To Cell or Not to Cell?

I’m a little freaked out about how good Maisie is with my iPhone. Since she was about 14 months old, she’s been able to flip through the apps, find the one she wants, open it, and use the darn thing. And let me just say, the apps for her are amazing. There are vocabulary flash cards, games that teach cause and effect, other games to help learn the alphabet, numbers, and animals…the list goes on and on. If you’re a mother of a small kid and this is the first you’re hearing about it, just Google “Toddler iPhone apps” and you’ll get list after list of the best apps out there.

A few of Maisie’s are Peekaboo Barn, Ballonimals, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Monster Maker, iTot Cards, and Baa Baa Black Sheep. The ones made by Duck Duck Moose all seem to be a hit. She currently has 31 apps on my phone; I have 12 outside of the ones that came with it.

I usually only let Maisie play with my phone when I really need to distract her. It’s great at restaurants when the food is taking too long. Better yet, I used it last week to draw her attention away from the shot she was about to get at the doctor’s office. It’s my emergency go-to toy and probably her absolute favorite thing to do. If my phone rings, she freaks because she wants nothing more than to play with it.

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I do worry that she’s going to erase all my information because, after all, she is only two. My husband and I talked about getting her an iTouch for her birthday, but that just seemed ludicrous. Instead, I’ll just keep a watchful eye on my little electronic datebook.

Of course, the whole “to cellphone or not to cellphone” debate just gets worse with each passing year. With school starting, my neighbors are all aflutter about whether or not to get their kids cellphones and, if so, at what age.

It’s a complicated question. Studies show that most U.S. high-schoolers have a cellphone. Texting is a way of life for these kids so, if your kid doesn’t have a phone, she or he will be left out socially. Then again, I’d far prefer my kids hold their own in a conversation versus developing lightning fast thumbs. I worry that all this technology is destroying a kid’s ability to be social in the good old-fashioned sense of the word. In fact, some studies suggest kids prefer texting versus talking on their phones, so who knows? Maybe this generation won’t even talk at work and everything will be done via text. Somehow, that’s just plain sad to me.

From what I read, most schools seem to hate cellphones and think of them as the devil’s tool. Students are so busy texting that they aren’t paying attention in class. Many schools have banned them all together. Some did so a full decade ago when the phones were used by drug dealers. All to say to be sure to check your school’s policy. More recently, other schools have figured out creative ways to use phones as an educational tool embracing the fact that cell phones are a way of life. What most scares me is that sexual predators are more sophisticated than ever and use cell phones to reach out to kids.

Most parents say the reason they really want the kids to have a phone is in case they need to reach them in an emergency. If —God forbid—another event like September 11th happens, they want to be able to find their offspring, pronto. Never mind that cell towers are usually overwhelmed during a real emergency or that phone signals could detonate a bomb accidentally. Heck, some kids use the phones to call in a fake bomb threat just so they don’t have to take a test. If it was a real emergency, parents rushing to the scene could impede emergency workers. My one mommy friend from Texas says that if her daughter didn’t have a cell phone, she wouldn’t ever be able to find her after school dances and the like.

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The arguments for both camps are strong. Aargh—brain overload! Thank God I don’t have to make any decisions just now. What about you? When will you hand yours a cellphone or when did you? I’d love to know.

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