Monday, August 11, 2008

Cell-Phone Parenting

The timeless issue of cutting the apron strings takes on new meaning for American families as almost half of preteens go back to school this month with cell phones in their backpacks.

The news brings a mixed bag of reactions, ranging from peace of mind for parents by having constant contact with their kids to worries about exposing them to new physical and psychological dangers.

The advantages of instant communication about change of plans and missed school buses are obvious, to say nothing of emergencies in the Columbine era. But the inevitable price of progress comes with worries about possible cancer risks to developing young brains as well as the temptations of text-message cheating in classrooms and exposure to inappropriate photographs and videos.

The ultimate risk, according to the president of the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children, is exposure to predators who may use cell phones to gain trust over time without the knowledge of parents or teachers. He recommends the use of new technology that allows monitoring of children's text messages and pinpointing their locations.

As parents of pre-schoolers begin to contemplate the advantages of wiring their children, it's sad to see the development of new human tools, as always, bringing with them unforeseen problems and dangers.

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