- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I have to give my daughter credit. She’s persistent. Despite my repeated denials, emphatically delivered in my most characteristic “mom” voice, she pleads for a cell phone as if there is any chance on God’s green earth we will relent.

She’s tried every conceivable argument. “I’ll be safer,” she says. “Think of the convenience when you want to call me home from Nicole’s house.” (Nicole lives next door.)

And my favorite - because it’s so unconvincing - “I’m the only one of all my friends without a cell phone.”

Amy is going into the sixth grade. She’s not getting a cell phone for another three years, when, anticipating the start of high school, we will arm her with our own version of an electronic tether - a bargain phone with basic features, not to include a portable typewriter.

I suspect she doesn’t hold out any real hope that we will accelerate this purchase. But still she begs.

My husband and I have no concerns that our daughter is, in fact, deprived in any way. Lacking a cell phone has not left her without social plans, homework help or rides home from school.

Listening to Amy, you’d think we were feeding her gruel and forcing her into hard labor just because she has to communicate with friends on our house phone. She’s so desperate for a cell phone that she’s offered to hold daily lemonade stands (selling my lemonade, of course).

Amy doesn’t appreciate the cost of a cell phone, and why should she? At 10 years old, she thinks phones are free or at most, $9.99. The words “with activation and monthly calling plan” mean nothing to her.

Handing an expensive cell phone to a child seems like an invitation to more expense when she invariably loses it or leaves it in the pocket of her blue jeans as they cycle through the washing machine.

Yet the cost of providing cell service to Amy is just one factor in our decision. I imagine if we felt she needed one, we’d find the money somewhere.

No, the reason we won’t give in on this issue is because it’s not about the cell phone. It’s about the lifestyle that says a cell phone is a necessary tool for childhood socializing.

I’m not out to judge those who’ve decided cell phones are OK for their kids. To each his own, and better you than me when the bill comes.

But I’m worried that children are missing an important part of life - childhood - in the rush to have all the stuff and do all the things that make them feel cool and grown up.

I know I’m not alone on this one - in fact, parents across the country tell me they’re trying to hold the culture at bay and help their children stay kids for as long as they can.

More and more, they’re saying “no” to cell phones as well to other things that children now believe are crucial to their happiness (think social networking sites, instant messaging, etc).

It’s the begging that makes saying “no” such a challenge. The relentless, ridiculous, ruthless begging.

Then again, children only beg for one reason. It’s the way to get parents to say “yes.”

In fact, a study by New American Dream, a Maryland-based nonprofit group that promotes sustainable consumption, says six-in-10 children nag their parents on average nine times in the hopes they can get their parents to give in. More than half of kids surveyed said begging works.

So I guess the ones who have to change aren’t the children asking for the things they think will make them happy, but the parents who prove that biblical axiom: “Ask (and ask and ask and ask) … and you shall receive.”

Marybeth Hicks is the author of “Bringing Up Geeks: How To Protect Your Kid’s Childhood In A Grow-Up-Too-Fast World” and “The Perfect World Inside My Minivan - One Mom’s Journey Through The Streets Of Suburbia.”

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