The world is turning upside-down. Six-year-olds bring cellphones to school to keep in contact with family and friends. Eight-year-olds are calling mom complaining of an upset tummy while hiding in the bathroom and beg to be picked up and taken home from school. A 7-year-old calls dad on her wristwatch phone asking for Halloween candy to accompany her lunch. Why do children need to be connected constantly?
Constant World Wide Web connectivity and the ability for an 8-year-old to connect with mom or dad 24/7 equates to a millennial hiding in her parent’s basement electronically Googling pictures of cute kitties and Kaitlin Jenner. A child does not need a cellphone — particularly a cellphone with internet connectivity and access to the evils of online society. Children need to talk with other children and adults. Children need to interact with real people.
While Googling whales in search of the world’s largest animal, numerous pictures of large, naked ladies appear on my computer search. Quickly hitting the X button, the pornographic images disappear from my screen.
Reflecting on this experience, I wonder about the reaction of a fifth-grader searching for the same sea mammal. I wonder if this fifth-grader will linger, wondering, excited to see the image on the screen. I wonder what a parent might think of what the child discovers or the conversation initiated by the child about nudity and sexual promiscuity. Is the internet the proper mechanism for a parent to introduce a child to the human body and sexuality?
There is a time and place for a child to receive his or her first cellphone. The Coeur d’Alene School District’s “Stand Up Speak Up,” anti-bully committee offers the following advice on cellphone use.
When should my child get a cellphone?
Many resources attempt to answer this question online. WebMD offers one article with comprehensive information here: http://wb.md/1OZ7Ws9. The author, Susan Davis, shares it is not a simple answer by grade or age, rather she encourages you to consider the purpose of the phone, the maturity of the child and the expectations you will set for using it. It is worth the read even if your child already has a phone.
One superb way you can establish guidelines for cellphone use is through a cellphone contract you create with your child. The web provides a variety of cellphone contract examples, but youth advocate and motivational speaker Josh Shipp offers a strong one he says you can edit to fit your preferences here: http://bit.ly/2gNX2id.
It is not too late to implement even if your student already has a phone. It may present a bit more challenge, but it may be a challenge that could save your student’s life.
The holiday season is upon us, and many a phone may be unwrapped soon. Let’s work together to help our students safely navigate an online world many of us did not experience growing up (though we don’t feel that old!). It does indeed “take a village.”
Jody Hiltenbrand — assistant principal, Canfield Middle School
Representative, Stand Up Speak Up Committee
Send comments or other suggestions to William Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit pensiveparenting.com.