Cell Phones and Grubby Little Fingers

by beagooddad on August 21, 2006

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C|Net wrote an article about young kids and the use of cell phones. Several people have chimed in with their opinions.

Brad Kellett agrees with C|Net and worries that the SMS capabilities of cell phones might ruin kids ability to spell. I’m not buying that argument. As a kid, I used to write notes to friends that used a lot of short hand and picture messages. I can write reasonably well today. The ability to know when to use quick and dirty writing versus formal writing is just as valuable of a skill as knowing when to talk slang and when to talk formally. Kids are smart and if they are taught the difference they are not going to have problems switching from one to the other.

Play Library disagrees with pretty much every comment in the C|Net article. As an added bonus, they agree with me that kids will learn the difference between phone typing and real writing.

Kent Newsome has some concerns with kids having phones before about 7th or 8th grade. He mentions:

My concerns about phones are partially the distraction resulting from the instant ability to call anyone you want, and even more so from the danger resulting from the instant ability for anyone to call you. Add text messaging and photo taking to the equation and it gets really scary.

It is a legitimate argument, but if you strip the text messaging and camera off a phone the scary part goes away. If you lock the phone down to only a predetermined call list, most of the distractions go away, too.

What I’d like to see is a real phone with the ability to let me preprogram certain numbers as allowable. Get rid of text and the camera (I’d like to get rid of those on my phone, too). Only allow inbound calls from the phones on the allowed list, which might be different than the outbound allowed list. And, the final feature is that all of this can be overridden by the parents. Not through a password that gets typed in on the phone that the kids will guess, but maybe through an online form or by placing a call with my phone to a service and using a password that way.

I’m not worried about my kids abusing the phone. I’m not worried about my kids abusing the internet. I’m not worried about my kids abusing TV, the microwave, the iPod, the bike, or the basketball hoop. As my kids grow up, I want them to be able to experience all of these everyday items in doses that I can keep track of. Even an unrestricted phone should not be able to be misused for more than one month. When the first bill comes in with phone calls to Taiwan, I’ll be asking some questions. If I don’t like the answers, then I will have to start teaching the consequences of not using the phone correctly.

When they are adults and start paying for their own phone, they will hopefully be happy they learned how to properly use the phone. And the microwave, and the dishwasher, and the garage door opener….

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