In recent years, mobile phones have become extremely popular with young people. More than half of American teenagers now own a cell phone, and this number is growing quickly. Also, the age at which kids are getting cell phones is dropping, and many elementary school-aged children now carry cell phones. This trend is even more marked in countries outside the United States; for example, in New Zealand 84% of children have a cell phone by age 14.
Many parents want their children to have cell phones because they want to be able to reach their children at any time. It also gives parents peace of mind to know that their children can call them or the police in case of an emergency. However, other parents worry that the risks of having a cell phone outweigh the benefits. There are certainly risks to having a cell phone, but with education and the proper tools, your child can have the security of a cell phone with few of the dangers. What are the risks?
Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is when kids use the Internet to harass, intimidate, embarrass, or demean others. Kids can use cell phones to send threatening text messages or make threatening phone calls, and cell phones make it easier to do these things without being detected by parents or teachers. Many cell phones are now equipped with cameras that can take still pictures and short videos, which can then be sent to other mobile phones or uploaded to the Internet. According to a survey by the National Children's Home charity and Tesco Mobile, 10% of children ages 11-19 have had a picture taken of them with a cell phone camera that made them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or threatened. Hidden Costs: Most cell phone plans charge additional fees for accessing the Web and text messaging, and kids can easily rack up high charges on cell phones by going over their plan minutes, downloading expensive ring tones, music and games, and sending too many text messages. Your child could also sign up for one of several services that will send him or her text messages, news alerts, photos and other content for a set fee per message. Predators: Cell phones can allow strangers to contact your child without you ever knowing about it. As with instant messaging and chat on your home computer, your child needs to understand they should never give out any personal information to people they don't know, including their phone number, address, full name, or school. Phones in Schools: Many schools have begun to restrict cell phone use in schools because they can be a disruption to students. They can also be used for cheating, as in one case at a California high school where a student was caught taking pictures of a test with his cell phone camera. While some schools require that cell phones be turned off during class periods, other schools ban cell phones completely. Find out what the rules are regarding cell phones at your child's school and make sure your child obeys these rules. Theft and Loss: Cell phones are small, expensive objects that are easy to break or lose, and some children may not be responsible enough to take care of them. Losing a cell phone can be dangerous, since children sometimes store their personal contact information in them. Cell phones are also easy targets for theft, so make sure your child stores his or her cell phone in a safe place and doesn’t call attention to it in public. Also, your children should know to never let strangers borrow their phone. Inappropriate Content: Many of today's cell phones have wireless Internet capabilities that allow kids to browse the Web, instant message their friends, and download ringtones, wallpaper, videos, music, and games. Mobile phones present a challenge for the protective parent because they are often used outside of the home, away from parents' watchful eyes. It is much more difficult to monitor the Internet activities of your children on a mobile phone than on a home computer, and kids may be able to access adult Web sites, videos, photos and text messages through their cell phones. Health risks: So far, no scientific studies have conclusively proven that cell phone use presents a health risk. However, some scientists still recommend limiting cell phone use by children. The United Kingdom's National Radiological Protection Board warns that children may be more vulnerable to the radiation that cell phones emit, and they recommend that children only use cell phones for essential phone calls. There has also been some concern about children developing repetitive strain injury from constantly typing text messages with their thumbs; however, little research has yet been done on this subject. To be on the safe side, make sure your children take breaks between texting and occasionally use other digits besides their thumbs. Cell Phones and Schools: Should Students Be Allowed to Have Cell Phones in Class? By Mary Ellen Quigley
Once predominate only in middle school and high school, cell phones are now becoming popular in the elementary school as well. According to Dodds and Mason, “200,000 U.S. children age 5 to 9 carry cell phones, and 7 million aged 10 to 14 carry cell phones.” It has become a situation that teachers and administrators have to address.
The main reason why teachers are concerned with cell phones in their classroom is because they disrupt lessons. However, there are other important reasons too. A growing concern in cell phones is the use of cameras. “A new form of harassment emerges when students take photos of unsuspecting classmates and share them on the Internet” (Dodds and Mason, 2005). This has caused some schools to have legal issues. Cell phones can also create problems with cheating in a classroom. Students can text answers and test content to other students in the class or in other parts of the school.
Even with all the downfalls of cell phones in class, some parents believe that they are essential in this day in age. “As a parent, I feel more comfortable with my own son carrying his cell phone in his book bag,’ says Bill Nuzzi. ‘In this less than perfectly safe world, it feels like a link to more familiar security” (Dodds and Mason, 2005). It is understandable that parents worry about the safety of their child. In fact, cell phones can actually aid a school in an emergency situation. “Students with cell phones have the option of calling their parents when there is an emergency and keeping the school phones free from the clutter of worried parents calling in” (www.acteonline.org).
Cell phones can also be used as a tool for learning in certain classes. For instance, a Career and Technical Education teacher can use a cell phone to “supervise a student’s phone interview for a possible internship or apprenticeship” (www.acteonline.org). They can also be used as a way to supplement learning by using them almost as a mobile computer. In situations like this, a phone can be an asset in the classroom.
Most teachers believe that there is a time and place for cell phones and that the classroom is not that place. The biggest complaint teachers have is that many parents are not teaching proper phone etiquette to their children. Therefore, the children end up thinking the phone is a toy. Teachers will eventually have to step in and teach children about the “rules” of cell phone use. Many school districts are now including these lessons on their curriculum. It is up to each individual teacher how they will handle this or whether they will be allowed in their room at all. Cell phones, whether they are good or bad, are going to be a part of the classroom. It is something that all teachers need to think about. Do kids need their own cell phones? from Time for Kids by Bonnie Rochman
Most cell phone companies design models especially for kids. But parents are usually the ones buying the phones, and paying the bill. According to a July 2012 study, 56% of parents of children ages 8 to 12 have given their children a cell phone. The percentage goes up with age. The study, by ORC International for the National Consumers League (NCL), basically proves what many people already assumed: many kids, if not most, have their own cell phones.
According to a recent YouthBeat survey, 12 is the magic number. It is the most common age for kids to get their first cellphone. But 13% of children ages 6 to 10 already have one. That’s more than one out of every 10 kids.
Pro-cell phone people, including many parents, note that cell phones help kids keep in touch with their friends and families. They believe that cell phones are an important tool in an emergency. Kids can stay connected with their parents at all times, whether it’s to ask for a ride home from soccer practice or to receive a good-luck text message moments before a big game. Plus, some people say having a cellphone helps teach kids to be responsible. Some cell phones designed for kids can be controlled with settings that allow the phone to only be used in parent-approved ways. What’s the harm in that?
But other people are worried about the health and safety effects of kids' cell phones. They believe that plugged-in kids could be missing out on other activities, such as playing outside or hanging out with friends, and that sending text messages or fielding phone calls while doing homework is bad for concentration. They say that kids are spending too much time texting instead of talking to each other. "Our brains evolved to communicate face to face," says Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, in California. "A lot of this is lost with texting.”
Another concern is cyberbullying, which is on the rise as more kids use e-mail and text messages to communicate. And some experts are concerned about possible health risks. They worry that radiation—or energy waves—released by cellphones could be harmful to young people. To be safe, many pediatricians advise limiting talk time. Pros and Cons of Mobile Phones at School by Louisa Austin
YES OR NO? Mobile phones can be fantastic when it comes to the safety of your children and so many parents encourage their use but are they really needed when the kids are at school? Here are the pros and cons taking them in. CONS
It could get stolen: Although you would hope this wouldn't happen, it is possible that your child's mobile phone could be stolen while they are at school. This would be very costly to you and a huge disappointment to your child. Placing their phone in a school locker during lessons could reduce this possibility but many children like to carry their phone around just in case they need it. It could distract them: Mobile phones have come a long way from the screen less bricks they were twenty years ago and the latest smartphones can almost double as a computer. While this is great for those techno geeks among us, it does mean they offer far more of a distraction to kids than they used to. Nowadays, children cannot only text and make calls with their mobiles, they can also play games, surf the internet and listen to music. All these features could interfere with your child’s concentration and ability to learn if they play with them in class. It could interrupt lessons: Many children, even though they are asked to do so, forget to turn off their phones during lessons meaning they may start to beep, chime or play music. This not only frustrates and annoys other pupils but also prevents them from learning as well as they would without the distraction. If this happens with several phones during a class the problem multiplies. It is easier to cheat: Besides the distraction problem, access to the internet can also be used to look up answers and mobile phones have a couple of other dynamic features – a calculator and the ability to save notes. The possibility of children having access to this information during important exams could be too tempting for pupils not to take advantage of. PROS
They can get in touch when necessary: The main benefit of having a phone is that your child can get in touch with you whenever they need to. This allows you to feel they are safe and gives them assurance knowing they can call home if they have a problem. They can ring the emergency services if the need arises: If your child is in immediate danger, they can use their phone to call not only you but the emergency services. This is of great benefit and could potentially save your child's life. Even if your child has no phone credit they can still get in touch with the police, fire or medical services as all emergency calls are free. Allows you to keep track of their whereabouts: Children, especially teenagers, can be extraordinarily elusive and can disappear with their friends for hours without notifying anyone. In the summer many kids will go to the park after school or pop down to the shops at lunchtime. Letting them have a mobile phone will allow you to know where they are – provided their phone is on! They can easily be discreet: Mobile phones can be very discreet if turned off or on to silent. As long as your child remembers to do this their phone won't cause a distraction in class, but they will stay have a way to contact you if they need to. Giving them a standard rather than a smartphone will also reduce the risk of distraction.