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Con: Safety, health concerns among reasons children shouldn't have phones

By ALLISON MILES
July 28, 2013 at 2:28 a.m.


Did you know ... ?

Students in the Victoria school district can have cellphones but can't have them out during school, said Diane Boyett, the district's communications specialist.

Phones are not to be turned on or in use throughout the school day or on the bus. Students who don't play by the rules face phone confiscation and other punishments as laid out in the student handbook.

Before buying your child a cellphone

Considering buying a phone for your tween? The National Consumers League website offers a few things to discuss with your child beforehand:

• Set a monthly budget and keep to it. Be clear about avoiding overages or your willingness to purchase additional minutes.

• Discuss whether your child can use the phone to purchase apps, ringtones, games and so on. Consider implementing parental controls to block such purchases.

• Talk to your child about cyberbullying and how to handle it responsibly. Twenty-six percent of teens report having been bullied via phone call or text message.

• Discuss inappropriate phone use. "Sexting" and inappropriate photos can come back to haunt a tween.

• Talk about who your child is allowed to contact with the phone and who they aren't. Program all allowable numbers into the phone and let them know how you feel about them answering calls from unknown numbers.

• Make sure the child knows not to give out his or her number to strangers, especially to those online.

• Discuss distracted biking. Keeping their eyes on the road - not on their phone's screen - can keep both themselves and others around them safe.

Like many parents, Tamesha Alexander enjoys giving her children the things they want.

Whether it's a new toy or, as was the case Wednesday, a trip to the playground, she likes seeing them happy.

When her 10-year-old daughter, Meshaela Alexander, approached her about a cellphone, however, the answer was no.

"She already has friends in elementary school who have them, and she has asked," the Victoria mother of two said. "I told her maybe in middle school, but for now, I've said no. It's a safety precaution."

Alexander said she wants to wait until her children can handle the responsibility that comes with a phone - not only when it comes to calling and texting others but even accessing games. Some apps can be tricky, she said, and charge monthly rates.

"I think this will be more of a reward type thing," she said of the phone. "She can get one when she's old enough to handle it."

Others worry about health issues.

Devra Davis, president and founder of Environmental Health Trust, discussed those concerns in an article on HealthyChild.org.

She said cellphone radiation disrupts DNA, weakens the brain's protective barrier and releases free radicals. While children's brains absorb more radiation than adults', infants' absorb even more.

She went on to say that studies indicate extended cellphone use increases one's risk of brain cancer and other disease.

Patrick Martinez, a Berry Plastics employee and father of two, said children have it made today with their high-tech phones and gaming devices. He recalled going to the park and playing outside when he was a child, things he said more kids should do today.

"If things came to an end and all of the electronics were gone, what would we do?" he asked, noting people of all ages have become dependent on technology. "People would be lost."

Martinez admitted cellphones do offer some safety benefits, but said he would feel comfortable buying them only if he knew his children were old enough to know the rules and play it safe.

"I really don't think kids should have them," he said.

As for Alexander, she knows the days of her daughter wielding a phone will be here eventually. But even when that time comes, it won't be anything fancy.

"It won't be an iPhone. Nothing nicer than what I have," she said with a chuckle. "It will just do the basics."

Pro: Cellphones provide added safety, learning tools

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