Cell phones: are they really necessary?
When your preteen comes home from school informing you that all the kids in his or her class have cell phones, what do you do? Do you stick to your guns and tell the kid that you don’t believe in it, or do you go with the flow and succumb to peer pressure? Having a cell phone has become as commonplace in Los Angeles as having a home phone, and in some circles, it seems to be a status symbol for the kids.
It used to be that kids started getting cell phones for safety reasons. The parents wanted to make sure that their kids could reach them if there was an emergency. Even that was restricted to teenagers. Nowadays, Los Angeles elementary school children are touting their own phones, in spite of the fact that schools forbid them to use phones during school hours. They are using those phones to text each other and sometimes to play games; emergencies have very little to do with it.
Recently, after making some inquiries, it seems that the majority of public and charter school students have cell phones. Fifth grade students, for example, in one of the charter schools in Los Angeles, all have phones. In the private sector, however, very few children have them. This seems surprising, since most of the mobile carriers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have family plans, where you can add phones for about $9.99 each. They are so easily accessible. The AT&T stores are near the Target on La Brea and Santa Monica, or near the Beverly Center, on Beverly Blvd. and La Cienega. Sprint is at 5535 W. Sunset or 1600 Wilshire Blvd. T-Mobile is at 350 S. La Cienega or 717 W. Olympic.
The decision to give a child a cell phone is not just based on expense
One mother of a private school student told me that she thought the majority of parents of fifth graders at private schools are very well educated and are waiting to give their children cell phones until the kids are older and more responsible. They will probably get them in middle school, where the schools are generally very large, and they might need one to contact their parents. Los Angeles can be a very materialistic place, and she thought a child having a phone before middle school was an unnecessary extravagance. What do you think?