion of having the technology enough reason to equip younger and younger customers with phones? Where do we draw the line when it comes to tweens owning cell phones, and when should we be restricting use? The remainder of this article will discuss the pros and cons of purchasing cell phones for kids. It will discuss the social aspects, health concerns, and cost issues.
Social and Cost Issues:
Weighing in at a paltry 56 grams, designed with a smaller frame to accommodate smaller hands, measuring 88 x 44 x 20 mm, one of the leading cell phones targeted exclusively towards the 8-12 market, the Firefly. It offers up to 2.5 hours of talk time, and up to 100 hours of standby, basically it's your bare bones cell phone that permits parent's to limit outgoing calls to certain numbers and also sports 'mom' and 'dad' buttons for quick dialling. The Firefly is marketed with such catch phrases as "Parents of pre-teens understand that it's time to start loosening the reins and letting their kids travel unsupervised to school, the library, or friends' houses."
Pro: Yes kids need a safety mechanism and having a cell phone handy does provide added protection in the form of determining whereabouts and phoning for help.
Con: Big safe mechanism, however, if any parent purchases a cell phone for their kid using the catchy marketing ploy directed to parents, '...start loosening the reins and let their kids travel unsupervised,' they have the wrong perception regarding the purpose of a phone. Anybody who believes that providing a cell phone to a child automatically provides them with responsibility and ability to take care of themselves, when they were unable to do so before a cell phone, are relying too heavily on 'parenting by technology'. Be mindful of such reasoning when thinking about buying a cell phone.
Con: Another item to consider, are we turning our kids into internet and mobile phone junkies? One should question whether connecting kids 24/7 to their friends via cell phone will influence their social habits. Also, cell phones are quickly becoming the norm and the fashion. Kids will demand to be hip like their buddies from school who sport the latest cell phone, or any cell phone for that matter. Parents will be pressed to give in to ignescent demands of 'everyone else has one', or 'I want to be cool like the other kids'. Sure it may be good to have your kid fit in, but since when is school primarily a popularity contest? Furthermore, when does fitting in cost so much?! The thing with cell phones is there are monthly costs attached -- not a one time sunk cost. Chances are you will pay the monthly fees. Some options are available to have 'pay-as-you-go' options, you pay for whatever minutes you purchase, however, either or, the more your kid talks on the phone, the more you pay. Don't forget too that cell phones are more than phones. Almost all (the Firefly does not) have text messaging and more complicated communication tools included that have an attached cost as well. Boy, this is starting to get expensive!
The Firefly cell phone is designed to give the bare phone essentials. However, this phone is a candybar style, which means the antenna is located within the phone unit and does not protrude out. This means cellular frequencies are closer to the brain. The question now revolves around how early is too early for exposing kids to cellular frequencies on a regular basis? On one hand you don't want to risk your child's health, on the other hand scientific research is still inconclusive when it comes to cell phone 'radiation'. The juror is still out on this one, be your own judge regarding the health impacts.
There you have it, some helpful reminders to consider before going out and dropping a couple hundred dollars and an additional twenty per month, minimum, on a cell phone for junior. One certainly cannot downplay the safety benefits, you never know when it could save a life, however, at the same time, there are many con items to consider before sending buying a a cell phone for junior. One thing is for sure, the little handset device will never replace supervision from an adult when supervision is due.
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