Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Cell Phone and My Kids

This was posted last year on Facebook. 
Earlier this weekend I posted an interesting article in the most recent Time magazine by Nancy Gibbs about cell phones and kids. She basically says that the cell phone technology has advanced and kids are potentially abusing it. One example, kids are taking revealing photos of themselves and emailing it to their boyfriend/girlfriend. It really shows that kids do not understand boundaries and perhaps do not realize anything posted on the internet exist forever. Ms. Gibbs' article is an excellent read for anyone with young kids.

I thought about this. Frankly, it is a little frightening. My skills with the Microsoft Office suite is far superior to my kids. It should be, I use it every day and took classes at the technical college. For example, I know how to ask questions to find out how to do some format. That skill comes with using the system on a regular basis.

However, my cell phones are a different story. My daughter takes my cell phones (work and personal) and takes her photo, makes it the opening page and changes all of my settings. For her it is easy to change these settings. For me I have to consult a 125 page user's manual. Frankly, a 125 page user's manual speaks volumes about the complexity and potential uses of a cell phone. If I recall correclty, my first car owner manual was about 125 pages. To make matters even worse, my kids have friends they can ask about use of cell phones. I don't.

Perhaps it is because my kids view their cell phone more than an emergency telephone. When we gave our kids their first cell phone it was for them to call us due to an emergency. Both kids had activities held at locations that did not have a standard phone. So if theater rehearsal or dance got out early or ran late, they could call us. It quickly evolved from a cell phone to a comprehensive communications device. Every time a cell phone contract expires, the kids are looking at what they want a cell phone to do. For example, I had the best cell phone in the family. My kids used to complain that I knew less about all the services available than anyone else in our family. My daughter constantly showed me things about my phone that I never knew existed. (yes, I did not read the user manual) They may have a point.

In one respect, I admire their curiosity. I am impressed that they ask how can I make this phone do what I need or want it to do. For several days after they got their first cell phones we would have conversations that started wtih "Did you know the cell phone can do..." My son taught me how to text. My daughter's friend taught my wife how to email photos. We have texting because my son convinced me how it is valuable. He clearly stated why he wanted it and how he would use it. He is right, texting does serve a unique purpose.

Their curiousity extends beyond cell phone use. Any Facebook question I have, I ask my son or daughter. If you want to know what the icons mean and what else can be done, just ask them.

Facebook and cell phones are different. With Facebook I can see who they are communicating with on a daily basis. Even when the kids access the internet, I can back track and see where they have been. Cell phones are much different. Since my kids always have their cell phone with them, it is diffiicult to see anything - photos or text messages. When the subject is brought up my kids give me the same response - don't you trust us? Yes I do, but you do not have the experience or wisdom to necessarily know when boundaries are violated.

This reminds me of the evolution of cable TV. When I was about my kids age cable came to Midland, TX. At first, it was just news or reruns of shows done in the 50s and 60s. Parents knew these were harmless shows. Much like cell phones today, cable TV evolved. New stations were created with original programming. Now, parents have to watch the shows their kids watch. It is original programming and not always appropriate for children. Comedy Central and MTV are two channels that come to mind. In this respect it is even worse - my kids would go to their friends homes and watch shows we would forbid.

What is the point - like cable TV today, I must take time to learn more about cell phone use. It is up to me to ensure that my kids do not intentionally or unintentionally abuse their phones. I am most concerned about unintentional abuse.

Finally, if you find spelling errors, please accept my apologies. I have not figured out how to make the print larger- another Facebook question for my kids.

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