Yesterday’s personal computers are today’s cell phones. The computing power in an average cell phone today rivals the largest mainframe computers of 30 years ago. In addition to text messaging and cyberbulling concerns, all of the content issues that exist on personal computers are now relevant on cell phones. Sure, the screen real estate is more limited, but almost all cell phones today can be used to surf the Web and to download and view inappropriate content. The moral content issues that I mentioned earlier become even more poignant when the computer in question is in your teen’s pocket. Given the relatively new arrival of graphically equipped cell phones into world markets, cell phone carriers are still scrambling to implement parental controls on the content that a child can access via a cell phone.
More damaging still is the unique combination of messaging capability with the now ubiquitous camera phone, permitting individuals to produce and distribute inappropriate content using nothing but their phone. In many states, cases have come before the courts in which youth are taking inappropriate pictures of themselves or others and then “texting” the pictures to others at school. When the individuals in the pictures are minors, these kids may suddenly find themselves guilty of producing and distributing child pornography.
Independent of the content issues that have intruded into the cell phone arena, there’s a growing concern with regard to social isolation when we put a cell phone into the hands of a child. Children sit up until the wee hours of the night texting friends or talking on their private phone, and then struggle in other areas of their lives. The opportunity for a young person to detach emotionally from his or her family and form excessively strong attachments with friends or online acquaintances becomes increasingly problematic when cell phones are involved.