About a month ago, our oldest daughter, child number 2, was home for a weekend visit and wanted to upgrade her cell phone. She was entitled to a free upgrade so off we went to the AT&T store in town, taking a number at the store, and we waited. (Note to self, avoid cell phone stores on Saturday afternoons!) The salesman was nice, did his best to convince our daughter to upgrade to the new “5” which would mean not a free upgrade, and our daughter politely held firm, telling him no, she just wanted her free upgrade to a “4”. While we were waiting, a mom near us was completing her transaction, getting a new phone for her son, who keeps on ruining his cell phones by dropping them into water, or throwing them around the house, packed away in his backpack where the crashing into walls has damaged them. She was agreeable to purchasing an insurance policy, of sorts, to go towards a future cell phone replacement for her careless son. I wonder if her son would take better care of that cell phone if he knew that Mom wasn’t go to spend extra on an insurance plan to help provide him with a new one?
My husband and I have a different cell phone policy. No youth in our home has a cell phone unless they pay for one themselves, pay for their share of the cell phone bill, and if they damage their cell phone and it won’t work, they’ll just have to save up their money and buy a new one. That was the plan we came up with when our oldest reached his teens, and so far, we’ve stuck to that policy. The first 3 children all found part-time jobs when they were 16, saved up their paychecks, and bought themselves their cell phones. I know that our cell phone policy is not the “norm” as a statistic by the Pew Research Group that I heard on ABC News last week stated that only 20% of American youth don’t have cell phones. My 4 younger kids would say its them and the Amish!
I know of so many kids not even in their teens who have cell phones. I don’t look at it as a necessity for anyone who can’t pay for one themselves. If my non-cell phone owning kids are staying after school for a club meeting and they forgot to tell me about it, they have been able to call me from the school’s office. We have a pretty good communication system set up at home with a large family calendar and my planner book, so it is pretty rare when their Dad or I don’t know where each child is at any given time of the day and when they need to be picked up from an event. I wonder how much American families’ phone bills would be lowered if the only people who owned the cell phones were the parents and the teens who bought their own phones? Cut loose the elementary and middle school cell phone holders and free up some money that could be better used in paying down credit card debt or paying more on the mortgage. The only people who would “suffer”, despite the whining from the under 16 age group, would be the cell phone companies.
Yesterday morning, while listening to the radio, I heard an ad, by AT&T, of a woman’s voice waxing poetically about their cell phone buying program for the poor, called Lifeline. Towards the end of the commercial, she added that it was backed by the Federal Government and that if you get one and really don’t qualify, you will be open to large penalties. Well, from an article I read in National Review online in August, I know that’s not exactly true. A reporter who lives in New York City decided to see how easy it would be to get one of these free cell phones. You can click on this link http://www.nationalreview.com/article/354867/me-and-my-obamaphones-jillian-kay-melchior and read about this cell phone adventure by Jillian Kay Melchior. A warning, it’s a shining example of government waste at its best and it will probably irritate you to no end. Will the next President of the United States be pressured to keep the free cell phones coming? Probably so, as the program initially began in 1984 and it was greatly expanded to what it is now by the FCC. It’s not fair, as these cell phones have been dubbed “Obamaphones”, but since the expansion has happened under President Obama’s tenure, like it or not, his name has been stuck to these cell phones ever since.
I do confess that I like my cell phone. It is an iphone, a 3, and I am also due for the free upgrade. However, when I saw my daughter’s new iphone 4, I didn’t like it’s bigger size and I also noticed that the iphone 5 is even larger. Are we going to revert back to the huge cell phones that look so funny on old tv shows and movies from the early 1990s? I can relate very much to the spate of ads featuring comedian/actor Bill Hader having trouble in getting his cell phone to respond to his touch as he needs to get an upgrade and keeps putting it off. That is me! I keep putting the upgrade off because I like the size of my iphone 3 and I feel like it’s a sneaky trick on the consumers that our current cell phones will only last about 2-3 years and then they’ll start to get obsolete.
Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for his telephone in March of 1876. The first transcontinental call was made by Bell in 1915, calling his assistant, Thomas Watson, who was in San Francisco. I often wonder what Mr. Bell would think of how far his invention has come and has changed with the times. It is a very handy invention and I am grateful that he invented it all those years ago. I would sum up my musings on cell phones to the parents out there. Really consider if your child, under the age of 16, really needs that gadget of convenience? After all, you survived without a cell phone for years, until they were invented and marketed to us.