If you have kids, chances are good that they have cell phones. And if your kids have cell phones, chances are even better that they spend a great deal of time sending and receiving text messages. It's the favorite American pre-teen and teen pastime.
Ever wonder what those busy little thumbs are tapping out, what exactly keeps your kid glued to that phone at nearly all hours of the day and night? Well if state lawmakers have their way, it'll be easier for you to find out.
Last Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require cell phone providers to offer parents a service that lets them review any messages sent to or received on a minor child's phone that is paid for by the parent. As reported by Capitol Media Services, the parents would have to pay for this service, but SB 1219 doesn't say how much the companies could charge.
Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said he was told by Verizon that it saves all texts for three days, but that if a parent wants to see the actual content of a child's text - say, for example, if a daughter is receiving threatening messages from someone - the parent has to get a court order, even if it's the parent's account. By the time a court order is granted, the text message may have been purged.
At this point, you may be asking: If the child is being threatened, why doesn't she just show her parents the text? Crandall said teens are quick to delete the messages, but they will stay on the phone providers' servers longer if his legislation is passed.
A Verizon lobbyist countered that it's not as simple for the company as Crandall makes it sound. Electronic privacy rules, possible conflicts with federal law, and technical issues make this much more of a tangled web for the cell phone provider.
We agree. More importantly, we don't believe our legislature should be in the business of telling private business what products and services they must offer to customers - especially when what this really boils down to is parenting.
If you have determined that your child is old enough and responsible enough to have a cell phone, then your child should be old enough and responsible enough not to send threatening or inappropriate messages and to alert you immediately if he or she receives one, rather than deleting it. And if your child proves unable to do this - then you take the phone away.
OMG! Imagine that.
The irony here is that if the federal government was proposing this idea, our Arizona Legislature would probably be trying to pass legislation that declares our independence from the federal rules.
If we are indeed trying to be a state with less regulation and more freedom for business to thrive, then why are we trying to force cell phone providers to help parents manage their kids?
It's not any more appropriate than some of those messages your kids send and receive.