These days, it is almost a shock to see someone pull a mobile phone out of their pocket that is not one of the popular smartphones we all know and love—iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries are a common sight. Issues arise when it comes down to young children possessing these smartphones and their equivalents (i.e. iPod Touches, iPads, and Android Tablets). While some adults have no problem handing over the latest in modern technology to the next generation, others are crying foul at the sight of elementary school students owning more than the standard Nokia.
The main purpose for having any sort of mobile phone is for communication. Pay phones have become as scarce as a snowflake during a Louisville winter, meaning that one must have their own means of communication while out of the home. This holds true for both adults and children, and studies have shown that two out of three parents agree their child needs to own a cell phone by the age of thirteen—or when that child begins going on outings without their parents present.
That being said, any mobile phone has the basic talk and text capabilities needed to adequately provide this sort of communication. Why so many smartphones for the youths then? According to a recent survey, 70% of parents who purchased a smartphone for a child under twelve over a standard cell phone admitted to doing so solely to prevent their child from being teased by classmates, similarly to how kids will often make fun of those not wearing name brand clothing items. They are being used more as a fashion accessory for popularity than as a communications tool for safety.
“It’s crazy,” agrees Spencer Byrnes, a 22-year-old Louisville resident who only got his first smartphone last year. “I work with kids, and for this one little girl’s 7th birthday, her parents got her an iPhone. Another kid asked me why my phone had buttons on it.”
“It angers me to see kindergarteners texting on a Blackberry,” admits Emilia Rodriguez, who did not get a smartphone until she could afford her own bill and contract until age 19. “When I was their age, I had to use Styrofoam cups strung together on a string and pretend it was a landline connection. They have absolutely no use for a smartphone.”
The abundance of smartphones amongst young children may actually be exacerbating the bullying problem found in many schools. With the rise of “cyberbulling” on popular social media websites and web forums, smartphones increase the ease of access to these sites. Theoretically, cyberbulling could become a day-or-night affair if all of those involved have access to smartphones or similar variants.
Some parents argue that smartphones are an acceptable device for elementary and middle school students because they provide children with fun games to play, such as Angry Birds and The Oregon Trail. There are also many educational games to help students with math and science concerns. This, too, has met with opposition.
“The Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP exist for a reason,” argues Mike Nicholson, father of 2 elementary-age sons who do not own smartphones. “It’s true that there are child-friendly games on smartphone networks, but there are sturdier and cheaper devices that provide plenty of both fun and educational games for all ages without the need for contracts and data plans.”
Many parents have gotten around mobile phones all-together with simpler variations like the LG Migo. The LG Migo features four buttons, each of which is pre-programmed with a phone number. This allows a child to be able to contact four pre-specified people to give parents and guardians a peace-of-mind, while also limiting texting and web use to family and emergency calls only.
In the past five years, smartphones have become commonplace, rather than just a tool for the elite. This shift in the mainstream is only naturally causing a shift in what is acceptable for our youths as well. As such, we are entering an era where parents need to understand the best need for each of their children before handing out iPhones and Androids like they are chocolate chip cookies.
Okay, I’ll admit it: in my younger years, I supported PETA. To an extent, I still do…but let me clarify. I support their attempts to end animal cruelty, but I do not at all support how they go about it. Their attempts are oftentimes clumsy and foolish, and make a mockery of the entire cause rather than strides in the right direction.
And their latest shenanigan is no different.
Enter Pokémon Black And Blue: Gotta Free ’em All…A derpily created flash game that attacks the beloved Pokémon video game series for promoting animal cruelty.
You think I’m kidding? YOU CAN CLICK ANYWHERE IN THIS SENTENCE TO SEE THAT I AM NOT!
The game’s lead protagonist is a battered and bloodied Pikachu who has decided that daggone-it he’s had enough of being used by his trainer to battle other Pokémon. In this edition, he must attack his trainer in order to gain his freedom. While he can use attacks like Thundershock and Quick Attack to lower his trainer’s health, attacks like Group Hug and Protest help alter his trainer’s skill point sets to make the battle easier. Meanwhile, the “evil” trainer uses attacks to chain Pikachu up and stab him with nails.
You still think I’m kidding, but I promise I’m not.
The description provided by PETA for the game is as follows:
For generations, Pokemon have suffered at the hands of their cruel trainers. Help PETA free Pikachu and his Pokemon friends as they struggle for Pokemon Liberation.
The amount of time that Pokémon spend stuffed in pokéballs is akin to how elephants are chained up in train carts, waiting to be let out to “perform” in circuses. But the difference between real life and this fictional world full of organized animal fighting is that Pokémon games paint rosy pictures of things that are actually horrible.
If PETA existed in Unova, our motto would be: Pokémon are not ours to use or abuse. They exist for their own reasons. We believe that this is the message that should be sent to children. —Team PETA
Anyone who has played the actual games knows that Pokémon promotes kindness to all, with the villains often the ones doing the abusing. The protagonist’s mission is always to thwart the villains’ evil plans and restore harmony to all. Some games even feature rewards based on how well you treat your Pokémon, such as new evolutions and greater effects from Items and Attacks.
But I suppose PETA never got past the “Oh my God, there are live (cartoon) creatures captured inside of mythical ball devices! We must protest…hey, we should incorporate protesting in our protesting! What a brilliant idea!”
This isn’t the first time PETA has parodied a game market for one of their campaigns. There was Super Tanooki Skin 2D, which theorized that our beloved Mario likes skinning raccoons and wearing their bodies on the weekends. Then came Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals, just in time for the Thanksgiving festivities. And who could forget Super Tofu Boy, where Super Meat Boy’s girlfriend dumps him in the name of veganism.
The response to the game–and the others–ranges from hysterics to outrage, and once again PETA has caused all of the environmentally-friendly, animal-loving individuals like myself to hang our heads in shame and wait for the controversy to die down.