Give 'Em a Cell Phone, Then Let Your Kids Go Outside

I was my parents' third child. Growing up in a strongly Europe-influenced household instilled in me the benefits of being frugal. Back in the 1960s, I used to occasionally walk to elementary school, which was around two miles from home (at the time, Mom did not drive, Dad left for work early, and some days the bus took forever). I had to cross two major roads and while there were crossing guards, there were days when even they were not there and we kids were on our own. Over the years, I watched two fellow students get hit by cars and that was our reminder to never forget to cross at the green and not in-between. It seems that back then, on the whole, kids were not "sheltered" as much and we were trusted far more. One thing for sure, there were no video games or computers and we were outside an awful lot.

These days, kids are indoors too much. The sun can be shining and the weather perfect and yet you still find them inside playing video games. There have been numerous studies and articles reporting that sunshine is best for getting our required vitamin D. No doubt, there is danger in being out in the sun too much (depleted ozone has increased skin cancer occurrence) but we have some major advances in sunscreen technology; I just slather some on before I or the kids head out. What does all this have to do with security? Let me explain. After reading Mike Elgan's article "Why every child needs a GPS cell phone", I started thinking about my own children. I'm not as trusting, hands-off, or laissez-faire as my parents were when I was growing up. Mike is my opinion, we were not a sickly as kids seem today. When you were outside you ate less and moved more and that meant better overall health; less obesity and less diabetes. I don't have any empirical data to prove that, just my personal observation and others I've talked to my age about our childhoods.

Look, I'm very fearful of predators (having had an personal experience with one as a kid) so even my youngest now has a cell phone. When he is out, he calls my wife and me periodically so we can keep tabs on his whereabouts. His phone has GPS capability (although, we don't use it) and I can see the benefit of being able to "track" his whereabouts so maybe he wouldn't have to phone home so much. Maybe we'll go that route (heh,heh) when he's older and his travels take him further than our immediate neighborhood. Less privacy for the child, more peace of mind for the parents...what can I say?...society is different for sure.

This story, "Give 'Em a Cell Phone, Then Let Your Kids Go Outside" was originally published by Computerworld.

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