A MediaWise® Parent Guide—Cell Phones and Your Kids (page 3)

— National Institute on Media and the Family
Updated on Feb 11, 2010

Cell phone = Camera

Smile for the phone!

It’s hard to buy a cell phone without a built-in camera anymore. Kids all over see pictures of their friends’ faces appear on screen when they receive their call, snap photos of friends and post them on MySpace, and are even taking video on their phones. Most cell phones now only offer low-quality cameras that produce relatively poor-quality photos. However, Samsung is already selling a 10 megapixel phone (higher quality than many stand alone digital cameras sold in the U.S.) in South Korea, and such high-resolution models are bound to come to the U.S. soon.

What to watch out for:

  • Personal privacy is harder to find when people can snap pictures quickly and easily on their phones. Talk to your kids about appropriate and inappropriate camera use.
  • Talk to your kids about the consequences of putting incriminating or inappropriate pictures and videos on public sites like YouTube or MySpace.
  • Make sure your kids know to not send personal photographs online to people they don’t know.

Featured MediaWise tip! Talk about cyber bullying. Ask your kids to let you know if they get harassing text, pictures or phone calls. And, tell them that bullying will not be tolerated.

Cell phone = Television

TV anywhere, anytime

Leaders in the industry, including Sprint TV and MobiTV, are bringing music videos, news, weather, and sitcoms to a phone near you. For a monthly subscription fee, mobile users get access to around 30 channels depending upon your phone. The service is not too expensive, ringing in around ten dollars a month, but without a high speed connection some users still experience dropped signals, long buffering time, or highly pixilated pictures. We can expect to see clear, live TV shows a standard feature on cell phones within a few years.

What to watch out for:

  • We know that too much screen time isn’t good for kids. Being able to access TV anywhere, anytime only increases the number of possible hours kids can be glued to screens instead of plugged into school, family, or friends.
  • It’s harder to monitor the shows kids watch when they are tuning in to small, personal hand-held devices.
  • Television can be very distracting – it’s hard for teachers to compete with football games broadcast live.

Featured MediaWise Tip If you choose to subscribe to mobile television, make sure you set limits on screen time just like you would with your family television, and also monitor content.

Looking out for our kids

To cell or not to cell?

Today something like 200 million people own cell phones in the United States. Almost three-quarters of American households have at least one, and many have three to five. About half of teens aged 13 to 16 have one. It’s pretty clear that cell phones aren’t going anywhere. So what does this mean for our kids?

Cell phones have never been more popular with school-aged children. Having the coolest phone is a priority for many kids across the country. Parents also appreciate being able to get in touch with and keep track of their kids – it’s never been easier to communicate with our kids while on the run.

Despite the benefits, cell phones are also posing new challenges for parents. Some kids run up enormous bills, disturb classes with inopportune calls, and use phones to bully other kids. As more forms of media continue to converge in cell phones, perhaps the greatest challenge will be monitoring and keeping track of our kids’ media use. Small, hand-held screens make it harder to “watch what your kids watch.” That’s why it’s important to stay ahead of the trends and talk with your kids about what you learned in this guide.

MediaWise Tip Tell your kids not to share their cell phone number online, especially to people they don’t know, even if they have been talking with them for a while in a chat room or Instant Messaging.

Take advantage of other FREE MediaWise Network resources!

MediaWise Back to School Guide
Get help answering these questions and more: Will computers help my kids succeed in school? How do I encourage my kids to read? What’s the deal with multitasking?

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