Reality of the cellular generation
EAGLE COUNTY – It’s probably been a while since most of us have received anonymous calls from disguised pubescent voices asking us if our toilets are running.This is either because teenagers have much better phone pranks nowadays or because kids with cellular phones have to pay mom and dad once they start exceeding their monthly minutes, which they use very selectively.Although many of us grew up with no cell phones, it’s difficult now to fathom life without them. And a large portion of Eagle County’s youth has no concept of a cellular-free existence.”As far as what I see, at a high school age, there are a whole lot of kids with cell phones,” said Eagle Valley High School principal Mark Strakbein. “I look at my own kids. As far as not leaving them stranded, picking them up, if they get a flat tire … just for safety; there’s a lot of kids with cell phones for that reason.” The acquisition of a driver’s license is a cue for many parents to include their teenagers onto a family cellular plan. Some children, however, begin lobbying for one earlier than that.”I got mine my freshman year,” said Battle Mountain High School senior Mackensie Boris. “I would just find different reasons of things that would be easier with a phone. I convinced them that I was going to get lost on the mountain snowboarding, so I needed one.”Boris’ phone is part of a family plan she shares with her mother and father. She said they pay for it and she has no restrictions. However, if she exceeds her monthly minutes, which she has in the past, she has to foot the bill.”We have a begillion minutes,” she said. “I use most of them, obviously.”
Keeping track of teensIn some families – Boris’, Strakbein’s and Battle Mountain senior Lauren Agett’s – admittance into high school is the rite of passage into cell phone ownership.”It’s just easier once you get into high school for communication,” Agett said.As for cell phone family plans, most cellular companies begin with packages of around $69.99 per month that include two separate numbers, unlimited night and weekend minutes and around 700 anytime minutes. Additional lines start at $9.95 per month.”I’m on a family plan, but it doesn’t really matter, because I don’t use my phone enough to worry about minutes and stuff,” said Battle Mountain sophomore Alex Dolan, who has had a phone since he was in eighth grade, but said he uses it almost exclusively for coordination of rides and emergencies. The latter reason has come up more than once with Dolan. As a testament to the most recent incident, he was wearing a full-foot cast up to his knee this week after a driver ran over his foot in the parking lot of Agave restaurant in Avon.”The other day when I got hurt, if nobody had a cell phone, I would have been out of luck in getting to the hospital,” he said. “I just had to call somebody. Every time I’ve got hurt, I’ve used it.”Possible emergencies that might come up when traveling or driving seem to be the No. 1 reason teenagers have cell phones. In middle schools, however, they are certainly not unheard of either.
“I’ve noticed that students have them,” said Eagle Valley Middle School master teacher Barbara Romersheuser. “The cell phone policy is that they should put them away for the day. Cellular phones are permitted for use before and after school. They’re usually stored in the lockers. I think there’s a handful of students that have them.”Cellular use not so elementaryIn elementary schools, cell phone sightings are about as frequent as video cameras or Walkmans. In other words, most 5- to 12-year-old children don’t use them.”Our school policy is that they’re not allowed,” said Debbie Herner, registrar at Red Sandstone Elementary in Vail. “At this age, we don’t see a lot of cell phones.””It’s just not appropriate,” added Gay Cotter, assistant principal at Avon Elementary. “First of all, it’s expensive. With little guys, you can’t really trust they’ll keep them. That goes for Walkmans and other expensive electronic items. In the past, on occasion, a kindergartner would show up with his mom’s cell phone. We’d confiscate it and give it back to the parent. But, in our school, they’re a real luxury item. Our children know they’re not toys. They wouldn’t think to ask for one.”The situation is different in other schools. To some children, cell phones are nothing but toys. In such cases, the phone has usually been stripped beforehand of its potential expense.”We’ve had kids bring in ones that parents aren’t using anymore to play with,” said Meadow Mountain Elementary principal Kathy Cummings. “They’re just emulating their parents and playing games. But we really don’t have kids with cell phones. It’s not an issue, and I’m glad.”
When children get older, they begin to understand and appreciate the function of cell phones, and respect the value of possessing one. “Little kids aren’t that responsible with them,” said Battle Mountain sophomore Michael Hand. “They sometimes think of them as a joke and as something to show their friends. And if they lose a $100 phone …”Hand is a frequent phone user. Thus, his parents have caught on to a new function of his cell phone. Confiscating a phone, some parents have discovered, can be more efficient than grounding their children when they get out of line.”It’s a good discipline tool,” he said. “It’s usually the first thing to get taken away.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado