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Teens don't need cell phones
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Jon Akers, director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, has written an on-line essay calling on school systems to prohibit students from having cell phones in their possession during school hours (go to
He presents an iron-clad argument to the effect that student cell phones are not just unnecessary but also contribute to bullying, underachievement, sexual harassment, numerous disciplinary issues, including cheating and even criminal activity. It goes without saying that they are one more distraction to a generation that is already suffering from distraction overload.
In the course of his research, Akers learned that whereas almost all school systems initially attempted to prohibit or restrict student use of cell phones, most have ultimately capitulated to pressure from parents and students. In some cases, the obvious choice has been made to ignore violations; in others, the matter has been deferred by state-level bureaucrats to individual schools or districts. That buck-passing has resulted in largely ineffectual attempts at control. Needless to say, it doesn’t take a teenager long to figure out that a rule isn’t going to be consistently enforced, much less figure out how to use a cell phone without being detected, as in texting.
The problem of enforcement is complicated by parents who demand instant access to their children during the school day and therefore will not support attempts to enforce cell phone restrictions. In this regard, parents often point out the need for their kids to be able to contact them in the event of a school shooting or terrorist attack, the likelihood of which is miniscule. Besides, in situations of those sorts the last thing law enforcement wants is hundreds of parents racing toward and crowding around a threatened school, thus constituting a hindrance to emergency operations.
As for parents needing to be able to communicate with their kids during the school day, how about calling and asking that the child be brought to the office? Let’s face it folks, the child who frequently “needs” to call his parents during the school day is the very child who needs to learn to take responsibility for himself. In that regard, a good number of principals and teachers have told me of cases in which a student has called parents from school to complain of being disciplined, resulting in said parents storming into the school to right the “wrong” inflicted upon their little innocent. These sorts of situations do not, by any stretch, constitute “need.”
Akers also points out that the shrinking numbers of kids who don’t have cell phones still manage, somehow, to get through the school day just fine. I’ll go a step further and speculate that these deprived children generally have greater respect for authority, a higher level of social and emotional well-being, and are (needless to say) more focused on their academic responsibilities than their cell-phone obsessed peers.
Regular readers of this column know I don’t believe a child (anyone under age 19 who is still dependent upon parental support) should have a cell phone until he/she is capable of paying for both the phone and the monthly bills. The riposte given most often by parents who disagree, and they are in the majority, is they want their kids, when they start driving, to be able to contact them in an emergency. Pardon the intrusion of fact, folks, but a study released last month by the National Safety Council finds that 28 percent of accidents occur while drivers are talking or texting on cell phones. In other words, a teen driver with a cell phone is far more likely to have a life-threatening emergency than a teen driver whose parents have properly weighed the pros and cons and made what is clearly the correct decision.
Several large school systems — including New York, Detroit and Milwaukee — have banned student cell phones and student life goes on — more normally, I venture. If kids in New York city can live without cell phones during the school day, then so can kids in Smallville.

Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site:
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