Coming To Terms With Kids And Their Phones
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jun 01 01:00:00 GMT 2005

It's obvious that mobile phones are "must have" devices for many kids these days, but it's causing all sorts of problems for adults who don't know how to deal with kids and their mobile phone needs.

Kids having mobile phones isn't a new story. In fact, the only thing that seems to change is that the age at which kids get phones keeps getting younger. There are, however, two interesting side effects from the popularity of phones with such youngsters. First, is that the phones really have become fashion items, often replacing things like clothing for determining a kid's social status -- and adults (both parents and teachers) have almost no idea how to deal with this fact.

As the article above notes, kids have increased the "nag factor" in making sure they have the latest and greatest gadgets -- with mobile phones topping the list. iPods take a close second, but few other gadgets seem to command the same "I'll die without it," response from kids. While it used to be clothing or hair styles that were the fashion statement of choice for kids -- this new technology focus means that parents are feeling forced to spend more than ever before keeping their kids on the "cool" list at school.

This has some schools worried, to the point that more of them are trying things like banning mobile phones entirely, in part because they're upset that students are using the phones as status symbols -- which is similar to stories from years past where schools would ban certain types of clothing or hair styles for the same exact reason. However, these types of bans usually don't work for very long, and kids often find a way around them, whether by openly rebelling or by figuring out loopholes. Witness the story of a boarding school, where students are required to turn in their handsets every night before bedtime, in an attempt to prevent late night text messaging. As Russell Buckley points out, students can't deny they have a mobile phone to get around this -- the adults know they all do. However, what the adults haven't figured out is that this constant desire to upgrade phones means that many kids have multiple handsets, and simply hand in an old, obsolete phone, while continuing their late night text messaging ways.

It seems that, if anything, this is following the same pattern of other youth obsessions, with adults over-reacting, rather than looking at the benefits, and teaching more responsible uses of the devices. Either way, it's become quite clear that kids are paying a lot more attention to gadgets, and adults need to come to accept that in one way or another. It's even reached the point where tech summer camp sounds cool -- rather than just geeky. If only adults learned to focus on the more positive aspects of the devices as well.