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Cell phones: a necessary back-to-school accessory?

       How did working parents survive before cell phones? Did they worry more than we do?

       As we fill our children's backpacks supplies, some may be wondering whether a wireless phone is a necessary back-to-school accessory.

     As a working parent, I love text messaging! With a quick text, I knew my two older kids had found the right school bus and were on their way home. With a quick text at lunchtime, I knew my daughter was feeling well enough (a few days after major surgery) to make it through her first day of school. Instant peace of mind!

      In the past two days since school began, I see kids calling their parents from their cells while walking home. I imagine the parent in their office, feeling relieved to hear the voice on the other end.

      A mom asked me the other day, "What's the right age to buy a child a cell?" My answer: "The age they have some independence and you need peace of mind."

   According to a parenting blog, a 2007 poll by MSN/Zogby found that 47% of adults believed children should be in high school before owning a cell phone. A more recent survey in the U.K. pegged the average age of first-time cell phone owners at eight. The Center on Media and Child Health Web site states that 54 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds will have a cell phone in the next three years.

   Of course, you should know that the stories of kids sending out thousands of texts in one month aren't hype. Yes, like most parents, after learning the hard way, I had to change plans to unlimited texting. CNN.com offers some great tips to consider before buying your child a cell phone. 

    This year, my children's middle school made the parents and kids sign a cell phone contract, forbiding usage in classrooms. I'm assuming then, that most middle schoolers have cell phones in their backpacks. For kids who walk home alone or stay after school for activities, I say, it's an absolute must. Middle school seems about the right time. 

     What do you think is the right age to make a cell phone a back-to-school neccessity? 


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Ray Medina

My daughter is now 12, but when she was 10 (end of 4th grade), she made School patrol. Which means, getting to school before the general population and staying after school a bit later than everyone else.

At first, when her friends started to get a cell phone, we as parents talked about it and said that she wouldn't have a cell phone until she was 13... When she was selected for School Patrol, well, that was our breaking point. We didn't want our daughter to be in the school without a way to reach us (emergency)... We didn't give her texting until the end of that summer (limited), but then we got an answer offer from our cell company (SPRINT) with unlimited texting... I must say that I haven't been more at peace knowing that I can reach her when I need to... Of course, not during class, but she always manage to communicate with us...

Just love it!

Sum Gui

It really depends on the child's maturity, but as much as we may not want to acknowledge it, peer pressue is a factor, too.

But it might be an opportunity for teaching your child a little about handling money.

Get them an inexpensive prepaid phone. Nothing fancy. You can get a basic TracFone for about $10 for example.

The minutes can be considered part of their allowance. If they use them up before the end of the month, they're gone... though you could adjust the amount or advance them a few minutes if you like.

For older kids, a prepaid phone with unlimited talk and text may be the way to go. Straight Talk, for example, has a deal for $45 with unlimited talk and texts or $30 for 1,000 minutes and 1,000 texts.

No need to sign a new contract and add them to yours. Prepaid rocks!


So not nessesary to have a cell!

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