Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Phone home

British researchers have raised the alarm: Don't give kids cell phones! It's bad for their brains! Maybe. They think. Could be. The little gadgets give out little bits of radiation, and little brains are more susceptible to injury, and so it seems prudent to protect them. I hate to tell the researchers, but at least here in the U.S., I think that particular ship has sailed. Given how absolutely commonplace it seems to be for middle schoolers to tote their own phones, I'm pretty sure younger kids -- including those in the 3- to 8-year-old range most at risk according to researchers -- are wired as well. True, I've never seen a toddler text-messaging, but just from watching a group of 6th-graders leaving a religious education class last night, flipping their phones open and immediately going into chat mode, I'm going to guess that their little brothers and sisters don't go much of anywhere without being instantly contact-able.

Now, see, the British get a reputation for being polite and circumspect, and news reports about the researchers' concerns confirm that by hedging the evidence so sincerely. There's no hard evidence that the phones are bad, but the researchers think they are, they're really pretty sure, and shouldn't that just be enough? Whereas if I were in charge of this cautionary message, I might be a little more blunt, and say someting like, YOUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILD DOES NOT NEED A CELL PHONE! Do not purchase one for them! Do not give them so much allowance that they can purchase one for themselves! Don't be ridiculous! There will be plenty of time for out of control phone bills, endless annoying conversations, and pouting over phone restrictions when they're teenagers. If you think it's cute or fun or modern for your young tyke to trade in her toy phone for one that can actually ring up its very own charges, ask yourself: Is my brain maybe fried already?

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