I’m usually pretty impartial to Facebook conversations, but occasionally I will get in on one and give my two cents. This week I came across a convo on whether or not to give your child a cell phone. There were actually some pretty good arguments on both sides. Some parents said that if your child is away from home a lot, or is a latchkey kid they should definitely have one. Other moms argued that a cell phone is a responsibility and should not be handled by kids who cannot prove they are responsible enough to keep track of the phone and contribute to monthly payments.
Well what do ya know? I had a personal experience with this exact situation this week. My oldest son, whose biological father purchased a cell phone for him, had his mobile stolen at school this week. Now normally I don’t play the deception game and would have went to the school. Character flaws like lying, cheating, stealing or deceiving in any way are lapses in integrity I just won’t tolerate.
But, in my opinion my son’s actions were irresponsible. He knows he attends a school where the children have a hard time following the golden rule and have stolen things in the past. I’ve told him several times that if he wants to take his cell phone to school for emergencies it was cool, but he should try his best to keep the phone put away. Well, he chose not to take my advice. In my opinion his cell phone was the result of treating his phone like a toy that he chose to play with, and therefore he suffered the consequences of his action.
My biggest problem with the purchase of too many gadgets for kids is it teaches them to treat something as a toy that is actually a tool, and can be used for economic and social benefit. My dad once told me the story of an African man he ran into while working who said to him that Black people often see the wall before they see the glass. The man gave him the example that if you give an African man a cell phone, fax machine and computer he will develop a business. However, if you give a Black man the same tools he sees the trivial things he can do with the devices, rather than utilizing them to realize his own economic, emotional and intellectual benefit. And, that’s the problem with many of our children.
In my house we have a plethora of electronic gadgets. We have video game systems, hand-held games and a P.C. So sometimes I have to ask: How much gaming does he need to do? How many emergencies does he really have? And, am I teaching him to neglect the fact that the cell phone, as well as many other gadgets, are business tools that can be used for economic benefit by allowing him to use every electronic device at his disposal as a toy? After all, I was a latchkey kid growing up during the 80s and 90s, some of the most treacherous times in Black history, and I can’t recall one instance where I was at a detriment because I lacked a cell phone.
To balance it out, if a kid is going to use a cell phone to play games, call friends and check Twitter, they should equally be using the phone to stay on top of homework assignments, organize their day and be financially fit. These days there is an app for EVERYTHING. So, there’s no reason our children cannot master the use of their cell phones as tools, rather than allowing the cell phone to run them.
What do you think? What age does a kid need a cell phone? Do they need them at all? Is it worth the risk considering all of the negative things they can get into (i.e. sexting)?