When your child wants a cell phone
March 29th, 2007Posted by: Theo Nicolakis
According to the Yankee Group, the number of 8-year-olds with phones is now estimated at 506,000. The number of 9 year olds with phones jumps to 1.25 million. To put things in perspective, the number of 8-year-olds with phones has doubled in just four years.
The New York Times published an article entitled, “Child wants cell phone; reception is mixed”.. The article discusses the new battle that parents face as children are being given cell phones at younger and younger ages. For some parents, giving a cell phone to a tween (children between 8-12) provides a sense of safety. For other parents, cell phones have become another object on a wish list.
While parents will certainly have a justified perspecive either way, the problem remains that parents are continuing to approach cell phones as simply a communications device. I am reviewing material for the executive committee meeting of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP) on March 30th in Washington DC. In the packet of materials is a letter from the Steve Largent (yes, hall of fame football player Steve Largent), the CEO of the CTIA, which represents the wireless industry. In the letter to RAAP, Steve updates us on some of the issues we discussed with him last year at his offices in Washington.
What remains encouraging is the fact that all CTIA members remain committed to abiding by the content guidelines that the CTIA has established (Click here for CTIA content guidelines in PDF and click here for the classification criteria). However, the wireless industry is still behind in providing educational material for parents. As such, when parents think of these mobile devices, they think of them as “cell phones” not as “portable entertainment and communications devices”. While that is certainly not as easy to say as ‘cell phone’ it is certainly more accurate.
I’ve talked continuously in the blog about these devices becoming more and more powerful. Indeed, the first of many convergence watersheds will be Apple’s iPhone that will push and transform this industry; yet the industry has not empowered parents enough.
The CTIA reports that mobile carriers are still evaluating software that will aid parents in filtering or blocking pornographic content. The carriers are not yet there with these tools, which puts parents at a big disadvantage; and what parents need to understand is that while carriers will be unleashing restricted content once these access controls are in place, if you give your child a mobile phone with Internet access, you are providing an open connection to Internet pornography.
As I continue to read through the preparatory materials, I remain hopeful that we will continue to forge positive partnerships and relationships as we have done with Steve Largent and the CTIA; and I also hope and pray that we will be able to continue making positive strides towards informational material and protective tools for parents.