Jul 18, 2007

Why Does a 13-year old Need a Cell Phone?

The parents of a 13 year old girl were shocked when they got the initial cell phone bill for their daughter, who sent nearly 5,000 text messages in her first month. According to a KIRO-TV news story, the girl's first bill was nearly $650.

According to KIRO-TV, the father, Steve Peterson, said ""We probably should have monitored a little bit more closely, and so, really our fault, and water under the bridge at this point, but pretty surprising, and parents should be aware and use some caution as they get their kids phones I think,..."

Let's do the math. First, lets spread out the 5,000 text messages over 30 days. That's 166 instant messages per day. 166 PER DAY! Then lets divide 166 by 18 hours, assuming the 13-year old slept 6 hours per day. 166/18= 9 instant messages per hour. 9 instant messages per hour!! Every hour!

What are the negative consequences of this? In the article, "IM Doesn't Mean "I Must", by Doug Fodeman, Director of Technology & Communications Brookwood School, Manchester, MA,

"While social skills in children continue to build and grow at all ages, third and fourth graders are emerging into a particularly sensitive time of social interaction. It is the time when awareness of self-image is becoming acute. We may often feel this sensitivity expressed in the “Where do I fit in” angst our children may voice. Children are working hard to develop their communication skills and their interpersonal skills just as they are building their reading, writing and arithmetic skills. They practice and develop their skills through their choice of language, voice, inflection, facial expression and body language. In the “real world”, they try out these behaviors, and they can see the reactions they elicit. They see in their peers’ faces the consequences of their words. Unfortunately, the virtual world is a very poor place in which to build communication and interpersonal skills at this age. In particular IM and chat rooms are extremely poor. Never mind that both the pace and culture of these technological “environments” discourage attention to spelling, grammar and good etiquette; more important is the fact that children are much more likely to experiment with inappropriate language and to be involved in inappropriate conversations without seeing the impact of their words in these environments because of the anonymity they offer. They are also increasingly exposed to inappropriate language used by others; they misinterpret what is being said, come in contact with words that may cause them hurt or alarm and come in contact with strangers in an unmoderated and unsupervised setting."

What's going to happen to all these children when they are adults? What skills will they have in communicating with face to face, person-to person as well as in groups? With no experience in real conversation and all that implies- language, facial expression, or the ability to read others' body language and facial expressions? How will they learn the art of intuition, of reading people, of learning how to be a skilled communicator, and to discern who is trustworthy and who isn't, who is believable and who isn't?

Does instant messaging improve reading and writing abilities? What writing ability to you need to text message? IDK. I'll ask my BFF Joe.

Giving a cell phone to a 13 year old is tantamount to devolving their education and social growth.

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