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Being in the "in" crowd used to mean hanging out with the popular kids, getting invited to cool house parties, and wearing the latest fashions. Now, because cell phones are the primary way teens connect, if your child is not toting a mobile device, she may be left out of the crowd.
Although your daughter will probably cite 'cool factor' as the top reason for needing a phone, most parents consider safety and piece of mind the primary reasons to purchase one. Before you run to your nearest wireless service provider, however, consider your daughter's age, the cost of phone and service, and whether she is mature enough to follow the rules of etiquette.
While there is no magic formula to determine optimum age to get a phone, the average is between 14 and 16 years old. To determine whether she needs a phone at her age, consider your daughter's lifestyle. If she spends most of her time at home on the computer, watching television, or chatting on the house phone, then a cell phone may not be a priority right now. On the other hand, if she spends her time running between sports practices, after-school activities, and friends' homes, you may need a cell phone to keep in touch.
Whose Bill Is It Anyway?
Today, cell phones are not just phones; they can also take pictures, record and play video, download music, get TV reception, send text messages, play games, and visit Web sites. Avoid sticker shock when you receive your first bill by forging an agreement with her about which services you will pay for and which extras your daughter will have to pry open her piggy bank to fund. Discuss guidelines for phone usage and the responsibilities you expect her to live up to. Prepaid service can also keep costs in check.
Don't assume your daughter knows the rules of cell phone etiquette. Plenty of adults have trouble in this area so a kid may not know the rules either. Point out that phones should be turned off in places where they will disturb other people, especially movie theaters, restaurants, houses of worship, and classrooms. She should also avoid prolonged or private conversations where other people can eavesdrop or are forced to listen to her chatter.
Cell Phone Safety
Most parents get their children cell phones to keep them safe. However, using a cell phone to send and receive text messages or images is the same as using e-mail or instant messaging on a computer. Cell phones can connect children to spammers, scammers, identity thieves, online predators, cyberbullies, and phone viruses as well. The information on cell phones is especially vulnerable if your daughter has Internet access.
So far, very few companies offer protective software, so parents need to be attentive to online safety. Remind your daughter to:
Cell phones are an excellent way to keep in contact with your child and track her comings and goings. Technology will never take the place, however, of your time, attention, ears, and eyes.