OK, get this: the hottest kindergarten accessory is not a backpack, lunchbox, or new pair of sneakers. It’s a cell phone. That’s right — I was talking to Bob Lotter, founder of the mobile phone watchdog company Radar, and he told me that in L.A. at least, many parents are investing in cell phones for their kindergartners. (In case you’re wondering, the buttons on the phone are large and easy to use. Children are only able to call the numbers you program into the phone.)
I can see some advantages for school drop-offs and pick-ups, but otherwise, why in the world would anyone give a five-year-old a cell? (I admit to some personal bias here. It’s hard enough for me to keep track of mine, let alone giving my kindergartner one!) Added to that is the news that came out from a study done this summer by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Director Ronald B. Herberman warned parents to limit their kids’ cell phone usage. This is because electromagnetic radiation from the phones may cause cancer, and would be especially harmful, he says, to developing brains. (Click on the Cancer Institute link above for practical tips from Herberman on how to limit exposure.) Although his research has not been proven conclusively, it’s still enough of an incentive for me to strictly limit any time my son spends talking on a cell.
(And luckily, he hasn’t asked for one of his own…yet. Although come to think of it, the new winter coat I bought for him last spring on sale does have a cell phone pocket in it. And I thought that was a style detail!)
I’m curious–has anyone out there limited their child’s cell phone use for health or any other reasons, and if so, how did you talk to your child about it? And if you’ve gotten your young child a cell phone, how has it worked out for your family?
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.