Kids And Cell Phone Addiction

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - June 04, 2008

There was a time when cell phones were a luxury item reserved for the well-to-do. I know the “brick” phone also could be used for ballast on a battleship, but remember the first time you saw someone making a call from, well, anywhere? Talk about phone envy.

My first exposure to a cell phone was in the movie Wall Street. Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko was on the beach at sunrise talking to his protege, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen). How cool was that? If we really want to go in the way-back machine, how about those flicks where guys had a phone in the car? I don’t know what the exact technology was, but to be able to pick up the phone while riding in your ride was such a groovy (trying to remain time relevant) thing.

Fast forward to today and the “brick” is long gone and just about everybody has a cell phone. They’re everywhere. In 2005, there were an estimated 2.4 billion cell phones worldwide. Estimates place those numbers at almost 4 billion by 2009. What was once a Buck Rogers-type concept has become as commonplace as ... the telephone. A debate can be waged as to whether or not the ubiquitous cell phone has been a positive or negative influence on our society. Proponents cite the obvious: instant communication, use in emergency situations and flexibility. Opponents could argue the cell phone has diminished interpersonal relationships, contributed to the erosion of etiquette and is responsible for the eventual downfall of our way of life.

OK, let me remove my tongue from cheek, but you get the point. As a parent, the presence of cell phones is no laughing matter. Zack is 7 and Zoe is 4. When I was a kid, having a television was a blessing and having one in my room was inconceivable. Video games were years away from making it into the home. I remember being excited over a 10-speed bike. Now our kids have (well-regulated) TV/DVD combos, CD players and computers in their rooms. Zack has an even more regulated PlayStation. We will usher these technological toys in for our kids with a watchful eye.

But cell phones are a different story. Cell phones are no longer used simply to call and check on your kids. We are at the point where cell phones can take pictures, shoot video, play games, surf the net, play music and text message. Imagine relinquishing all control of what your child sees, hears and communicates. Sure, there are elements of control you can exercise. But, chances are, if you are allowing your child to have a cell phone, you are also capitulating on all the bells and whistles. How many times have you encountered impetuous youths immersed in their cell phones, virtually oblivious to the world around them? Who hasn’t seen the videophone images of school fights and, worse, recorded on a phone and sent into cyberspace? Can we talk about nude pictures (and worse) of classmates being sent via cell phone to MySpace?

We generationally challenged often shake our heads and lament that our kids are leaps and bounds ahead of us in the use and understanding of technology. According to recent reports, 50 percent of Japanese children have a cell phone. A third of sixth-graders and 60 percent of ninth-graders have their own phones. Experts believe these numbers will continue to rise as disposable phones and rapid tech advances will keep the prices more affordable. In response to these numbers and more, Japan is moving to regulate cell phone use by kids.The Japanese government is citing many of the concerns most parents have such as cyber crimes and behavioral issues. Schools and other communities have been put on notice to curb the kids’ immersion, and if individuals can’t control its use, then the government will.

Unfortunately, governmental intervention and regulation rarely work in cases such as these. These officious edicts give a false sense of accomplishment and diminish the severity of the situation. Parents must take the responsibility to control their own children. Instead of a new law, parents have to be reminded that they can actually say “No.”

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