Do elementary school kids really need all that technology?

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By By Jilly Hall, Assistant Chief Photographer

Think about elementary school in the very onset of the 21st century. Kids are playing on the playground and trading their lunch snacks. Well, at least that was myelementary experience. Maybe this is why I’m shocked to hear some of my former elementary teachers complain about their students talking on their cell phones or listening to their iPods in class or during recess.

What? Cell phones? They’re less than 10 years old! I didn’t get a cell phone until middle school, and that was only for security purposes. (I could only send 50 text messages a month!)

It’s also extremely scary that elementary school students have facebook pages and twitter accounts. There are so many things that could harm them (like contacting the wrong people or not knowing what not to say) and even affect their social interactions.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ll tell you right now that I think technology is a good thing. I have a Blackberry, an iPod touch and a Macbook myself, but I’m 16 years old and actually have a use for these items.

Why do 8-year-olds need laptops? Are they writing essays or emailing teachers and other professionals, or looking for jobs? I don’t think so. Do they have to stay away from home for more than a few nights and a cell phone is the only way they can contact someone? The only people they really need to contact are their parents anyway. It’s not like they have serious relationships that they need to maintain. They’re kids, and they haven’t even hit middle school.

Now, I have to admit that when I was in fifth grade, the idea of having a cell phone definitely crossed my mind more than once. I really wanted one. Of course, that didn’t mean my parents went and got me one. I was angry at the time, but now I realize they were trying to keep me safe and make it easier for me to enjoy my childhood.

Technology can even prove to be a distraction for the young children of today. Consider the number of kids playing video games on their computers instead of playing outside, or texting on their cell phones instead of enjoying themselves on the playground at recess. Who do they need to contact at recess anyway? Their Lego consultant?

The other night while I was babysitting, I heard music playing from the stairway (where the kids were playing), and I see the friend of the oldest boy (age 11) with his cell phone, getting on Pandora. What? I didn’t start using Pandora until a year ago, and this 11-year-old boy beats me to it. Plus, he has a better phone than I do.

Maybe there are reasons to give a child this kind of technology sometimes, but mainly it just seems creepy. So many dangers are associated with the technology we have these days, and elementary school kids just aren’t mature enough to handle it. They don’t realize that there are people out there who prey on their childlike innocence. Children should not have to worry about protecting their innocence.

I can see kids getting cell phones without texting (certainly not a Droid or a Blackberry) only if there are times when the parents or guardians need to be contacted. Other than that, I think some technology should not be given to children under the middle school age. I mean, c’mon, what do they need it for?