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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Teenagers, Cell Phones, and School

When I joined the School Board, all electronic devices, primarily pagers, were banned from school grounds. Any device  found was to be confiscated and not returned. Then Columbine happened and the landscape was changed.  Our policy changed to ban the use of cell phones during the school day, but allow them on school grounds. Well, teenagers sometimes find cell phones irresistible, and the board would get the occasional comment about phones going off during class.  School Officials didn't like the disruption or the taking away of phones.  It was beginning to get bothersome.  Then last week, I received a parent comment in an email which stated this:
"I don't mean to sound like a smart aleck, and I am afraid that I might! But I hear mostly about the constant text messaging that goes on throughout class, including cheating, not to mention the porn brought to school and passed around, like notes used to be. ...our daughter truly does know more sexually explicit things than any of our other children at her age (13)."
PORN! The thought had not crossed my mind.  I guess I'm still from another world.  A quick internet search showed a couple of middle school cases;
Police say children snap nude photos with cell phones used by Daphne Middle School students and;
Utah Junior High Students use cell phones to share nude pictures. 
But, could this be a problem here? It didn't take me long to find out. The first group I questioned produced the father of a 6th grader whose child had received nude pictures from a girl at his school. The second group included a parent whose child had received pictures of other students while they were skipping school - but most parents were not even aware this could be done, and were even more puzzled why anyone would do such a thing.
I don't know why they're doing it, but they are..... And even if your teenager is not doing it, they know someone who is.
Here are my suggested rules:
  • IT'S NOT TRUE.  Your teenager is not the only child without a cell phone. Parents should stick together and discuss issues with other parents.
  • Cell phones are/can be a valuable tool.  When your teenager asks for a phone, sit down and discuss the reasons for the phone.  Do they need all the features (text messaging, camera, unlimited minutes)? If the reasons seem justified, consider a phone for just the stated purpose and to be used just during the times of stated purpose. You can buy phones with prepaid minutes (when used up the phone no longer works) and you can have features, such as text messaging, turned off. Don't allow the phones to be used at other times.
  • Enforce your rules and support the schools in the enforcement of theirs.  If your child has a phone taken away at school - double the punishment. After all, the use at School is a disruption to many others.
  • Whether you provide your child with a phone, or their friends have phones, be sure your child is educated about what they may be exposed to, and knows how to respond.  The real world is as close as the cell phone.

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