Parents Face Dilemma With Kids, Technology

February 8, 2007 at 3:31 am Leave a comment

Aired: Thursday, February 8, 2007 

 

By Marnie MacLean News 8 WMTW

FREEPORT, Maine — They’re only 6 years old, but Lucy and Gracie know what a cell phone can do and how to use one.

Even babies seem to have a sense of how they work.

News 8 spoke with five mothers in Freeport. All of them have young children, and all agree that when it comes to technology, kids are king.

“They’re completely capable. There’s no learning curve,” Kim Wing said.

Kids watch parents on their cell phones and laptops, and they copy what they see, which is normal. But what happens when it stops being pretend, and they start asking for their own digital cameras, phones and iPods?

Gracie admitted to asking her mother for a cell phone, but when asked for her answer, she said, “I can’t have one.”

However, more and more parents are saying “yes.”

According to industry figures, 30 percent of kids between 6 and 12 years old have their own cell phones, and that number is expected to grow as companies market directly to children.

Bowdoin College sociologist Joe Bandy explained, “It’s growing. The marketing budgets are reflecting that. About $1 trillion spent on products by and for children in the U.S. It’s an extensive market to be tapped.”

Perhaps kids don’t need such high-tech gadgetry, but some companies are hoping parents do.

Firefly Mobile makes a phone for young children that only has two buttons: one for mommy and one for daddy. Disney is now in the mobile phone game, as well, offering familiar faces on the phones for the kids and GPS tracking technology for the parents.

Gary Rudman, president of GTR Consulting, put the trend in perspective, saying, “It’s coming from kids who say, ‘I want that stuff.’ But it also comes from parents who want to feel more comfortable. They want to have their kids be contactable.”

Parents don’t have the option at Freeport’s elementary school, where electronic devices aren’t allowed.

Morse Street School Principal Cheryl White said, “Two kids brought cell phones. I said, ‘Bring them back home — not here.’ We have so much more to do with fine motor skills, language development. We don’t need that here.”

White said there is certainly a place for technology, but at such a young age, it’s more important to spend time outside than listening to an iPod or talking on a cell phone. She added that the rules at home are different, and the “nag factor” much higher.

“‘I want a cell phone. I want an iPod. THEY have iPods,'” mother Kim Wogan said, quoting her daughter. “I’m the bad mom.”

Hardly a bad mom, Wing merely finds herself figuring out how to make sure her kids can function in a high-tech world, without letting technology take over.

“I think you have to be responsible,” another mother, Heather Zachau, said. “What’s best for you? What’s best for Your family? What’s best for them?”

Copyright 2007 by WMTW. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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