Cellphone: A kid’s other computer

If they don’t already, parents need to know that owning a cellphone is more and more like owning a computer. Because, though they fit in zippered little compartments in our kids’ backpacks, 3G phones or “smart phones” are full-blown Net-connected computers (unless you have your mobile carrier turn off Web browsing). So they’re entertainment and social devices and a way for scammers to trick you into subscribing to this or that long-term “service” as much as a way for Mom or Dad to keep tabs on kids’ whereabouts – and “about half” of US kids aged 12+ have cellphones, reports Alina Tugend in the New York Times, citing Yankee Group research (for better figures, see my post later this week with Pew/Internet’s latest on teen cellphone ownership). “Many parents – and I include myself in this category,” Alina writes, “keep a (somewhat) careful eye on television, computer and video game use. But we didn’t really take into account cellphones, since at least until recently, phones were intended, well, pretty much for calling people.” She offers some advice from a pediatrician on family cellphone policy, including the most basic tip that limits need to be set. When things slide a bit, here’s a solution Tugend, a mom herself, has arrived at: “Next time I observe my children overly focused on their cells, I’ll send them a text message: ‘Put the phone away’.” [See also “House rules for teen texting.”]

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