Are Cell Phones Safe for Kids?
3 years back, when my older boy, Ben, was entering middle college, I wrote a column recounting a debate with my partner about getting him a cellphone. Was he too young? Were we being very indulgent? How would we hold out against his younger bro, Gabriel, who right away started disturbing for his very own phone? Now Ben is entering faculty ; his bro is going into middle faculty.
Gabriel has had his very own mobile phone since he was nine and started walking to and from faculty by himself.
Or debatable sales strategies aimed at my preteenager. Or unnecessary texting ( I am not even going to touch “sexting” ).
Or the sheer annoyance of a phone grabbed in my sons’ hands like a security blanket.
Now, about half American kids 12 years and older have telephones, according to Christopher Collins, a senior researcher for patron research at the Yankee Group, a research firm.
And that has spawned all kinds of issues, like questions about etiquette and expensive tricks. For instance, a bit back, we stumbled on a shock $19.99 charge on our Verizon Wireless bill. It seemed that Ben had incidentally purchased a joke-a-day for his mobile phone. He suspected he had taken benefit of a free offer.
The difficulty is, it isn’t always clear where the offer is coming from. Mike Wehrs, president of the trade group Mobile Selling organisation, explained that there were alternative ways to get a service, like a ring tone, screensaver, service or game for your phone. One is to buy without delay from your telephone carrier, and that is pretty safe, he announced. The top carriers have a tendency to follow his organization’s suggestions, which require that consumers be asked twice if they need to buy the service, told how much it will cost, if it is an one off fee or an once a month charge and the way to back out. But then there are third party suppliers, often referred to as “off-deck,” which are seemingly what Ben used. These are companies that are not related to our phone Server.
Thus they might be less forthcoming, let us say, in explaining charges. They may also be much tougher to contact with questions or grumbles. It isn’t such a lot that a number of these shady corporations are accelerating, but there was an incredible expansion in the year in the quantity of complex phones with all kinds of applications that “can be exploited by folk operating in an illegal or false way,” Mr Wehrs asserted.
He claimed his organisation was working with the Fed. Trade Commission and other organizations to put pressure on such firms. A non-profitable group, the Application Consumers’ Action Network ( ucan.org ), in addition has brought strain on carriers to be more responsive to such issues. “If you’ve a charge on your telephone bill you failed to permit, the company should be prepared to credit you, and many times it is legally needed to do so,” he announced. When we called Verizon Wireless to whinge about Ben’s purchase, the company agreed to take it off our bill and told us the easy way to block the number.
Debra Lewis, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, announced that each situation was looked at case by case, “but we try and work with the customer. Many oldsters and I include myself in this class keep a ( rather ) careful eye on TV, PC and Nintendo game use. But we did not truly take into consideration phones, since at least till fairly recently, telephones were intended, well, pretty much for calling folk. But now owning a good telephone and many kids have more sophisticated telephones than their oldsters is like having a P. C. , declared Dr Regina M Milteer, a pediatrician in Fairfax, Va, and member of the Academy of Yankee Pediatrics council on communication and media. The actual question she hears from fogeys of her patients, she announced, is a way to control telephone use. Besides the old school way ( “if we catch you using your phone in bed another time, you may lose it. “) most phone firms now offer some kind of parental control for roughly $5 a month.
As an example, ATT has its Smart Boundaries option which, among other stuff, permits fogeys to dam numbers and internet sites, limit purchases like ring tones, games and graphics to a certain amount, and create times of day the telephone can be used for mobile Web perusing, texting and outbound calls.
“The neatest thing oldsters can do is educate, educate, educate,” Dr Milteer said.
“They also have to set limits.” One recommendation, she revealed, is putting a basket out where youngsters place their telephones on arriving home. “Then they can’t go in their room and text their friends,” she revealed. If they have to contact them, they can use the house’s landline. Not only is continual texting distracting and pointless, she announced, but “you have to wonder whether it meddles with developing some social talents at some point. Folks also moan to her about their youngsters texting under their covers at night.
There comes a point when parents have to be parents. We have all heard that driving and texting is deadly, but Dr Milteer warned that pedestrian accidents have happened because kids were texting as they crossed the street and were not mindful of their environment. And though it might not be as dangerous to use mobile phones while sat at the table or mingling with chums, it is just plain rude.
My boys are not marathon texters, but it is their preferred form of communication with their buddies.
Also, they are so used to instant gratification that letting the telephone ring and speaking is regarded too onerous. I do not wish to ban telephones they frequently turn out to be handy. And the fact is, depriving my youngsters of their telephones now would be similar to my folks cutting me off our old landline back when I used to be a teen, though even then we had boundaries, like no calls after nine pm Rather, folks need to be on top of how that cellphone is being used. “When you hand a telephone to a kid, you’ve got to affirmatively take control,” Mr Neill announced. We’ve got more or less trained our boys, but once in a while there’s a slip-up. Next time I observe my youngsters excessively concentrated on their cells, I should send them a text message : Put the telephone away.