Cell Phone Policy Sounds Vital Warning

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Did you read the story about kids and cell phones? Surveys suggest that the average teenager sends and receives about 1,500 text messages a month. That works out to 80 texts a day for the average teenage girl and 30 texts a day for the average teenage boy, according to a study by the PEW Foundation.

Texting represents the cutting edge of a revolution in the way our kids connect. Suddenly, the cell phones harried parents provided to keep track of the little darlings have worked a profound change in social patterns and learning styles.

Recently, the Payson Unified School District made a good, though perhaps futile, effort to jump on the running board (quaint phrase — Google it, kids) of a runaway trend.

The policy represents a laudable effort to warn teachers they must not let the new phone and Internet social networks lure them into inappropriate exchanges with students — nor interject into the tempestuous frenzy of student gossip from personal information gleaned from a teacher’s Facebook page.

However, the adoption of that policy — and the disquieting surveys on the revolution in student communications harbors even more important lessons for parents.

For instance, the average student sends or receives three text messages during each class period — and 20 percent can text without even looking down at the keyboard, safely hidden in their laps.

Moreover, half said that storing information on cell phones they can use to cheat on tests has become common.

That’s bad: But there’s worse. The PEW study found that 15 percent of students had sent naked photos of themselves on their cell phones. The exchange of sexually explicit messages — known as sexting — has also grown distressingly commonplace.

Remember that cell phones have become portals to the Internet — with its wide open bounty of everything from pornography to suicide blogs.

In short, we still analog parents must cope with a digital revolution full of opportunities and threats.

Clearly, the adoption of a school policy can’t control student cell phone use. At best, it lays the groundwork for responding to abuses of the new technology to cheat, bully and harass. It offers one more reminder that schools can help parents, but they can’t provide parenting.

So parents — you need to talk to the little dears, if you can get them to put down the cell phone long enough to listen. Children need help with bullying, social pressures and understanding the risks they take when they send bits of themselves out into a world where a photo taken on a whim can be shared with the world.

But don’t forget — just because they’re making eye contact doesn’t mean they’re not texting friends with an update on their dorky parents.

Keep on keeping on

Payson has collected another month’s worth of glum financial figures, contained in the town’s wonderfully detailed monthly financial status report.

The good news? We’re holding our own compared to last year.

The bad news? Last year was terrible.

And just in case you want to get really bummed: The town’s sales tax collections remain stuck at about the same level as 2006 —- and less than half the lofty totals of 2008.

Still it could have been worse. We have so far avoided the double-dip recession many had feared. By and large, the community has rallied — supporting things like the food drive and volunteer programs to help their neighbors through the hard times.

The town has done a great job of squeezing millions out of the budget, without cutting vital town services. We’ve had to do without some nice extras — but the town has generally done more with less.

In addition, the admirable financial reporting system has proven its worth, month by month.

This interminable slog through this downturn harkens to that westward journey of the hard cases and brave dreamers that settled the West — laboring through the endless mountain ranges and salt-pan deserts, stoically trudging over all the false summits.

We can only keep on, keeping on — confident we’re heading for the promised land and not snowed in Donner Pass.

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