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Kids turning to cellphone for Internet; it's tough on parent oversight

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Despite the ability to monitor some phone activity, some tech and communication experts question whether surveillance, alone, is the best response to the trend.

Some parents take a hard line on limits. Others, not so much, says Mary Madden, a senior researcher at Pew who co-authored the report.

"It seems like there are two extremes. The parents who are really locking down and monitoring everything — or the ones who are throwing up their hands and saying, 'I'm so overwhelmed,'" Madden says.

She says past research also has found that many parents hesitate to confiscate phones as punishment because they want their kids to stay in contact with them.

"Adults are still trying to work out the appropriate rules for themselves, let alone their children," Madden says. "It's a difficult time to be a parent."

And a seemingly difficult time for them to say "no" to a phone, even for kids in elementary school, where the high-tech bling has become a status symbol.

Sherry Budziak, a mom in Vernon Hills, Ill., says her 6-year-old daughter has friends her age who are texting by using applications on the iPod Touch, a media player that has no phone but that has Internet access.

She draws the line there. But she did get her 11-year-old daughter an older model iPhone last fall, so she can stay in touch with her. Budziak, who works in the tech field and understands the ins and outs of the phone, set it so that the sixth-grader can text, make and receive phone calls and play games that her parents download for her.

"So we're on the conservative side, by far," she says.

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