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Cross-posted at MotherTalkers.

Hello fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed at MotherTalkers:

I posted an update on the mom who considered firing her mother's helper for venting about her daughter on Facebook. At the end, she chose to keep the MH -- but have a conversation with her -- because her daughters like her.

Marie Claire magazine wrote a provocative piece about non-custodial mothers. Unfortunately, some vocal readers lashed out against the mothers in the article.

Our "brave" confessed to buying her 8-year-old son a cell phone. Do your children own their own cell phones? At what age did you buy them one?

We had an intense discussion about a proposed swine flu vaccine for school children in October. Will your child be receiving the swine flu shot this fall?

I called out a California doctor for admitting she would purchase glass baby bottles to avoid the plastic toxin bisphenol A after she voted against listing it as a reproductive and neurological toxin under the state's Proposition 65.

I have been working on numerous anti-toxic initiatives for the family organization MomsRising.org. Besides BPAs, I have been heavily lobbying on behalf of bill SB 772, which would rid a California de facto standard requiring flame retardants in certain baby products. These flame retardants, by the way, were banned from children's sleepwear in 1977. Here is a news story in, of all places, FOX News about it.

Here is one last environmental story to scare you: Prenatal exposure to smog has been linked to lower IQ scores in children, according to a study covered by the Associated Press. But, there is something we can do to treat childhood illnesses besides fight for the environment. We can make sure that every child in the United States has access to healthcare. We had a thread at MotherTalkers hashing out ways we can help pass President Obama's plan for healthcare reform.

The annual BlogHer conference is taking place in Chicago today. Unfortunately, I could not attend because it was not in the family budget this year. But I hope to attend next year. If you are there, please fill us in on the fun!

What's up with you?

Originally posted to Elisa on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 07:40 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cell phones and school. A teacher's view: (6+ / 0-)

    First off, I am a Mom, too, of a 13 yo son.  He "has" a cell phone, albeit it is an AT&T Go Phone without email or txt msg or camera, which lives in the kitchen cupboard, and gets handed out on a as actually needed basis for when he's away (e.g. in FL on a band trip) from home.  

    Why have we as parents decided to be so restrictive with this modern piece of technology?

    As a middle school teacher, I regular see uses of cell phones that I'm guessing many parents would not condone.  For example:

    1. Students falling asleep or half lidded attention in early morning classes.  When questioned why they are behaving so out of character, I hear over-and-over, I was up until the wee hours txting with friends. A simple solution is creating a place for the phone to go bed outside your child's bedroom.
    1. You've perhaps seen the news accounts about sexting?  Well, it's NOT an unusual situation, at all, among a few bad apples from bad homes in some other school.  We have at least 1-2 incidents a year involving 11-13 yo's in our lovely suburban district -- and yeah, honor students who go to Christian Prayer Breakfasts have been involved.  Which I may just be old fashioned among some parents, but I don't want my son getting a picture of a naked 12 yo in his inbox during his math class!  PS  I teach a government class in which I give a lecture on txting and sxting and kid's rights re: cell phones (as in lack there of).  Students are shocked, shocked I tell you to realize that the phone is not THEIRS per se, and they have no right to privacy regarding their txt msges since the phone is under their parent's contract.  I see lots of panicked faces as they realize parents could get a print out of the messages, which do get stored for a time. Just saying.
    1. Students harassing each other with language and messages that would make a sailor blush.  This seems to especially be the case among nice little girls.  Cell phones provide a level of anonymity and "spreadability" that makes common, olden days' girl group spats seem like tea parties.  Sorting out the hurt feelings can take weeks, involve parents, the school security officer, and of course, the girls' studies suffer significantly during the cyber-drama.
    1. Cell phones and hoodies!  Guess what?  The kids can txt with the phones in hoodie and pants pockets. If you'd like your children to be paying attention to what is going on in class, then, you may want to take some prudent actions to ensure the phone is really, actually OFF during school hours. OR, better yet, leave the phones at home.  Schools usually allow students to make calls home for reasonable purposes.  
    1. No. EVERY OTHER KID DOES NOT HAVE ONE!  We are actually seeing a decided shift away from young teens having them, at school.  We have seen a rise right after Winter Breaks during the last 2 years, only to see the phones getting taken away in March when report cards came out with significant drops in grades.  Now, I'd estimate that only about 1/3 of our students are bringing them to school, at all.

    I know, I know that YOUR child is totally trustworthy and mature and responsible ... I'll be honest - mine isn't.  He's 13 years old.  He does NOT have the judgment yet to handle all that the internet and the temptations that this form of technology can introduce.  Soooo, he "has" a phone, but we control it's capabilities, use, and access.  As he matures, we will be gradually increasing his freedom of use with it; though, I doubt it will ever sleep in his room at night, at least until he's off to college.  We will also be letting him know that we may pull the luds (I doubt we'll do that, but we'll be retaining our right to do so with the phone that is under contract in our names).

    And, lest we forget, growing up, our family like many others on this site I'm sure, had a phone on the kitchen wall.  No calls were allowed in or out after 9pm and time on the phone was limited to 1/2 per call and no more than 2 calls a day.  We survived and even read a few books and interacted directly with peers.  LOL

    I hope this didn't sound too preachy and may be helpful to some others trying to pick their way through parenting in this cyber-age. :)  

    Bottom line:  A cell phone is NOT a toy like a Gameboy, nor is it  It can be a very useful piece of modern technology when mixed with parental love and common sense.

    "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him. Mark 12:17

    by bkamr on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 08:58:11 AM PDT

    •  I will avoid a cell phone (4+ / 0-)

      for my daughter as long as I can.

      A lot of kids here have them, and in part it's because the parents need to communicate alternate afterschool plans. The other reason I see kids having them is when the parents are divorced and the child is in a joint custody situation.

      I take a class at the community college, and I've been appalled to see the high school/college age kids texting the whole time, and mentioning that a friend is upset because she didn't reply right away, while in class. Heaven forfend one go without texting for three hours.

      I think also that there's an advantage in having your child comfortable being alone, in her own skin, able to problem solve without the phone. That's especially true in my neck of the woods, where cell coverage is not absolute. I've run into a few twenty-something kids traveling into our area, lost and unable to figure out what to do, because their phone has no reception.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:09:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see this, too. They can certainly be useful (3+ / 0-)

        for this purpose. School-smart solution? Restrict the in-going and out-going numbers to family members to make it truly a family tool.  

        "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him. Mark 12:17

        by bkamr on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:25:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  we held off on getting our oldest daughter (4+ / 0-)

        a cell phone until she started attending an "open campus" High School (students are allowed to leave campus during their lunch hour). It's a great public school, but it's located in a very scarey part of town, so it gives me some security to know she could reach us or the police if she needs to. Of course, she's also been instructed to always go off-campus with friends-- and she's a serious enough student that I think she turns it off in class (I don't know for sure; I'll have to ask her)!

        I make our 13-year old take the family cell phone with her when she rides her bike through the city by herself, but she won't be getting her own until she's in HS, too.

        Just an aside, when my youngest was in 3rd grade, her ballet school merged with a snootier dance company and she was ostracized by the kids in her class because of her lack of cell phone. She stuck it out for a year, and then joined a smaller, low-income, modern dance company.

        •  Remember when it was designer jeans as the (2+ / 0-)

          preferred exclusionary object?  Or am I really showing my age?

          "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him. Mark 12:17

          by bkamr on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:57:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Socialization is key. (Convenience close behind.) (4+ / 0-)

          My daughter, who will start 11th grade next month, is something of a loner. When she started 9th grade she really didn't want a cell phone, but I insisted on getting her one. I figured if any kids she knew had any notion to invite her to a movie or party or whatever it is the Young People of Today do for fun, they would do it via cell phone or not at all. The cell phone would not guarantee she'd socialize, but lack of a cell phone would guarantee she wouldn't.

          2 years later -- it's helped somewhat.

          Oh, and there was the time my son, then 14, borrowed a friend's phone and left a message on my office voice mail telling me he wanted to skip after-school band practice and -- I forget the details, but basically it would have involved me or my wife picking him up at a time neither of us could, plus probably a reduction in his band grade. Because I had no way to call him back and tell him to go to band practice and ride home with the other trumpet player like we had planned, dammit, I had to leave work in the middle of the afternoon, drive to his school, have somebody carry him the message on a piece of paper, then drive back to my office. We got my son a cell phone right after that. Maybe that was his Evil Plan all along.

          He's now 19 -- it's worked out well. Especially when I've been able to call him and tell him to pick up his little sister, saving me some driving.

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 10:44:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My son is still young enough that the social (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fabian, thankgodforairamerica

            things in life require and involve parents and/or they are school or church sponsored events. I'm sure the phone will be available after school after he gets older, but we still plan on it being used as a limited tool that spends most of the time on a shelf.  We'd rather see him out playing basketball in the driveway with friends than seeing him hanging in the mall txting each other teens when they are sitting right next to one another.

            Our school takes phone calls from parents regarding changes in transportation plans and sends the messages to students all the time.  We certainly don't expect parents to leave work and physically come to the school!  We also have a phone in the nurse's office for students to make calls to parents about after school activities/ changes in plans/ forgot my project ...  

            That's a pretty odd policy your school has making parents drive to the school, in person, during the middle of a work day, just to get a message to a kid about transportation.  Have you talked with the principal about that?

            LOL I can imagine the note my son would have gotten in response to that I'm skipping message.  "Go to band practice as planned, OR plan on being grounded AND losing a letter grade in band.  Choose wisely, grasshopper.  Love Mom"

             

            "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him. Mark 12:17

            by bkamr on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 03:56:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  WOW! (4+ / 0-)

      I can see how the cell phone could be distracting in school. Even as an adult, I find myself rudely checking my website from my phone during meetings and conferences -- even in the movies. It is so tempting and you always think, "I am only looking up this one thing," or "I am just going to send this one text." But then you get involved in the conversation, then an hour later and $$ spent later...

      Thanks for your perspective.

    •  That's an excellent rundown! (4+ / 0-)

      Remember:

      You are teaching your children the skills they will need to be independent, capable, responsible adults.  Good habits are always better than bad habits.

      Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

      by Fabian on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:30:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You forgot a biggie. (4+ / 0-)

      Sharing test answers via text message. Yes, my son and a group of his friends actually did this. And if they'd been smart enough to vary their answers JUST A LITTLE BIT, they wouldn't have gotten caught.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 10:48:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks! This isn't as MUCH of an issue in middle (3+ / 0-)

        school, but it sure is in HS.  We collect all phones in a box for state testing, now.  And, for mid-terms and finals exams, it is an auto F, no exceptions, for a phone out or fiddled with during or after the exams.  I run a collection before exams to stave off any temptations - not that ANY of my fine, young scholars would ever be so tempted, mind you.  LOL

        PS On this one, even if you completely believe in the honor of your honor student, cell phones during testing can place the honor students in a bullying situation.  A less well prepared, more popular, larger, or even just a "friend" can lean on your student to "help" them out via cyber-cheating under the threat of shunning, beating them up, or the withering, "I thought you were my friend.  Do you WANT me to get grounded?"

        "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him. Mark 12:17

        by bkamr on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 12:50:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  great idea- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, bkamr

      He "has" a cell phone, albeit it is an AT&T Go Phone without email or txt msg or camera, which lives in the kitchen cupboard, and gets handed out on a as actually needed basis for when he's away (e.g. in FL on a band trip) from home.  

      my 15 yo son doesn't have one- neither does my 19 yo stepson

      i only got one because i now work 40 miles away form my kids' school and daycare.  before then i didn't have one.  that's not true- i had one about 12 or so years ago.

  •  Seen all that in my classroom (4+ / 0-)

    Fortunately my school has a rule: it can't be turned on and must be out of sight in class or it can be confiscated and parents have to come to school and retrieve it.  You'd be surprised what an impression inconvenience makes.

    In my classroom, if one goes off, I tell them to take it out and turn it off, no penalties.  If it repeats, I take the phone.

    I would add my asnwer to the phrase, "It's for emergencies"  If it's an emergency, you need to dial 911, not your child.  If you don't need to dial 911, it's not an emergency.  One of the things I'm trying to teach your child is perspective, learn some yourself.  Your child is surrounded by trained professionals who not only know how to deal with emergencies but actually have.  Paranthetically, one of  our code red lockdown rules is to confiscate all student cell phones.  In a real emergency they result in making the situation worse.  Misinformation spreads; the streets around school become clogged with parents in the way of emergency vehicles.

    Always grateful to wake up alive.

    by Subo03 on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:51:47 AM PDT

  •  As a naturalist (2+ / 0-)

    and the daughter of a biologist, I'd love to see more research on children's health and the environment. The prenatal exposure to smog link with lower IQs is not surprising.

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