This debate is about whether every child should have a mobile phone (Cell phone if you are in the United States). This does not mean that they always have to have it with them, or that they will be forced to always have their phone turned on. It also does not mean that children, or their parents, are forced to buy a mobile phone. The debate is simply about whether the good things about every child having a mobile phone outweigh the bad things that result from every child having a mobile phone.
Mobile phones were first invented in 1973 and have been available for anyone to buy since 1983. But it was not until the 1990s that most people began owning mobiles. Today there are six billion mobile phone subscriptions. Even in many parts of Africa a majority of people have one. In the United Kingdom more than 70% of children aged five to sixteen own a mobile phone. In the United States 83% of middle schoolers have a mobile phone and the age at which children first get a mobile is going down.
Although large numbers of children have mobiles until recently it has often been the case that schools banned the use of mobiles. But the benefits of mobile phones to schools are beginning to be accepted. This is in much the same way that computers have been accepted. The introduction of smartphones, phones which are like small computers such as the iphone, means there are a lot more potential uses for the phone in the classroom. But if mobiles are to be used in schools then it becomes necessary for every child to have one.
Note for teachers: This is potentially a difficult debate for the opposition side as they are left wondering how to oppose something that is stated as an aspiration. There is no compulsion for the opposition to grab hold of and there are very few negatives to having a mobile phone. Having the debate phrased as ‘Every child must have a mobile phone’ might make for a more even debate. You may also want to set an age for this debate as for the very youngest many of the arguments begin to lose their meaning.
Mobile phones mean we are never out of contact with our friends, parents, guardians, or if necessary our school. They provide a way we can quickly contact someone if we are in trouble or are lost. Mobiles are most clearly helpful if caught in a large scale disaster such as a flood or earthquake as we can tell rescuers where we are. But they are also helpful for every day security. With a mobile phone parents know where we are and can be quickly contacted if we feel unsafe somewhere.
Phones are certainly a useful tool in helping to keep in contact so can be useful if you get into trouble. But they don’t always help because they don’t always keep us in contact. There are many reasons why a mobile may be useless. There may be no signal. Or the phone may have been turned off. Or the battery may have run low. If any of these things happen then it adds to parents worries as they can’t get in contact when they expected to be able to.
Mobile communication is very useful and its main use is not to keep us safe but to make life easier. It is clearly useful that we can phone to ask to be picked up rather than always having to set a meeting time in advance. It is equally useful that a mobile phone can tell us if it is likely to rain, or if the train is late. We don’t need this information, but it certainly is helpful, and it is just as helpful for children as for adults.
Mobile phones may help us keep in touch over long distances which is useful. However some doctors are concerned that keeping in touch by mobile phone comes at the cost of less face to face talking. When communicating by text message we are losing many parts of communication such as facial expression
Having a mobile phone helps us to learn in a lot of different ways. First we learn about technology; about how to use the mobile phone. Second most phones today have apps (programs) to enable learning using the phone, or else through the internet. Phones can access online courses and lessons which can be provided in fun ways and can in some cases instantly tell you if you have the right answer. It may even sometimes be possible to do homework on a phone and send it to your teacher. Even without the internet phones can be used to provide short assignments, or to provide reminders to study.
These are certainly good things but we don’t need mobile phones for them. For example most people already have access to the internet. It is also not a good reason for why everyone should have one. If it is being used for learning phones can be used by more than one person.
Mobile phones bring us increased independence. Being able to use a mobile phone is clearly a basic skill to allow children to be independent. It means that they are not dependent on an adult being with them for parents to know where they are. The main reason for parents being unwilling to let children out on their own is fear for their safety. This is a fear that mobiles help prevent. This increased independence has other benefits, such as teaching us to be responsible for ourselves.
Increased independence for children is not always a good thing. Children should be supervised by adults and mobile phones are no substitute for this. Mobiles simply provide us with another means of communication with the outside world over which parents has little control. This is particularly relevant when the phone has internet access which is not restricted.
Mobile phones can easily distract us. They can be a particular problem in schools where they discourage us and those around us from working. Using a mobile phone while doing a piece of work will reduce your concentration making it more likely you will make mistakes. Mobile phones, like video games, are also a distraction from doing other things. We don’t just use phones for communication but also for games. Most young people spend well over an hour on their mobiles. As a result there is much less time for other activities.
Mobiles are not always a distraction. Research has shown that when allowed the use of mobile phones in school children do get better results. This is because it can increase motivation to work. For example, phones can be used to set reminders to do homework.
Mobile phones are a part of a desire to keep up with fashion and friends. We all want the biggest and the best. Mobile phone companies know this and regularly bring out flashy new models that are immediately the one everyone must have. The more children have mobiles the more are caught up in this fashion. Our compulsion to want new things all the time is not good for us. Mobile phones, as with many other electronics, are damaging to the environment. Since we buy them and often dispose of the phone only a couple of years later they pile up in gigantic rubbish dumps. Mobile phones are clearly a luxury not something that everyone should have, and we certainly should not keep buying new ones.
Something being a luxury does not mean it is not something everyone should have. The effect on the planet is minimal and can be reduced if we recycle any phones that we are going to throw away. It would certainly best for the planet if we did not keep buying upgrades but this is not necessary for every child to have a mobile phone.
When mobile phones first came out there was a lot of worry about the possible effect on children’s health. We now know there is little risk. But the advice from health experts is still that children should avoid too much use of mobiles. Experts still worry that the use of mobiles could be linked with behavioural problems in children, this can mean problems such as being disruptive or having difficulty sleeping.
No research has shown health risks. The advice is only because we do not yet know the long term results. As studies continue for longer this final worry will also be ended.
Mobile phones are expensive. First there is the cost of buying the phone. Then there are all the charges for using it. Often there are more charges for downloading apps and other extras. Sometimes we go over the limits of our call time or data allowance and are charged extra. Finally there may be extra costs when the phone needs to be replaced or upgraded. The average cell phone bill in the United States is $70 for a month but it can sometimes be much higher. Clearly not every child can afford their own mobile and often parents cant either.
The expense clearly depends on the kind of phone and how much it is used. Parents clearly have control over these costs; they decide on the deal that their child is on. The parents can then make sure there is little chance of their children running up large bills.