Hey big knitter boy:

Capitalism Running Amok

I am listening to a piece on CBC Radio 1's The Current about the new "plan" by Roger's in Canada (and cell phone companies in the US) to market cell-phones directly to children aged 9-12


What a load of fucking crap.  Kids don't need cell phones.  They're justifying this market expansion by stating that parents have busy lives and kids need ways to get hold of their parents.  And that the phones have a 911 button for emergencies and that there is no text messaging etc.  Crap, all of it.

Frankly, I am getting tired of the "we all live in a busy world" discourse.  It's a middle-class conceit brought about the choices parents make, not by some global design.  I have chosen to avoid being a harried overwrought "busy" parent.  I do work outside the home and have my children in child care.  However, I have chosen work that has flexible hours and is close to where I live so I can avoid 9-10+ hour days away from my children.  Craig has a demanding job (long hours, lots of travel) so it makes sense for me to work less.  We have also chosen to NOT place our kids in lots of extra activities.  One a season is the limit, and in the summer there are none.  That way there is lots of time to play in unstructured ways, to eat dinner together almost every night and to avoid the grind of getting two kids to activities in some post-supper rush.  Some of the "busy" parents might think us lazy or bad parents, but I see us as happy, rested and avoiding the rush to make our children corporate automatons chained to some technological gadget.

I realize that I am privileged enough to make these choices, and that many families work long hours because they have low-paying jobs and need the money just to put food on the table and pay the rent.  But those aren't the parents buying their "tweens" (a marketing term I loathe) cell phones. 

Bite Me Rogers.  There's no way I'm buying my kids cell phones.  You cannot convince me that they need one.  Hell, if I need them to phone me, I'll give them a quarter.


Rob and I were talking about this last night -- yes, I was ranting, too. And he pointed out, quite rightly, that if your children are that age, then you should be supervising them, or know who is supervising them -- they shouldn't have to be in a position where they need an emergency phone.

I know what you mean about the "busy lives" -- it shows up in many and insidious ways, from speeders on the road, to the folks who HAVE to watch the tv in the changeroom in the gym. Sigh.

I totally agree. But I also think this is just an extension of the way phones are already marketed. I sometimes feel like people must think I'm a bad parent because I don't have a cell phone where caregivers can contact me instantly for whatever. I figure that we did just fine without them until not so long ago. I think there has been a shift in what people define as 'urgent' both in work and family terms. Personally, I try to live as if most of this stuff can wait. Even though I'm now travelling for work sometimes, I am resisting getting a cell phone.

I could not agree with you more. I think it's utter insanity how people are convinced that they need to be completely accessible 24/7. I have a cell phone that I carry with me, but it's almost never turned on and I've purposely not setup the voice mail. I have it so that I can choose to make a call if I feel it necessary, not so that other people can yank on my leash whenever they want to. And I think it's great that you're allowing your kids to just be kids. It seems that too many parents today believe that their kids have to be involved in as many things as possible so that they have have the best experiences which will get them into the best schools which will get them the best jobs, etc etc etc. They don't realize that they're completely overloading their children and depriving them of the simple joys of just being. Bravo to you for not being another one of the sheeple! =)

What's so sad is that the martketing is working. Our kids (10 and 11) have been clamoring for cells. Some of their friends have cells. We've come back with an unequivocal NO WAY. I may be a push over on some things, but not on this. They don't need phones and that's that.

I applaud your choices concerning your kids, and also the 'ability' to make those choices. Unfortunately, not everyone who has kids has the ability to choose as you have. My daughter is a single parent who must work, and she feels much safer having her 10 year old have the ability to reach someone when not at home. By the way, the cell phone she chose for her daughter has no ability to dial out except to the numbers pre-programmed by Mom, and it also has a pre-paid card with no contract. I think it's a wise decision. It's not as safe a world as it was when I was raising my kids, who didn't have an after-school concern further than 'what's on TV'.

That's my rant, except where you see the word "kid", replace it with "anyone". But that's coming from me, the person who unplugs her landline about half of the time.

but i was just waiting until bell (the evil overloard mother company) came out with something similar...but you'd probably think they were unhygenic.

I listened to that item too. I loved Raffi's take on the problem, and it was interesting to go from listening to him singing "Six Little Ducks" just moments before, on the CD player, to hearing him speak so passionately in adult-speak about the need for children to disengage from gadgetry and become fully-involved, sociable human beings with a full range of human emotions. Go Raffi!!!

Has anyone else noticed that pay phones are getting hard to find? I was without a cell phone for a while and it was hell finding a working pay phone.

I carry one which I hardly ever use, but when I need to make a call it is very handy. And I like having it with me when I'm driving alone--especially at night.

Oh my God, I so totally agree with you. My two oldest (we have three) are 14 and 12 and are always asking for them!!! I guess what really hit home in your post, though, is the "activities" thing. My kids' father and I are divorced and we share custody week on, week off (we live very close to each other). He signs them up for something EVERY week of the summer and I don't. He keeps asking, still in August, what I have in mind for the children for the summer. I'm like, uh, "helping around the house and relaxation, summer reading, relaxation, playing in the pool, relaxation".

I saw those kiddie phones the last time I was in Target. Here they are. It's crazy.

When I was in Ireland a few years ago, my husband and I watched a school bus letting kids off. Almost every single child that got off the bus was on a cell phone. We're talking 5-10 year olds here. None of them were talking to each other at all, just into their phones.

We have neighbors whose children go to some activity every night of the week and every weekend. I watch them come home at 10 pm and wonder when the kids sleep or do homework. If my childhood was that stressful and busy, I'd have had a nervous breakdown.

Now wait a minute. My kids (11 and 13) have cell phones, regular old unlimited access ones, but they are very frugal with using them. In fact, we have over seven thousand "rollover" minutes in the bank right now that we'll never use, since we don't ever use our month's allotment.
On the other hand, as a single mother I must work, and unfortunately the school bus lets them off right in front of a registered sex offender's house. My daughter WILL have a way to contact me if she needs to. In my opinion, how your children use electronics depends whether you as a parent use phones, and electronics in general, as a tool or as an excuse to check out of the present time...our children learn what they see us doing.

Amen, sister. Bell and Rogers et al have some nasty marketing tricks...a while ago they were peddling pagers with an ad that read "Your child is having an allergic reaction and the school can't reach you" -- the parents I know feel guilty enough without some smug phone corp. telling them they're negligent.

I have a 15 year old who will be turning 16 in November who has been after us to get her a cell phone. We have always come back with either 'get a job to pay for one' or 'bring up your grades and we'll get you one'. Apparently she doesn't want one bad enough since her grades are still low 70's (FAILED english last year, she is SO grounded) and apparently no job is forthcoming...I refuse to 'just get her one'. We have two cell phones and whenever she is walking around the mall she gets to use mine for that hour or so - that way she can at least call us when/if she needs anything. I think once she gets her license next year we might not have a choice...but I'm not thinking about it until then - it's hard enough thinking of her as 16 let alone DRIVING. I'm also lucky in that I only work three days from 9 to 2:30 so I am home minutes after she gets off the bus - and she calls me as soon as she hits the door now that there is a registered sex offender three doors down (the thought of which makes me lose sleep regularly).

Bell is even SCARIER. They are currently testing a cellphone/GPS tracking system, called "Seek and Find" with 5 families in Toronto. The cellphones are given to kids, then when the parents want to find them, they go on to a special Bell Mobility webpage and are able to track their children down. Once you've been located, a text message is sent to the phone alerting the kid that mom's found them.

Since I am not a parent, maybe I'm not the best one to say that this is a bad idea, but why not teach kids responsibility instead of spying on them? How is that going to foster a trusting parent/child relationship whe you tell your kid that they can't go out unless they have their Big Brother-enabled cellphone with them?

What bothers me the most is that ALL Bell cellphones sold in the last year are equipped with GPS software. There is precious little to stop this technology from being used to track anyone on the Bell Mobility network.

In theory, I completely agree with you.
The major problem is that even if you give your kids a quarter, they may not be able to find a payphone. There are hardly any left in Vancouver. You would have better luck finding someone else's cell phone to borrow. It's a sad state of affairs. Here's an article about it: http://tinyurl.com/c4r34
Do not be fooled though, it is not only happening in the Downtown Eastside, it's all over. . .

I cannot imagine my 6-year-old with a cell phone! I think that it would be extremely difficult for someone to justify that! Sounds like people are knuckling under to their kids' desires, which are based on marketing. The world has never been "safe". Why is it such a "need" all of a sudden?

Capitalism, consumerism, call it anything you like. There WAS life before cell phones.

It's all about how you use the phones, and seeing children talking on cell phones is a little disconcerting. You KNOW it's going to be an abused privilege. Just think about how many people drive and talk on the phone at the same time, and how accidents are caused because someone was on the phone (I was on the receiving end of one of those).

Like someone said before, it's marketing. They're doing a fabulous job.

Right there with ya, Sista!! I wonder if www.commercialaltert.org [or is it .com?] has an article/action altert about it. :( Regardless of whether or not you choose to have a cell phone, I dislike direclty marketing to children ANYTHING - I seeth at junk food machines and tv in schools - all of it. It's like brainwashing for the better greed of the world. Anywho - we have a simple routine here too. I like to have one activity - I won't overwhelm our child by beeing one of those "busy" families. Simplfy!

This has nothing to do with your post :) but I just need to tell you that I've started Eris, and I love her. The very first pic of the beginning is published on my blog.

{{Swinging arm around in circles above my head}}
Ok, wait I have to rest..........
I agree 100% pre-sdults that drive - yes need cell phones, but with that comes a privilege which they must work for.

Although I don't have children, I don't believe that the "busy lives" of many parents and children have are really anything but choice. The organization of children's time from dawn to way, way past dusk just astounds me.

It seems as though people now become parents with little prior exposure to, or experience with young children. Extended or larger families, part-time jobs, etc. all made for parents with some knowledge of younger children. Many parents seem to treat infants as they remember first being treated (or wanted to be treated) which is a level appropriate for a 5 -or 6-year old. AND, can they not read a damn child-rearing book?

I also question if we are raising children in a society so much more dangerous than 20 - 50 years ago. So much of the "danger" seems to be overmanufactured (to do things like capturing consumers at a younger age).

I am not a parent, but watching my SIL taxi her kids to after school activities is exhausting. Bravo to you speaking out about the business of business.

I sacrificed some earnings to make choices which would allow us to raise our two children in a hands-on fashion. Activities were limited by our budget and by our conviction that children do NOT have to experience eveything in elementary school!

These are the type of choices we made:
We have remained a one-car family, bought our first NEW vehicle on our 20th wedding anniversary, and have taken only family-style vacations in our region -- no Disney or cruises.
No trips to the Bahamas under the guise of a graduation class present for our children - they have not asked, and understand that they will have to earn that type of luxury on their own - likely as adults.

The result??

We have two AWESOME children (20 & 16) who know how to be happy with their own time, excel academically, play instruments, are avid readers,etc.

Neither child has EVER asked for a cell phone.

They did not have tantrums in stores - not once, even as toddlers.

They are very budget-conscious non-consumers, and express thanks for everything they are given.

Our older daughter is paying her own way through university. She understood that she had to earn great scholarships to be allowed to go away to university.... so she set her goals and achieved every one of them. Our younger chid is on the same path.

I don't just THINK it is because of our choices. I KNOEW that it is.

So - kudos to you.

i'm a little late to the discussion, sorry. our 13 yo constantly tells us she is the only one who doesn't have a cellphone. like many people who have spoken here, i told her when she wanted to purchase the phone and pay the bill she could have one. we have 4 children and we also have the one activity at a time. we're the exception amoung our peers.

You are making theright decision with your kids. Kids do need time to think, daydream and imagine. If every minute of their life is programmed, then when do they get to do that? wht you end up with (in overcommitting your kids) are neurotic, exhausted kids who can't think for themselves.

as for cell phones if your kids are 6 - 10 years old, you should know where they are, not rely on them to phone you and let you know.

I hear ya!! I don't so much have an issue with kids having cell phones for emergencies, etc., but I do have an issue with Rogers and other companies marketing them to kids. I have an issue with companies marketing anything to kids, actually.
BTW, My kids (all 3) are in no sheduled activities this summer, for the first time. We're LOVING it!!!!

Agree!!! Whoever heard of a pole-vaulting/ballet dancing/piccolo playing/olympic triathlete/nobel prize winning cheerleading beauty-queen at primary (junior school?) who was also genuinely liked? Kids need to learn boredom - one of the best gifts we can give any child is the chances to learn what they want when they need to save them from harm. Boredom teaches you to problem solve in a way no after school class ever can.
cheers, J

the thing that scares me is, that we may be raising a whole generation of people with no appreciation - no, no TOLERANCE of - solitude.

One of the things that makes me sad? Walking across campus by myself on a fine fall day, looking at the trees and the sky and the birds and just enjoying not being "reachable" for a few minutes, and realizing that EVERYONE that I walk past or who walks past me is plugged up to a cell phone and nattering away.

I LIKE not being reachable. I do carry a cell phone, but it's the most basic cheap plan possible, and I almost never turn it on. It's for emergencies. (I'd just carry change for the pay phones instead, but I've found in the U.S. these days pay phones are about as common as hen's teeth, and half the time you find one, it's been vandalized).

I don't know - I grew up as a kid in a household with two phones, supplied (for a rental charge) by the phone company. Big bulky ugly plastic phones that didn't unplug and didn't have caller ID or call-waiting or voicemail or even an answering machine and weren't portable. And I grew up OK.

I played in the back yard and the abandoned farm-field near my house, or down the street at a friend's house. If my mom needed me or was concerned, she either hollered out the back door, or she called my friend's mom. All the people along the short (1/2 block) route I walked to my friend's house knew me and if there was trouble, they'd call my mom. Maybe it's not like that today and people are less trustable or less willing to look out for others...

I was also taught that I was absolutely to let either my mom or my dad know if I went somewhere other than the place I had been (for example, if I was going to walk to my friend's house) and I was to give them an estimated time I was to be back - and it was hell to pay if I was back late or didn't at least call to let them know.

I think if parents are putting their kids in situations where they feel the kids need to have a cell phone for sheer safety's sake, the parents should consider moving the family somewhere safer, or altering their lifestyle so their kids aren't out roaming alone at all hours...

A few days late, but I sooo agree with you. There's no reason to make kids go to a different activity every night. They should spend there free time being kids! And the cell phone thing is just silly. Ugh!

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