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Cell Phones and Kids and Cancer, Oh My!

My son has a short Christmas list.  His is always short.  And with his birthday falling just before Christmas, it’s often a challenge to come up with a present that will put that magical smile on his face on Christmas morning.  The main thing on his list this year?  A cell phone.

At first I blew it off as ridiculous, but as I look around and see more and more kids his age with cell phones, I’m thinking, Well, why not. He can pay for his minutes out of his allowance; to add him to our family plan is really quite affordable.  And there actually have been a couple times in the past few months that I wanted to contact him and momentarily wished I had the ability to send him a quick text.  I even went so far as to wander into the Verizon store at the mall one day and inquire about it.

And then I read this: Health: A Cancer Muckraker Takes on Cell Phones.

As she began to look seriously into the field, Davis began to have doubts that cell phones were harmless. She found evidence of studies, some decades old, showing that the radio-frequency radiation used by cell phones could indeed have biological effects–enough to damage DNA and potentially contribute to brain tumors. She found that other countries—like France and Israel—had already acted, discouraging the use of cell phones by children and even putting warning signs on handsets. She found evidence of  increases in certain kinds of brain tumors among unusually young patients who were heavy users of cell phones.

Why don’t we hear more about this?  Well, surprise . . . it seems that independent research implicating cell phones and cancer, much like research on issues that challenge Big Pharma and the industrial food industry, have a way of getting swept under the table when the industry that is challenged doesn’t like the results.

Davis shows that independent studies on cell phone radiation found dangers at more than twice the rate of industry-funded studies—though because the cell phone industry is the source of much of the funding of cell phone studies, there are far more of the latter. And ultimately that is what is truly disturbing about Davis’s book. Time and again, she shows the way that industry has been able to twist science just enough to stave off the possibility of any regulation—and finds that researchers are afraid of challenging the status quo, lest they find themselves suddenly out of a job, denied the lifeblood of research money.

Davis recommends that adults minimize cell phone usage to minimize the potential risk, but she recommends that children avoid using phones altogether, as their thinner skulls can absorb higher levels of radiation.

I mentioned this to my husband, and he was aware of this research.  He habitually removes his phone from his belt holster at work and lays it on his desk so it’s not so close to his body all the time, although he agreed that it seems to be more of a concern for kids than for adults.

So, mamas.  What do you say? Do your kids have cell phones?  Are you aware of the potential dangers?  Do you feel this is serious enough to warrant concern?

I expect my son would do a lot more texting than talking, and perhaps it’s having it near the head that is the primary concern?  Or is having it at all an unnecessary risk?

Is there ANY MODERN INVENTION that is not slowly killing us?  Sheesh.

Naturally, we have more concerns about our 11-year-old owning a cell phone than just the possibility of dangerous radiation.  All you have to do is Google “kids and cell phones,” and you’ll have enough worry fodder to put you over the edge.

I suppose we will end up waiting on the cell phone.  According to this article on Tweens, only 10% of preteens have cell phones these days.  (Although in my neighborhood it’s more like 80%.)  Nevertheless, we are not usually on the front lines when it comes to handing our kids electronic devices, and I expect this will be no different.

But the fact of the matter is, we will face these issues soon.  If not this year, then probably the next.

How do you monitor cell phone use with your tweens and teens?

Not just in light of possible health concerns, but also as far as security issues, proper use, and even bullying/indecent photos/sexting . . .  GAH.  It’s enough to make me want to crawl under a rock until my kids are 18.

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45 thoughts on “Cell Phones and Kids and Cancer, Oh My!

  1. Years ago, I did a review for a Kajeet phone, and it sat around for a while after that. About a year ago, when my oldest was 11.5 years old, we reactivated the phone, mostly because he was spending more time without us and various after school classes and activities and we wanted to know he could reach us.

    He complained that i had disabled many of the phones “cool features” and that his model was out of date, and I was very clear that the phone was for us to be able to reach him and for him to be able to reach us at any time. Thus, we paid for minutes, and he occasionally chipped in extra so he could download a game or something.

    Ironic that this safety device might actually be very dangerous, right?

    On the “better” side of things, kids are doing more texting than talking. And you can encourage him to use speaker phone. But still, I think brain cancer (and um, what if he sticks his phone in his pants pocket? What harm might that do?) is a risk that needs to be better researched. Within the space of a month, I learned that the husbands of TWO friends of mine had brain tumors. These guys are in their late 40s or early 50 and both are believed to have benign tumors. One is confirmed; he had his operation last week; the other guy goes in this week.

    I just tweeted the other day that maybe there is something to this cell phone/brain tumor thing, after all. Though, to be fair, I have no idea how much these guys talked on their cell phones.

    Oh gosh, maybe I should have turned this into a blog post of my own; sorry.

  2. I struggle with teens and cell phone use every day. My youngest daughter is turning 13 next year and swears that she is the only 7th grader in her small private school that doesn’t have one (she might be right). Mostly because she is the 4th child and the cell phone was something we gave the other kids the first year of high school (mostly for our convenience), she is NOT getting one this year…

    Without staying on my soap box too long, I am completely convinced that texting has made our kids socially crippled. They simply struggle to carry on a face-to-face conversation….even with each other. Not to mention boys totally miss the stage of becoming emotionally mature enough to work up the courage to call a girl at home…with parents and family aware (and monitoring the time of day or night the call was made)….

    I would keep my kids off the cell phone as long as possible, I think there will be some kind of sociological study forthcoming that we have a generation of socially awkward young adults…texting is just too easy and anonymous…

  3. Some articles I’ve read indicate that kids use phones far more for texting than for talking. (My friends with tweens and teens verify that this is the case in their households too). If this holds true for your son, perhaps having a phone with a texting plan isn’t such a bad thing. Stress using the phone portion for emergencies or Mom and Dad calls only–and then be sure to get an unlimited texting plan. One friend’s daughter sent 1500 texts in one month, with a limited texting plan. Not a pretty bill to receive at the end of the month. Some other things worth considering before providing cell phones: if the phone has a camera, what sort of pictures will be taken/received (“sexting” is a growing concern) and how will the camera be stored (and not used) during school hours? Good luck with making a decision on the phone. Since my child is 3, thankfully I’m not there yet!

  4. That’s an easy one….the kids text more than they talk. My 6th grader has one, mainly for MY convenience as we have several situations a week where I need to be able to communicate with her silently via text. She talks on the phone every now and then, but it is not an extended conversation. She is not “socially crippled” in any way because of the texting and honestly it is more akin to the walkie talkie use I remember when I was a kid…seriously! Having a cell phone USED to be one of those parent issues that I was all “NOT my kid” about. I thought it was an overindulgence and not a necessity and I just knew that kids who had cell phones were spoiled and bratty and blahblah blah.

    My daughter is a good kid,with good values and parents who know what is going on in her world. The cell phone didn’t change that. She isn’t on it a gazillion times a day. She uses the timer to time her violin practice, the calendar to keep up with some school assignments and she actually keeps in better touch with her grandma (who is a texter extraordinaire!) and her cousins. It is SUCH a non-issue. She got hers in the spring of her 5th grade year. Of course, we got a phone that does not require any type of data package and it doesn’t have WiFi so she can’t surf the web, etc. on hers. We have an unlimited texting plan so it is very affordable.

    “Without staying on my soap box too long, I am completely convinced that texting has made our kids socially crippled. They simply struggle to carry on a face-to-face conversation….even with each other. Not to mention boys totally miss the stage of becoming emotionally mature enough to work up the courage to call a girl at home…with parents and family aware (and monitoring the time of day or night the call was made)….”—–THIS has NOT been our experience at.all.

  5. We haven’t gotten Hunter a cell phone yet, but not because of the research you listed. He doesn’t participate in sports, isn’t in clubs after school. He is always either at school or home. Why in the world does he need a cell phone. if that changed, we would look at it again. He knows this, and while he doesn’t like it he understands.

    Now Boo is in sports, has clubs after school and other activities…I won’t get her one now (shes 8) but I can’t say when she is 13. It won’t be before that, that much I know for sure.

  6. Also, as a recommendation to all moms…our local police are doing safety talks on internet and phone safety for kids…now with most cell phones coming with cameras and internet ability, it is opening up a lot more issues. By the time our kids our older, phones that do everything will be even more common. The police expert was able to open our eyes to a lot of things we older moms would never be aware of.

  7. Also, we use long range walkie talkies when the kids are out in the neighborhood. Again, they don’t have the “cool” factor, but at least it is something.

  8. Great topic! My daughter is 9 and there are times I wish she had one but have the same concerns as you so love to read what those who have been before say. 🙂

  9. My oldest is 12 and has been asking for a phone for about 2 years. He never is far away and if he does do something after school or on a weekend, I usually give him my phone to take. I have been considering getting him one for Christmas, but I worry about the same things you do – the cancer information is scary and I definitely would not want him stumbling across anything inappropriate on the web or from “friends”.

    The only problem I have is now I actually am getting calls for him on my phone – I don’t think I’m going to get him the phone for a while. Maybe when he’s 13.

    1. My son is turning 11 this year. I’m thinking next year when he’s 12. 13 sounds more reasonable, though. I would NOT get him internet on his phone, that’s for sure. But I would want unlimited texting, which, with our family plan, is really cheap. He already has a camera, so I guess that part shouldn’t bother me, except that it would be so much easier for friends (or notsomuch friends) to send him inappropriate pictures. Sigh… so much to worry about.

  10. My kids have wanted cell phones for several years now and the answer has always been no. We don’t bend on the peer pressure, everyone else has one so I need one. Hubby and I both agree until they are old enough to be away from us without another adult than they don’t need a phone.

    Next year my oldest will be in middle school and may be riding the bus 20 minutes away. I may consider getting him a phone to keep with him in case of emergency since he will be further from home (right now the school is literally in our back yard). If he does get a phone it will be for emergency purposes only and to call me and his dad. No friends, no playing around. Maybe once he is older I will consider a phone for personal use but not in 6th grade.

  11. My oldest is 12 and we have had this debate. He doesn’t have a cell phone, or an e-mail address, or a Facebook account. My initial thought is that ADULTS get themselves in a lot of trouble after pushing the, “Send” button whether it’s a text or an e-mail. There are so many times when I have regretted sending something. I can’t imagine what kids do!! For US, I’m putting this off as long as possible. In my opinion– and I’m certainly not judging any other parents’ decision on this matter–middle school is hard enough without worrying about who sent a message on Facebook or “when is she going to text me back?” I suppose you could say that works in reverse making it hard to be the, “only one” without a phone. (Just like I was the “only one” that didn’t have Calvin Klein jeans. There’s always something like that with Middle Schoolers) but I think there’s a lot of hurt feelings and drama that can be avoided without the texts and FB comments. I think sometimes those things create a false sense of relationship and it is, indeed, important to communicate face to face. I told my son that he’s just cool and mysterious because he isn’t constantly available with all of those modes of communication. 🙂 Typical parent thing to say.

    On the flip side, and granted this boy is a senior in High School, my friend says her son was one of those grunters–“how was your day?” “Ughhgg” “Want to talk about it?” “Uggghhh!” You get the picture…while he won’t talk, he’ll text and she is thrilled to have this venue to communicate with her teenager.

    Not even mentioning the cancer threat!!! There are phones that are safer and emit less radiation and Dr. Mercola sells a headset that is supposed to reduce the radiation even more.

    Whew…tough topic. Every famiy their child and what they can and cannot handle, so I really don’t mean to judge anyone else’s decision. I just know that my boys are talkers and they get realllyyy “into” things so I don’t want this to become an obsession quite yet.

  12. Every comment that comes in, I’m like, Yeah yeah, I totally agree! Even though they all conflict majorly. LOL.

    It’s a toughie.

    My natural inclination is to rebel and say no way. But then I think about it and I’m not so sure it’s such a big deal. And then I think about it again, and feel like it is ridiculous for an 11-year-old to have a phone. Shouldn’t we leave something for them to look forward to as teenagers? My son already has a camera, a flip video, a Wii, a DS and a playstation. What’s left?

    It seems like kids’ toys keep getting older and older. So why is it that kids somehow seem to get younger and younger? Hmmmm… I feel another post coming on.

  13. Our girls shared a phone in the 7th & 8th grade. When our oldest was a freshman we added a line and they got their own phones. They are both athletes so they are after school for practice constantly. This was the main reason for the cell phones – we can reach them and they can reach us ANY TIME. They share our minutes and have unlimited texting (no internet). We have never had any issues with sexting or being socially crippled. To date they have had their phones for 4 years and have never had a problem.

    1. That sounds reasonable. But see, I’m talking about an 11-year-old in the 5th grade. I will definitely be getting him a phone by the time he’s a freshman. But the more I think about our lifestyle and read comments here, I think waiting a year or two is probably prudent.

      I had my own phone line when I was 15. Of course, there weren’t as many factors with that as there are with a cell phone, but I can certainly relate to how much I enjoyed that freedom.

  14. I will go back and read comments, so forgive me if I am repetitive.

    My oldest is 9 and has mentioned wanting a phone, but mostly as a wish that she knows won’t be fulfilled. I just point out to her that there is never a time she is not with an adult who has a phone, so she has zero reason to need one of her own. Also, I don’t want her calling and talking to friends or texting when she can and should be interacting with her family. Husband and I are old school in that we have already decided the kids will not have phones in their rooms (we don’t have a land line anyway). I just don’t see a reason for a child to have a phone as long as they are in the presence of adults. In fact, in some ways I think giving kids phones frees the adults around them from being as responsible as they should be–almost like they don’t have to monitor a situation or be especially available because a kid can always just call mom or dad. Does that make sense? I would rather encourage my children to have real-life interaction and to understand that we will only put them in situations that are safe and with safe adults, as much as we are able, and so phones are not necessary. Kids can’t have them on at school (I hope–at least in elementary/middle school) anyway, and then they are with me.

    As for the health concern, it is interesting. I think it comes down to weighing the risks and being smart about how you use the available technology.

  15. My 8 year old wants one and has for the last 2 years!

    My kids are not really involved in any activities where I feel the need to give them a phone to keep in touch. My oldest is 12 (13!) this December and his main activity involves his dad as a “coach” too.

    I do think there is something to be said for having a cell phone if your child is attending afterschool activities, walking home alone, or has to be at home alone at times. But I don’t think it’s a necessity until they are in high school.

    As far as the cancer risks, I do believe limiting cell phone use is key for young kids. My kids play games on my phone at times, and I worry about it. Even though it’s not near their heads, they are so little!

    In high school I know I was all over the place, traveling, going on overnight trips for swim team, cheerleading camp, etc. I had my own phone line at 15, and a pager (I know so cool!) at 16.

    I don’t worry so much about my kids staying connected via cell phones as they get older, but I do worry a ton about the risks of putting the internet and picture texts into the hands of hormonal teenagers. I’m REALLY glad I didn’t have access to those things as a teen/young adult and I am mainly worried about that aspect of cell phones, as well as Facebook. It’s the sexting, bullying, and other issues that scare me the most.

  16. Without going into detail to protect my 17-year-old son, I will say that we recently had an “issue” with him regarding his cell phone. Undoubtedly, it would be considered very tame by most parents today, but it broke a very important family rule, and his phone was removed from his possession indefinitely.

    A friend asked him a few days later, “If you could turn back the clock, would you?” He answered, “Yes. To a year ago. And I would have my parents not give me a cell phone.”

    That shocked me. He knows texting was the beginning of his “demise.” And he would undo it if he could. He would rather have no cell phone (at age 17) than to get in the trouble that he did. And like I said, it’s nothing earth-shattering or life-changing; just a standard we had set for our family that he didn’t abide by.

    Out of the mouths of babes.

  17. I am about to hop under that rock wth you!! Only I’m not coming out until mine are at least 25!!
    It makes me wonder how I managed to get thru middle and high school without a cell phone (and no – it wasn’t the dark ages) along with having afterschool activites & practices. Maybe it’s different nowadays!
    I am glad mine are 6 and 8; we will not be having this debate with them for quite a while! I like the post about not needing one “until they are old enough to be away from us without another adult” then they have no use for a phone! That seems to make sense for me – when my kid is old enough (& mature/responsible enough) to be away from me & other adults, then we can talk. Until then they’ll live without it and I’ll have one less worry!
    There’s plenty enough to worry about already! So, I may still be joining you under that rock!!
    Sheri O.

  18. I have a 3 and 4 year old right now, so not a worry for me for awhile. But I don’t see any reason why kids need a cell phone unless they have a lot of activities that keep them away from home and you. If that’s not happening then I don’t think a cell is necessary until they have their own car and can afford to pay for the plan themselves (or contribute).

    My personal opinion, which can be rather extreme at times LOL, is that parents hand their kids too many things for free and it’s actually a detriment to them. Kids have got to learn how to be patient, save up for things and manage their own money so when they are out on their own they are responsible.

    As far as the cancer and cell phone deal…everything causes cancer these days. Short of finding a deserted island a million miles away from life as we know it, I don’t think we can avoid the risk. And I get tired trying to quite honestly.

  19. My eleven year old daughter wants a cell phone, too. Begs for one EVERY.DAY. Her dad (who works for a cell company) says NO! Our oldest daughter got one when she was 13, so maybe in a few more years. The only concern I have, is that I feel teens today have no communication skills. They can text all day, and most do. Even to their BFF who is across the room! But put them in a situation where a conversation is going on – they spaz out and don’t know how to contribute. If they had a phone convo going, it would be endless!

  20. My blog post for tomorrow is actually all about the benefits of getting our son a cell phone!

    My son is 9, and yes I think that is a little young for a phone, but we’ve gotten rid of our land line and we wanted him to be able to contact us at any time. We do have rules such as, the phone only goes to school if he is going to someone’s house afterward (this is usually pre-arranged), the phone stays in the great room (we have a place for the phones) when he isn’t using it, and he is not allowed to call or text anyone we don’t already know (meaning they are not programmed into the phone and we have never met them, even kids in his class).
    I was uncertain at first how it would all work out but the phone has had the benefit of providing he and his grandparents (who live out of state) with a means of daily communication… texting! For example, every morning he and his grandfather text a joke to eachother and then when he comes home in the afternoon they text eachother the punch lines (if the other one hasn’t figured it out!) When our son got bored with the phone after a few weeks his grandfather was really sad and called to tell him how much he enjoyed his texts, it let our son know that he was thought of and that they miss him. It’s really been a great tool for him to communicate with friends as well and usually it’s all via text message so I don’t worry too much about cancer.

    HTH, Houston

  21. My son didn’t have a cell phone until a month shy of being 13. And to be honest it was only for my convenience so I didn’t have to wait in the parking lot for him until practice was over. He begged for one for over a year, then once he got one? Never used it. Still rarely uses it. He texts more than he talks (for sure!). If he makes more than one phone call a week, it’s a miracle.

  22. I don’t have kids but here are my thoughts: as far as the research – it seems now that cancer can be linked to just about anything.

    As far as telephone usage, you should be able to set time where your child can’t use the phone to call or text (i.e. school hours). At&T has a feature like this, so I’m assuming Verizon does as well. You can set the time to be used as you see fit. I have a friend in college whose Dad sets her phone use times around her class schedule each term. There are also those phones were you can set up only certain numbers to call/receive calls.

    I say get him the phone, but with a clear understanding of how its to be used.

  23. We got phones for our 2 tweens last year. We had an occasion where they were late coming home from an after school event.., they were with another parent that we could not get a hold of and it was terrifying, turns out the other parent thought it was no big deal that they ran over on time,,I did not know whether to go track down my children, or wait home for there delivery as my husband was not yet home and if I left there would be no one there when they arrived,,,I was in a HORRIBLE position, and yes they were with a trusted adult. We immediately purchased phones to put in their pockets.

    Our kids are allowed to call/text family only, and they have to ask permission to use their phones to call anyone else. This has worked great, I feel comfortable that I can reach them if needed, they are thrilled to have cell phones, and they follow the rules. As they get older they will have more freedom with them, but for our ages an stages this works well.

    Good Luck!

  24. I’m still on the fence with this issue. Some of my family members are convinced that an uncle of mine who was GLUED to his cellphone developed a brain tumor because of his cell phone use. Anyway, my child is only 10 months old so hopefully more research will be out before she asks for a phone of her own! (I try to use my hands free whenever possible, by the way.)

  25. An interesting topic, for sure. My daughter is 10 and would LOVE a cell phone, but I am not ready for her to have one yet, even though there have been times when I have thought, it would be nice to send her a quick text about X. I do worry about giving my kids things just because all the other kids have them, and what message that sends. On the fip side, though, if she gets a phone on the younger end of the spectrum, would it be easier to monitor? As in, would she feel less dorky telling her friends, my mom won’t let me do that on my phone, when she’s 11 versus when she’s 13 or 14? I guess if you decide to go earlier, you might feel like you have a little more control over the situation than you would when he’s older. Not that you would not have control, but you might have less attitude about it.

  26. I’ve read up on some of the research you mentioned, so I rarely, if ever actually using my phone with it to my ear/head. Instead, I usually use a handsfree device, and when not in use, my phone sits on my desk/table or in my purse. Small measures like this go a long way to ensuring safety and health.

    As for the same issue with a young user, I would try to implement the same type of precautions. Recommend limited use, after all, this is just for emergencies, right? Or handsfree use.

    I was one month short of 17 when I received my first cell phone. Of course, this was back in 2004, when cell phones about teens were just then getting popular. However, I had just spent two weeks with a bunch of friends at a church seminar/school and so my parents felt as though I had earned up by displaying responsibility.

    Later, my brothers received cell phones at 13 when they started doing more activities outside the home. Still, my parents later said that they wished they had waited another year or two.

    In the end, I think the whole age part really depends on your child and the situation. The social aspect is very much a valid issue, and so make sure to institute cell-phone free times, such as at the dinner table, or during game night, when guests or friends are over. On the other hand, encourage using the cell phone to talk to the grandparents and other family members so that it can be used as a communication TOOL.

    You might want to consider something like the Firefly Mobile, Kajeet, or a similar phone decided specifically for younger children and preteens. After all, you can always upgrade if he handles this responsibly.

    Praying that you make the right decision overall! 🙂

  27. Oh my, I have a lot to say on the subject (not the radiation part, though). Here are a couple of things to think about before you dive into cell phone land. First, when you get the first kid a phone, the rest of the kids will have the same expectation at the same age. Will all of your kids be ready to handle the responsibility in jr. high? Second, phones are not toys, and I’ve seen from firsthand experience that most jr. high kids play with them like they are toys.

    We decided to wait until high school to get cell phones for our kids (and we do make them pay for the $10 a month that it adds to our plan–they get to have the added responsibility of paying for the privilege of having a phone. If they don’t want to pay for it, they don’t want the phone badly enough.). Even though my oldest was playing travel basketball in jr. high, we somehow managed without giving her a phone. Yes, my 7th grader now complains that she’s the only one who doesn’t have a phone, but I just tell her that that leaves plenty of people to borrow from! And honestly, it just doesn’t come up that often.

    Here’s our experience . . . a cell phone in the hands of a jr. high kid can be a hurtful thing. I really resonated with much of what DeAnn (above) said–hurt feelings and drama just go along with cell phones. I have seen kids texting each other across the room, snickering and laughing at another kids who’s sitting RIGHT THERE. It’s horrible. And mostly because jr. high kids weren’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of a phone. For some reason, when we got our kids phones in h.s., it wasn’t that big of a deal anymore.

    Now that I have one in college, I’m so thankful that she has a phone–we text all the time. I don’t think I’d ever hear from her if we didn’t have that. 🙂

    So, yeah, it’s a really personal, family decision, and I sure don’t judge those who decide otherwise. For us, it was a good decision to wait until h.s.

  28. Unfortunately, if we look long enough and hard enough, we can find articles saying ANYTHING…. I could probably find 3 articles stating that cell phones don’t lead to cancer…. relax, we don’t have to over think EVERYTHING…. Cancer aside, I view cell phones for kids who are in elementary school the same way I view brand name clothes…. it’s a status symbol. 5th graders should not be away from an adult long enough to need their own phone…. if they are, we probably should be discussing whether or not it is safe for kids to walk home from school alone or come home to an empty house. Cell phones shouldn’t be a substitute for parenting.

  29. OH! Dang, forgot about the other issue you were originally intending for us to discuss. Here’s the thing….. our school is 1:1 computers – meaning my child has a school issued laptop that he has with him continually. I’m by far more worried about his eyesight and who knows what from THAT than I am about the little bit he’s on his phone or carries it in his pocket.

    Our school has a zero tolerance cell phone policy during school hours.

  30. One more thing. When you’re thinking about how much control you would like to have over your child’s use of a cell phone, keep in mind that you have NO control over who gets his/her phone number once the first friend has it. Cell phone numbers spread like wildfire and there’s nothing you can do about it other than pay to block every number you don’t want texting your child.

  31. This topic comes up all the time with my 11 (soon to be 12) y.o. son. He has been asking for a while now, and I usually ask him WHY do you need one, and then say you can have one when you will be out and about w/o an adult or at least when you are driving.
    I would never expect him to just “borrow” a friends all the time, I find that kind of rude actually that a parent thinks it is okay to just use up someone’s minutes because they don’t choose to get their child a phone. Obviously in some emergency that is different, but not… oh everyone else has one, just use theirs to call home.
    It is interesting how many people say that children need to call to get picked up from practice…for us if coach says practice is done at 4:30 it is done at 4:30 so you are just there to pick them up. I cannot imagine a coach expecting to practice until whenever and just have children call for rides. That would not go over well with parents around here! LOL!

    I recently upgraded from my pre-paid phone to a smartphone, so now I have the old phone still hanging around.
    For now we have dubbed it the “household” phone that can be taken if necessary, and my son did use it last week when he had games and I had to stay home when my youngest was ill.
    My plan is to play it by ear for a little bit before we rush out & buy another one.

    I do agree that it is a social issue for some kids and young adults who do not know when to take a break and not be talking or texting when in the company of others. We as parents need to be sure we are also teaching a little bit of etiquette when we hand them a phone! Also being able to talk face to face is important in life, so with some children the phone (among other things) could be too easy to hide behind. Just another hurdle to raising great kids I suppose!

  32. Interesting discussion. I read everyone’s comments because I was interested to see all sides of this. I have a 9 year old who really wants one and who will be going to middle school next year (5th grade). I am going to try to hold out until she is in 7th grade, but I am open to getting one sooner should the need (moms piece of mind) arise. Thanks for this post.

  33. My 12 year old step daughter has had a cell phone for 3 years now. There are definite advantages to her having one. She is involved in daily sports activities and goes back and forth between her mother’s house and our house. Her mother has the “chaperone” feature activated on their phones so that she can ensure that her daughter is where she is supposed to be when she needs to be. I think that this feature is essential if you are buying a pre-teen a cell phone (especially if they are walking home from school or are away from home often).
    However, I don’t think that I would have given her a cell phone at age 9 (or 12 for that matter). Yes, it is a convenience to be able to get a hold of her, but I would say over half the time the phone is forgotten at home or not charged. It has also been lost multiple times. If you do decide to buy a cell phone, stick with the least expensive model that wont upset you when it is lost.
    She has also been caught deleting text messages she doesn’t want others to read. You mention that you want unlimited texts, but I would be weary. I know from personal experience that sometimes written text does not come across the way that verbal text does and like mentioned before, your child may regret pressing send. Also innapproiate photos can be recieved even if your child does not have a camera phone, all they need is the ability to recieve messages.
    I personally think that a preteen is not mature enough for a phone and that most preteens want a phone just to be able to say they have one, but if you do decide to get the phone, I would recommend the following:
    1. Activate chaperone service.
    2. Monitor activity closely
    3. Do not spend too much money on the phone
    4. Make sure they know the rules and that the phone can be taken away at any time.
    Good Luck

    1. Thank you. This is all excellent advice. And we are definitely putting the phone on hold for now. On hold. HAHAHAHA! 🙂 I crack myself up.

      I talked to my son last night and told him that we can discuss it again next year but we will probably wait until he is at least 13. He’s not thrilled with that answer, but he understands.

  34. Well, it is a tough one. My 3 children have all expressed interest in cell phones, but the easiest way to manage it was to let them have prepaid. My then-15 year old mowed lawns and didn’t want to spend his minutes. My two younger kids like the idea, but aren’t enamored of texting when they can be talking and would rather talk in person than on the phone. It just isn’t an issue. It is probably helped by the fact that I’m not a cell phone person, either.

  35. I got some great advice from a dad here at work about cellphone use.

    1) Do not give them their own phone. Buy a phone, and make it very clear that it belongs to YOU, but you are lending it to them.
    2) Make it clear that they have no rights, no expectation of privacy, etc. when it comes you YOUR phone that they are borrowing.
    3) Collect YOUR phone each night and put it on your nightstand. The child can retrieve it in the morning. This will avoid late night texting or phone calls beyond the time you would normally allow them to be on the phone, and also gives you a good opportunity to regularly review texts.

    I thought these were very smart ideas and will be sure to implement them when my daughter and son are ready for a phone – which isn’t any time soon. DD is almost 8, and DS is 4.5.

    1. Interesting! I think he makes some good points about it being yours and not theirs, at least at younger ages.

  36. I agree that the danger is real. Though looking at the odds, and the chance to get cancer through other ways (the environment is being poisoned as we speak), it seems that cell phone use for kids might be a risk worth taking. I bought a just5 phone for my 9 year old son because of the bullying he might get. (He’s a shy kid.) The phone has a one-touch Emergency Button which he can use to ask for help. Yes the danger of cancer from cell phone use is real, but I’ve got my son to take care of. I think that’s a more immediate danger.

  37. As much as I find your blog very interesting and informative, I have to disagree about some points. Everything has its PROS and CONS, you just pointed out the CON part of it. We have to admit, it’s the digital age and cellphones are here to stay. There are LOTS of benefit cellphones bring, one is assurance to each and every mother/father that their child is safe and is not in harm’s way. I recently got my 8-year-old son his own mobile phone from Just5 and so far I’m happy with it, it has this great feature at the back, an SOS button that he can press when he is in some kind of emergency and I would know right away. Talk about innovation huh? As simple as that makes me have a peace of mind that my child is safe all the time. You can check it out for yourself: http://www.Just5.com

    1. I have read JL’s blog a very long time and I see what you are saying as far as this particular post However, the one thing she does is zone in and be the devil’s advocate on occasion to show the other side of what could be a potential harm

      I agree that peace of mind is worth a LOT Is it worth chemotherapy sessions later? I think that’s something we all have to weigh out and we are able to discuss that here in a very friendly environment

      Personally, I love that about this blog I don’t comment on many people’s but I feel safe to comment here and discuss the hard questions.

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