Hold On, Let Me Just Call My Two-Year-Old's Cell

from the tones-for-tots dept

As with McDonald's use of playgrounds to get that brand recognition working in kids' heads early, technology makers are eager to get their products in the hands of tots as soon as possible. Wireless carriers have been spending more and more cash on marketing to kids over the years, often dressing the pitches up as educational initiatives. Parents are increasingly using text messaging to keep in touch with their kids too, and often use GPS functionality as a digital umbilical. Combined with the increase in kid-friendly content and games, the age at which junior gets his first clamshell keeps dropping. A new study from the NPD Group suggests that 15% of 2- to 5-year-olds -- and 62% of 11- to 14-year-olds -- now use cell phones. It's not clear what exactly a two-year-old really has to talk about, but every time this is brought up the debate arises over how young is too young for a cellphone. Assuming there are no proveable health risks, it's not clear what harm comes from giving your kid a cellphone, provided you make sure they don't dig themselves into a hole. Whether you think it's a good idea or not, it looks like Mike's 2004 prediction is coming true: we'll soon be handing kids a cellphone a few minutes after they catch their first breath.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    kim, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 11:07pm

    caution - extreme caution

    15% of 2- to 5-year-olds - are these people insane? check out the absorbtion of radiation to the brain in a kids head verses an adults head. http://www.live-care.net/images/phone_child_2.gif

     

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  2.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 11:52pm

    The President's Analyst

    Heck that's old technology.

    Anybody rememeber _The President's Analyst_ a James Coburn film where the phone company wanted to install a microchip in every child a birth. They just needed to replace names with numbers so the system would work.

    That aside I keep threatening to Lojac my six year old.

     

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  3.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 12:30am

    well

    i'll have a laptop waiting for any future child of mine and a desktop at home with duel bootable oses (have to teach them how to use a command prompt early). so frankly, i don't see the big deal with letting your kids have cell phones, as long as you don't beat them with the garden hose when they break it. they are kids after all.

     

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  4.  
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    Ryan, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 12:51am

    Must be boundaries...

    I don't believe there is necessarily anything wrong with letting a child experience technology, but there should be limits. A child under the age of 10 or so shouldn't have the ability to wantonly call anyone from anywhere without restrictions. Call me cautious, but it would seem that a pedophile would have a field day with a bunch of kids with cell phones. Let them call the parents and maybe a few friends... that is my 2 cents

     

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  5.  
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    Russell Williams, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 12:54am

    I "have" a kid

    I still want an embedded chip to protect against a snatcher. I would love my kid to be able to call me whenever she wanted. "and -yes- the 5 year old has her own computer"

     

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  6.  
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    FUD, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 2:51am

    **KARLSPRECHT ALERT**

    We are at FUDCON 4.

     

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  7.  
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    Wolfger, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 4:19am

    WTF?

    I'm 36 years old, and *I* don't need a cell phone! I spent my entire childhood without one, and I didn't even get my own landline until I was grown and out on my own. So why is it parents these days seem to think kids need cells? Seems like a load of cell company FUD ("what if your child were in danger?") and peer pressure to me. The truth about cell phones protecting children? Well I'm sure it does, sometimes... but then there's also the cases where the attacker used the victim's cell phone to take pictures of his nefarious deeds and/or phone the victim's parents to gloat/taunt/get-his-rocks-off. It would also protect the children to teach them to shoot and give them little guns to carry in concealed places, but I don't see any rush to do that. Arming children with guns would be a much bigger deterrent than arming them with phones... Parents just make no sense to me anymore.

     

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  8.  
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    Traci, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 4:36am

    Tech kids

    Both of my kids have their own cell phone and their own desktop computers. They are age 9 and 17. This shouldn't be anything out of the ordinary, it's not 1985, after all :) I will add that I'm so glad I didn't have a cell phone tracking me when I was a teenager!

     

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  9.  
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    Paul, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:07am

    This is stupid

    Two year olds are not using cell phones. Have you ever met a 2 year old? The statistic said that 15% of kids between 2 and 5 use cell phones. That's like saying 85% of people between 50 and 500 years old brush their teeth daily. That headline is misleading and stupid.

     

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  10.  
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    R, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:17am

    Re: WTF?

    "I'm 36 years old, and *I* don't need a cell phone! I spent my entire childhood without one, and I didn't even get my own landline until I was grown and out on my own. So why is it parents these days seem to think kids need cells?"

    Wolfger,
    *You* don't need a computer either. I bet that you spent your entire childhood without one, and you didn't even get your own computer until you were grown and out out on your own. So why is it parents these days seem to think kids need computers?????

     

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  11.  
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    Mr. Joe, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:23am

    Re: I "have" a kid

    My daughter has been using her own PC since about age 3. She's almost 9 now and we did get her a cell phone about 6 months ago. Little Migo only has four buttons to store phone numbers in so her calls are rather limited, and the satellite tracker is awesome. I can call her when she's at a freinds, and if she feels like calling me, mom, or grandpa, she can.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:36am

    Re: Re: WTF?

    " So why is it parents these days seem to think kids need computers?????"

    That's a good question.

    I don't believe that a child should have a cell phone until there responsible enough to pay for it. Saying that, I would be willing to bet a weeks pay that when I do have a child they will be carrying a cell with GPS. Just one of those small 4 button ones.

    And I would bet that most people, who don't have kids now, will do so as well when they have them. not because they think that the child needs it, but because they are paranoid about the child.

     

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  13.  
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    dance_bob1980, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:46am

    5 year old with phone

    Reminds me of a comment a primary-school teacher made. She said a 5 year old in her class had a mobile phone. Why? So his parents could call to tell him when to come home for dinner...
    I must admit the thought of the 5 year old wandering the streets of an evening shocked me more than the fact he had the mobile phone.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re: Re: WTF?

    Well, actually there is one solid (IMHO) reason for kids to "need" a computer. That would be in preparation for life. Computers and the skills to use them are just about necessary if you want your child to grow up and have a shot at a good career.

    I can't think of many desirable fields that your child will end up working in, that doesn't require use of a computer. Sure, there are exceptions.

    I don't buy that children need their own computer early on, but they do need access to a computer (under parental supervision) in order to learn how to use one so that they can be competitive in life.

     

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  15.  
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    zack, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: I "have" a kid

    I have a six year old and he's known how to dial and use our cells for years. as a parent my own personal take on it is the sooner my son knows how to dial 911, the better. he doesnt have his own, but I'm sure he'd be stoked to find a motorola razr in his xmas stocking. but a phone's no substitute for old school parental supervision http://mammals.wordpress.com

     

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  16.  
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    simon, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 8:26am

    and for later on

    when you'll get to see your kids 90% of their time waisted on computer and from early teenager waisting sleep over games, you'll maybe change this policy about early age computing. and speaking of skills, a normal average teenager will understand and learn how computer works , faster then you will understand, and giving , let's say 10-15 years till when they'll really need to work out something out of the computer, but chatting and printing, il guess they'll be re-learning 2-3 more types of operating system, so be gentle to your kids, and play with them and spend some nice time with them till they grow and they'll have no time for you left

    don't just bind them in house in in front of a tv/game console/pc to be safe and you with free time

     

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  17.  
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    simon, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 8:26am

    and for later on

    when you'll get to see your kids 90% of their time waisted on computer and from early teenager waisting sleep over games, you'll maybe change this policy about early age computing. and speaking of skills, a normal average teenager will understand and learn how computer works , faster then you will understand, and giving , let's say 10-15 years till when they'll really need to work out something out of the computer, but chatting and printing, il guess they'll be re-learning 2-3 more types of operating system, so be gentle to your kids, and play with them and spend some nice time with them till they grow and they'll have no time for you left

    don't just bind them in house in in front of a tv/game console/pc to be safe and you with free time

     

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  18.  
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    Trvth Jvstice, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 9:09am

    Simple Cell

    They make a cell phone that has only a few buttons that the parent programs. It can only call the numbers programmed in. So if the child wanders off, s/he can phone home.
    I think the phone has 3 buttons usable without a code, power, call and hang up.

     

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  19.  
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    Tyshaun, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: WTF?

    Well, actually there is one solid (IMHO) reason for kids to "need" a computer. That would be in preparation for life. Computers and the skills to use them are just about necessary if you want your child to grow up and have a shot at a good career. I can't think of many desirable fields that your child will end up working in, that doesn't require use of a computer. Sure, there are exceptions. I don't buy that children need their own computer early on, but they do need access to a computer (under parental supervision) in order to learn how to use one so that they can be competitive in life.

    I guess that having access to technology early isn't inherently a problem (although I have a 3 year old and the thought of giving them a cell phone is both troubling and rather unnecessary. Hell, the only time he is not with his mother or me is when we drop him off at his Grandmothers!).

    I worry more about the fact that I see too many parents not properly framing the exposure to the technology. Too many parents use technology as a way of occupying their children in lieu of actually having to interact with them or, God forbid, let them go outside and play with other kids (I laughed hysterically when one of my friends wanted to organize a "play date" and they live 2 houses from us. I told my kid to run over to their house and knock on their door and say that he didn't need a planned time for play)! From TVs in every room, DVD players in cars, ubiquitous cell phones, and high-speed internet kids have so many "distractions" that I wonder why they even bother interacting with other people. Again, the technology isn't the problem it's that too many parents have become lazy and have let the technology take over the job of teaching and socializing their children (not all!). We make it a point to set aside time to interact with our child, and most times the most the most technologically advanced tool used is a ball or a bat.

    That being said, my kid can still use the computer and get on the internet (he likes www.disney.com), yet, he doesn't have his own computer because I see no need for one at this age. I've heard parents say that kids need computers and such to be prepared for the future, but I have a basic problem with that, technology changes. Do you really think my kid is going to be using WinXP or MacOS when he's an adult? I hope things have progressed by then! I feel my job is to teach my kid to be able to adapt and think logically. That will give him a more useful toolset then teaching him how to use the window manager in XP.

     

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  20.  
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    wolff000, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 9:56am

    Re: Must be boundaries...

    "Call me cautious, but it would seem that a pedophile would have a field day with a bunch of kids with cell phones."

    If you want your kids to not talk to pedophiles then simply teach them to not talk to strangers. There is no difference in a cell phone and having access to the home landline. Of course they can carry a cell where ever but they can also pick up the home phone whenever if they are home. I know I spent most of my early childhood at home or in the immediate area as I imagine most kids do. Stop blaming technology and teach kids proper safety. What happened to not talking to strangers? At a very young age I was taught to never tell anyone that I don't know anything about myself or where I lived on the phone or otherwise. I was told it didn't matter if the person said they were a cop or anybody else if I didn’t know them I was to tell them nothing. Unless of course they had a uniform to back up the cop claim. If you teach kids this and they understand it then they could have a phone at 6 months and be safe from pedophiles. (For those that missed it the 6 month old comment was sarcasm.) I’m so tired of this “for the children” attitude everyone has. Simply teach kids right and wrong and discipline when necessary and they will grow up to happy, healthy people. Kids today need to be protected and most of the protection they need is from bad parenting.

     

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  21.  
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    kilroy, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 11:21am

    Re: well

    Tell me you don't actually have kids. Most children could use a good dose of physical activity ... and the more of it the better. Take a look around you ... how many well-adjusted, socially adept kids do you know. How many children have a solid understanding of morality, the concepts of action & consequences to those actions ... not to mention reality.

    Yes they should learn from a young age. I believe that not only should they learn technology but also it's place in the world. It is much more important to teach them how to learn, reason and think... and from more than just a self-centered ME ME ME point of view. We need to instill in our future generations the concept of how My Actions affect the global community as a whole. And help them to understand that WE as a whole (regardless of race, nationality or any other differentiation) are collectively responsible for each other and every other life on the planet.

    But ... that goes against everything we currently cherish, now doesn't it?

     

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  22.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 11:29am

    Re: and for later on

    actually, computer use at a young age is rather beneficial. i'd wager my present mathematical and logic skills that teaching myself how to program when i was 11 is what helped me develop them. of course, the desire to "h4x0r y3r put3r" was a factor of force, which could have landed me into some trouble looking at it in retrospect... however, it was still a beneficial time and experience to my current abilities.

     

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  23.  
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    No Computers, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 11:31am

    Really?

    Do you really think that if you don't give your child his/her own computer he/she will have no computer skills and no other exposure to computers? Aren't there enough computers out there in daily life that having his/her own is redundant?
    Do you need to start training a kid at 6 on a computer so that she/he's got killer Excel skills when he goes off to college??
    Let them go outside and play. Stupid schools provide enough computer interaction. No kid...NO KID is growing up afraid of computers. Regardless of whether he owns one or not. Regardless of whether he's in the inner city or suburbs.
    The arguement that kids need exposure to computers at home in order to be successful has been debunked repeatedly as well as not making any sort of logical sense.

     

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  24.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: well

    wow, nice rant. first, society is changing... to define social interaction at the exclusion of the vast network around us is absurd; it has been for a while.

    second, there will always be people who are on both sides of the morality scale. as a whole, this tends to stay balanced. when a group becomes too strict in holding specific morals a group of individuals brances off; the same can be said to happen when a group upholds too loose morals. despite what your perception may be people, as whole, aren't becoming immoral, forms of media just tend to focus on those aspects. do you ever hear news reports about the mormons who go door to door? no, yet you constantly get bombarded with negative happenings. this creates the illusion of a society in decline. also, computer use has little bearing on defining the moral outcomes of a person. having grown up with a computer and the internet (for the most part, since i was 10 or so) i've been subjected to some of the most immoral bizzare things you can imagine, yet this hasn't affected my overall moral characteristics in life.

    third, action and consequence, this is something that only life experience really teaches. sure, you can teach your child cause and effect but it will only be abstract notions until an event happens where it is demonstrated for the individual. it's these events in which a person really learns about action and consequence.

    fourth, define reality. to quote albert einstein "reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistant one."

    computers do an excellent job at teaching some people how to learn and reason. programming for one thing teaches fundamental concepts of logic. this isn't to say they replace an individual teaching, it still requires either the child to teach theirself or someone else to teach them. look at some of the activities of computer use as you would a subject like mathematics, programming is akin to the type of logic found in mathematics (of course, if you ever tried to show a math teacher a simple iteration such as x=x+1 (yes, there is other syntax for this, but for demonstration), the teacher would think you're insane, but from the context of a for next statement its use makes complete sense.).

    well, i need to head home... so i'll end there. to say the least, computer use is an excellent tool for a child to develop logic and reasoning. excellent to help them develop problem solving and a variety of other things that derive from logic and reasoning.

     

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  25.  
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    Computers, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 11:57am

    A Tool

    yes a computer is just a tool. It is not the panacea to make your child get that great job in the future.

    The question is whether it's a tool your child needs to know how to use? What about a wrench? A hammer? A punch-down tool? A soldering iron? A cutting torch?
    The point is, it varies by the child's maturity level. An active, participative parent can watch a child learn to use and master a computer's abilities. However, most parents simply purchase the computer and plop the kid in front of it and marvel whenever the neighbors come by at "how advanced Johnny is" and how "He knows more about that thing that I do" etc.
    I know 5-year olds who handle guns to hunt and compete. But most wouldn't. A parent wouldn't hand the gun to the child and tell him to run out and play. But that same parent would hand the child a laptop and tell him to run on out to the internet...make sure you look both ways when crossing the information superhighway!

     

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  26.  
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    kweeket, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 1:33pm

    I think this is the natual progression of technology. Cellphones started off with horrible battery life and crappy reception - useful mostly as expensive status symbols. Then, as the price dropped and the technology improved, all the eager poseurs rushed out to have one of their very own. (This is the point where SNL and cartoonists depicted cellphone users as thoughtless tools, shouting into their phone in elevators and on trains.)

    As the price kept dropping, and the phones kept getting smaller with better features, more and more people signed up. Currently, 90 percent of Americans own a cellphone - and 8% of those use their cellphone as their only phone. Since the majority of people without a landline are under 30, we can only expect this number to rise. In fact, I predict that in our lifetimes, cell-only households will become more common than landline/cell - they are currently more common than landline-only (53% versus 37%).

    Many of the people on this thread are getting cantankerous, saying, "I didn't need a cellphone when I was their age and so neither should they!" I think these people are still viewing cellphones as a luxury, instead of the next logical step in the progression of phone technology.

    I'm 25, and in my circle of friends I know ONE person with a landline. As my generation starts having children, I don't know how many will opt to install a landline just for the kids. I would think that - since the cost of adding a separate line to a family plan is negligable, and they usually throw in a free phone - it is easier just to get the kids their own cellphones instead of paying for a whole separate landline.

     

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  27.  
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    JJP, Jan 24th, 2007 @ 8:20am

    Re: WTF?

    WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR INNOCENT CHILDREN, IF THERE IN TROUBLE THEY CAN USE THEIR CELLPHONE TO CALL, THE COMMENT ABOUT GUNS IS LUTICREST, HOW CAN ONE EVEN SAY THAT WHETHER SERIOUS OR NOT WE DONT NEED GUNS TO CARRY AROUND, WHAT WE DO NEED IN THIS HOUR IS GOD, THATS RIGHT EVERYBODY, THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END. DID GOD NOT GIVE US EARS TO HEAR AND EYES TO SEE, WELL USE IT THEN BECAUSE EVERYTHING THAT IS HAPPENING TODAY IS COMING TO PASS SO WE NEED TO GET IT RIGHT IN THIS HOUR, ASK FOR FORGIVENESS, REPENT ON YOUR KNEES. ASK THE LORD ALMIGHTY TO COME INTO YOUR HEART AND LIVE THERE.

     

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  28.  
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    keke, Mar 11th, 2007 @ 2:08pm

    cellphones

    THAT IS STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  29.  
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    hydrogen, Apr 12th, 2007 @ 6:46am

    Wow.... so much to talk about...

    I got a cell phone when I was 16... I called a total of maybe 3 people. Now that i'm on my own, the only reason I have one is because it is cheaper than a landline.. I don't carry the phone with me.. it sits at my apartment.

    Kids don't need cellphones... You can't have your kids calling you every 5 minutes when they are at school. I could imagine a kid in kindergarten thinking something isn't fair and immediately calling their parents and complaining... Then a parent blaming the teacher for said unfair behavior happening. When I have kids, if I do give them a cellphone, It will be for emergency only. If their life is not in danger, they better not be using it. If they call me for any non-emergency reason, they will be severely punished.

    ..And do you think bosses of the parents like their kids having cell phones? I'm sure that not all kids will call their parents at work unless it's a good reason, but I'm sure that some will... heck, when I was a kid I probably would have. Just hope your kid doesn't get you fired.

    And that is all just for those 4 button phones.. when kids have a 'normal' cellphone, they will get in trouble in school. I'd almost guarantee it. They will want to call their friends... maybe even during class. They will try to sit in class and play games, etc...

    For the record, a lot of adults have horrible cell phone etiquette. If you talk on the phone while ordering food at a restaurant, at a register in a grocery store, at the DMV, in a library, during classes/meetings, etc... you are RUDE! Plain and simple... Heck, I even have a couple professors that will take non-crucial cell phone calls during class! How do we expect kids to know not to use a phone in class when their parents would do the exact same thing!

    About computers, though... They can be used for educational purposes. Cell phones can not. I believe that a kid should have access to a computer. They can be a great educational tool. Time should be limited on them though.... An hour a day. And, that means parents have to be more responsible... Net-Nannies and programs to block porn can easily be defeated by children... Don't rely on them. You have to actively educate your children and monitor their internet use.

    I lived in a very small town, and when I was 10 years old, I'd meet up with my friends in the morning and we'd stay out until dark sometimes. I never got in trouble, I never got hurt, I always had fun.... Because I was raised properly.

    Parents now days always try to avoid their duties of raising their children... seriously... raise your kids right!

     

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  30.  
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    teen, May 19th, 2007 @ 2:30pm

    Cells?

    I think that it is beneficial for kids to have cell phones-it's important for a child to be able to be able to contact a parent (or 911) and vice versa.

    However, studies done years ago and then again today prove that even a 2 minute conversation on a cell phone can cause brain damage, irregular moods and learning disabilities, and prolonged exposure can lead to Alzheimer's, dementia, and early senility.

    I guess with cell phones it's all about moderation.

     

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  31.  
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    teen, May 20th, 2007 @ 6:12pm

    Re: Wow.... so much to talk about...

    First of all, nearly everything you said is based on generalizations. I've had a cell phone since I was 11 and never once have I used it in school. My friends all have them also, and in the past 4 years I've known only 2 people who called or received calls during class. You obviously haven't taken the time to know very many children. If you had, you'd see that not all children are obsessed with their phones, and actually do have manners. ALthough children are portrayed as loving to break rules, many love having to follow them. Ever tried to cheat in a soccer game?

    You also apparently have horrible opinions of all people in general. Most adults I know have the sense to distinguish between what is unfair to what a preschooler thinks is unfair, and won't complain to teachers because their child only got one cookie. And about getting fired? I imagine that many bosses have children of their own, and must have some empathy for a child calling a parent.

    And limiting a child to one hour on the computer? Totally impractical. Try researching and typing an essay in only one hour. You can say that books are just as good, but the Internet is much more convenient and has many more resources than a library. (That isn't to say that books shouldn't be used at all.)

    You say you came from a small town, which must be the reason you were so perfect. "I never got in trouble, I never got hurt..." Although that is hard to believe. And one more tip? Don't judge other parents until you are one yourself.

     

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  32.  
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    jess, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 4:44pm

    Re: The President's Analyst

    hi i like pie

     

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  33.  
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    lily, Oct 18th, 2008 @ 3:57pm

    this is so effing stupid

    This is just ridiculous!! 2-4 year olds DO NOT need cell phones. I know how everyone on this comment board is saying that, "Oh, it will only be for emergencies, I'll just get them a firefly, it won't be that much trouble," you are just turning your kids into spoiled little tech brats. You probably weren't in any kind of mortal peril when you were in kindergarten, and if they do have a problem at school, i.e. "allergic reactions" the teacher is smart! He/she will call 911. I'm not stupid, and I'm not jealous either. this is just common sense people. I don't think ANYONE is a responsible parent anymore, and if you give your kid a laptop at four, that is just a waste of money and downright bad parenting. If you give your kid anything they want at such a young age, and if you continue to do this, that's all they will expect from you, and if you don't live up to their expectations, you will be out of money by the time they are 15, and you will be faced with a spoiled brat for a child who will probably take up most of your life. Ugh this kind of thing just annoys the sh*t out of me. Grow up people! You wonder why so many kids are obese? You wonder why little kids get raped? Technology.

     

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