12 yr old DSS...to cell phone or not to cell phone - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-01-2009, 05:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DSS has just returned from his summer vacation at his mother's and is starting "secondary school" (grade 7 equivalent) today. It's the first time that he won't be taking the yellow school bus to get to school. He now has to take the subway to and from school on his own, and since his schedule won't be as regular as in elementary school, he'll be coming and going outside of my DH and my work hours. Also, DH and I are trying to encourage him to participate in after-school activities and clubs, to get him out of his shell.

My DH is very over-protective of his son, and he's having a hard time "letting go" in this instance. He took a whole week off work so he could take DSS to and from school for 5 days, to make sure that DSS would know his way. Because DH is a bit worried about DSS (who's forgetful at times), he wants us to buy DSS a cell phone for emergency purposes only. IMO, cell phones are evil things I'd like to avoid like a plague (this after racking up over 1k of cell phone bills myself and finally getting rid of them). BUT, I'm wondering if DH has a point with regards DSS. I tend to think that *eventually*, with time DSS will be coming and going with a bit more freedom, but DH wants him to let us know everyday when he's coming home or if he's going to be late. He wants to get one of those prepaid things for texting only, and he'd be able to keep track of the balance on the phone via internet to make sure DSS isn't using the phone to call friends.

Thinking back, I never had a cell phone when I started grade 7, and I did fine. I'm wondering if this is really necessary...

Opinions?
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Old 09-01-2009, 06:35 PM
 
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I have an almost 12 year old in middle school this year. She rides two buses home or to the rock climbing gym from school, so for my peace of mind a cell phone is an absolute necessity. She has had a phone for a year now, she rode the city bus to and from her previous school or climbing (not nearly as far though), and she has been very responsible with it. She really only uses it to call/text me to let me know she is on bus #1, then when she is on bus #2 and when she gets to climbing. She makes very few other calls and is completely trustworthy on that score, so we know she isn't racking up the minutes talking to friends and she has unlimited texting but her texting is largely to me and maybe the odd text here and there to a couple of her old (previous) school friends or DH. We have a family plan, so I believe it costs us $20 a month (or something like that), which is so worth it for me.

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Old 09-01-2009, 07:07 PM
 
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When my older 2 went into 7th grasde they began walking to school. Since I was picking up my youngest at the same time, I felt better about them calling me when they left school and then when they got home. I feel better about my ds having one during sports practices as well. As soon as it was sunny when I dropped him off and 15 minutes later it was storming it solidified my decision on the phone.

None of mine have ever abused the priviledge.
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Old 09-01-2009, 08:28 PM
 
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My oldest two (12 and 14) have cell phones and to me, they're vital. They each have different activities they do, going to friends houses, etcetera and I love knowing that they can instantly contact me and I can contact them.

Amy - mom to Anna-Rebekah 14, Logan 13, Christian 8, Ethan 7 and Adan 07/15/08
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Old 09-01-2009, 08:39 PM
 
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I can't tell you how much peace of mind my kids' cell phones have given me. I don't know how parents lived without them.
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Old 09-01-2009, 09:06 PM
 
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I'm the first person to say cell phones are not a need, and my kids don't have them and won't for as long as I can humanly stand it.

I think in your DSS case though it is vital. A 12 year old child on a subway coming and going at odd times, while you both are at work? That to me sounds really scary and I am an overprotective parent.

Especially since he is forgetful, what would he do if he were to miss his ride? What if he gets lost? What if he makes a bad choice and needs help?

I think a cell phone would be very wise, and cell phones are much different than they were a few years ago- you can totally control the minutes, having huge bills is totally preventable.
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Old 09-01-2009, 09:27 PM
 
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Haven't kids taken the subway to school in cities for decades? Without cell phones? Without major catastrophe?

I would say not necessary.
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Old 09-01-2009, 09:32 PM
 
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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16044093/

Interesting read.... I'd probably buy him one
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Old 09-02-2009, 01:16 PM
 
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I'm also in the "cell phones are not necessary" camp. (I won't get into all the reasons I don't like cell-phones, particularly for kids, but I'm with the OP on this one.) We have 4 kids ages 8, 10, 10 and 12. They're all out exploring the world without Mom and Dad all the time. The three oldest are allowed to take the bus to extend their exploration range. We went with them the first couple of times, taught them how the process worked, etc. They all ride their bikes to the library, general store, lake, playground, school, hiking trails, etc without cell phones.

It's definitely a leap of faith, I grant you that. We talk frequently and earnestly with our children about being "responsible explorers" and sometimes we run through what-ifs in the event that they come up against a new situation.

I think that with tweens and teens, if you trust your children, keep the lines of communication open, make sure they know how to handle sticky situations and keep a logical/cool head, allowing your kids a freedom untethered by a cell-phone is really okay. And maybe even good for them! (And you!)

For more information, check out Lenore Skenazy's blog: http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

(I should say that I don't know Lenore's position on cell-phones. I'm just sharing my philosophy.)

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Old 09-02-2009, 03:22 PM
 
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My 10 year old has had one for nearly a year. We got it for her when she had to take a bus away from school after hours to her basketball practices. It gave us piece of mind. We don't have a home phone so its also the phone she uses to call friends and when she occasionally stays home by herself. (legal age here is 8 for limited time) She also calls us afterschool if she wants to go to a friends house or wants to make a change of plans. Its really given her more freedom while giving us peace of mind.

She is on our family plan, so her line is only $10 a month. We have so many rollover minutes we'd never use them all either. With the family plan we have unlimited texting and that's what she prefers anyways. Really, the only people she talks/texts to are us, our sibblings, grandparents and 2 friends. If she is on the phone she is almost always talking or texting my sister/her aunt.

You can also set limits on the phone. She can't text pictures or access the internet on her phone. We also have rules on usage and who she is allowed to called. If its not approved she has to ask permission.

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Old 09-02-2009, 03:26 PM
 
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Our 11 year old has had a cell for almost 2 years now for the simple reason that we dont' have a landline at home. She is old enough to want to spend time at home alone and there would be no way for her to call us if she didn't have it.

I also feel better knowing she has it if she is walking or out and about by herself. Sure, we didn't have them growing up. Lots of things I didn't have growing up, doesn't mean I don't take advantage of them now.

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Old 09-02-2009, 09:10 PM
 
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Ughhhhh...the cell phone dilemma. DD is asking, and as far as I can tell, it's because several friends have recently been given cell phones. I'm pretty anti-cell phone for the pre-adolescent set. I just don't find that I'm in the position of needing to get in touch immediately. Either she is at school, at an after school sport, or at a longstanding weekend activity. She's pretty independent w/these activities, and they're all well supervised by adults.

If anything, when the time is right, we'll probably do a pre-paid cell, essentially for emrgency contacts. I don't want the texting piece, or the pictures.

That said, OP's case seems very different. I guess I would see the need for a cell phone in that circumstance. I don't live in a city, so if I did, I might have a greater comfort level for what OP's DSS has to do.
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Old 09-02-2009, 09:25 PM
 
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In general, I'm pretty anti-cell phone. I didn't have one until about five years ago, and I'm 50. The one I do have is a pre-paid Tracfone, and I probably use it 10 minutes or less a month.

My dd is starting jr. high next week. She was one of the only kids in her class not to have a cell phone in elementary, but there was no reason at all for her to have one then.

Jr. high is a different story. She'll be involved in various afterschool activities. Should she miss the late bus, the school office with the only phone in the building will be locked. I need to have a way for her to call.

I bought her a Tracfone and we had a talk about how I expect her to use it. She can text occasionally in the beginning and she can call a friend if she's not home once in a while. But I'm monitoring the use pretty carefully and she knows she has no expectation of privacy.

In your situation, I'd want the child to have a cell phone. I'd be a wreck sending a kid that young on a subway all the time. Heck, if I'm going to be honest, I'd be a wreck if I had to ride a subway with any frequency.

What I really object to is the non-stop texting. We are raising a whole generation who can only relate to each other through a keypad in soundbites. Last year, when dd was in 6th grade, I went on a few field trips with the class and was really saddened at the kids who couldn't look up from their cell phones for ten seconds at a time to experience some amazing stuff in real life.
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Old 09-02-2009, 10:22 PM
 
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Cell phones didn't exist when I was a child or even a teenager or young adult but I wish they had. It would have been nice to have a cell phone back in the day when I wanted to ride a different bus home from school or go home with a friend. I think this type of situation with your DSS warrants a cell phone. You can get him a simple one if needed (Tracfone is a good one). It doesn't have to have text messaging. Our DS got a cell phone (no texting) at the age of 12 and he's home schooled. He's rarely at a place that we aren't also there or that we haven't dropped him off and intend on picking him back up.

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Old 09-02-2009, 11:45 PM
 
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The world is a different place than when we were children. Heck, 100 years ago, we'd let our six year olds walk 5 miles though the fields and forest, and usually, things were okay, but we wouldn't let our six year olds do that these days, either. These days? On a subway? And I hate to say it, but post 911? Even with a cell phone, I'd still be nervous about it.

Better safe than sorry. My son has had a cell phone since he was 11. It's given me real peace of mind, knowing I can get ahold of him at any time, that he can get ahold of me at any time, and given him alot more freedom than he would have otherwise.

I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:08 AM
 
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One thing to consider is that "back in the day" there were payphones everywhere and now they are few, far between, and often broken. My kids have had cellphones for a while now and even if they aren't a necessity they keep me sane.
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:43 AM
 
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Having a teeanage son that has had his phone taken away too many times for inappropriateness, broken and lost phones, we are now just cancelling his number after the last grounding. He is a good kid, but the attention from the girls is crazy, and they seem to have just as little sense as he does. I would be very clear on what is and isn't allowed by phone. And, if necassary, making the phone one that doesn't allow texting and/or pictures. An emergency only phone is THE only kind I would allow at this point, IF we really needed one for him, which in your case, I would have for the child. It does also become addictive, to the point, that my son was even using his friend's phones when they came over to stay, after they fell asleep (with their permission supposedly). And, the boys are really generous to the friend's that obviously have backwards parents to have finally said NO MORE with the cells. I think that there can be a slippery slope. I would recommend just treading carefully, and when the child wants more and more features, and more expensive phones (even if they pay for it themselves), JUST SAY NO. Kymberli
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:04 AM
 
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We have no land line, so everyone has a cell phone. My kids have not abused it at all.

Kids have survived for generations without cell phones, it's true. It seems more like the *parents* have greater expectations of knowing the details about a child's whereabouts, and for that, cell phones are great.

I won't lie; knowing my kids have cell phones gives me greater peace of mind. But at the same time, I'm not sure we would limit their activities simply because they didn't have a cell phone.

One thing, though. Why all the restrictions on the cell phones? Why give them something, and then tell them they can't use it? Do you *only* use your own cell phone for emergencies? Honestly, give them a decent text package. All the kids text now instead of making phone calls. Even if you tell him not to text, all his friends will text him anyway, and that will cost money unless he has a good text package.

Cell phones aren't evil; they're just a means of communication. Just like email, facebook, the telephone, or letters even. A child who is in general responsible is not going to suddenly freak out and start "sexting" when he gets a cell phone.

I love it that my kids have cell phones. I love being able to text them about last minute changes-of-plans, about something goofy or important I just thought of, or just a text saying something like "Have I told you lately how awesome you are? Thanks for doing the dishes this morning, it was so thoughtful."

ETA: When we ditched the land line and got the cell phones, we just set down some basic rules. Just like the landline, no phone calls after 9pm. ALL cell phones must go on the kitchen counter when not in use at home (mainly so that it's easy to find when it's ringing), and all cell phones are attached to their chargers and in the cell phone basket at night. No middle of the night texting or phone calls. All the rules are for parents as well as kids. Don't text something that you think grandma wouldn't like--texts are like emails, discretion is required. So far, so good. Each kid is different, but my kids have shown no signs of addiction, obsession, or idiotic use of their technology. They are 14 and 11. So there is time for them to display these issues, for sure. But right now, no problems.
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Old 09-03-2009, 12:28 PM
 
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Especially since he is forgetful, what would he do if he were to miss his ride?
That's the good thing about subways - if you miss one, another will be along in a few minutes.

Cell phones are probably not needed by suburban children who are driven around everywhere by their parents, but for city children who have more freedom to walk or use public transport, they are a very good thing indeed.
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Old 09-03-2009, 12:34 PM
 
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One thing, though. Why all the restrictions on the cell phones? Why give them something, and then tell them they can't use it? Do you *only* use your own cell phone for emergencies? Honestly, give them a decent text package. All the kids text now instead of making phone calls. Even if you tell him not to text, all his friends will text him anyway, and that will cost money unless he has a good text package.

Cell phones aren't evil; they're just a means of communication. Just like email, facebook, the telephone, or letters even. A child who is in general responsible is not going to suddenly freak out and start "sexting" when he gets a cell phone.
I don't only use my cell phone for genuine emergencies, but it's pretty close. I'm not on it all the time--maybe 10 minutes a month, when I really need it. I don't find yapping on the phone to be a particularly productive way to spend time in general.

I think the texting obsession has a serious downside. Dh is a high school teacher and sees it all the time. Occasional texting, fine, but an unlimited or "good text package," nope, not happening. I've talked to too many of my kids' friends' parents who are now dealing with some of the repercussions of the unlimited texting to think it's a good thing. And that's the parents who are finally paying attention. With the prepaid phone, if the texting gets out of hand, we can nip that in the bud.

Yes, cell phones are a means of communication. But I don't think endless, unlimited communication with friends is necessarily a good thing. There are restrictions on lots of things I allow my kids to do. My kids can't use our land line endlessly. I don't let them have their own computers or unsupervised computer access. I bought them a Wii and we have a television in our home, but access is limited to what their father and I think it appropriate for children.
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Old 09-03-2009, 12:45 PM
 
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I'm not a mom of a teen yet, but my brother is sixteen. He has had a cell for several years. The biggest reason he now has a cell phone is that when he needs a ride it's not like when we were kids. Most places don't have pay phones anymore.The one in the town where he goes to school (I use the term town loosely) was taken out, because it cost them more to keep then it ever got used. If he ever were to get in trouble he can't call home. Granted...he uses his phone for more than emergencies but that is my step-dad's choice. He pays the bill.

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Old 09-03-2009, 01:46 PM
 
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The world is a different place than when we were children. Heck, 100 years ago, we'd let our six year olds walk 5 miles though the fields and forest, and usually, things were okay, but we wouldn't let our six year olds do that these days, either.
How do you figure the world to be different, other than the technology we have and the level of parental fear that now exists?
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Old 09-03-2009, 02:36 PM
 
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I am interested to hear what the repercussions of unlimited texting can be. My kids have had it for years and I'm not aware of anything.

How is the world NOT different than it was 100 years ago? People rarely become friends with their neighbours now, extended families don't live together, communities don't raise children. The adults in your child's lives aren't almost all people they've known and their parents have known since they were born. Kids are taught not to trust strangers, they are told they can only ask certain people for help if they get into trouble.

I agree with whomever said that cell phones are often more for the parents sake than for the kids.
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:34 PM
 
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I am interested to hear what the repercussions of unlimited texting can be. My kids have had it for years and I'm not aware of anything.
There hasn't been much peer-reviewed research published to date, so the jury is still out on in that department.

My personal feelings come from observation. Dh teaches high school. He's got kids who are unable to communicate with any of their peers without machinery. He's got kids who want to write their assignments in text, rather than in English. While cell phones are banned in class, they are often smuggled in and used for cheating.

There's the sexting and the text-based bullying, which in recent years have skyrocketed in his school. I've heard the same things from parents of several of my kids' friends who have let their kids text their little brains out and are now starting to regret it. Yes, kids will bully other kids and do many other objectionable things cell phones or no, but there does seem to be something particularly enticing about doing it via text.

There's the opportunity cost, which is one of the things I find disturbing. If you've got your face in a keypad all day, you're missing out on a great deal of life. I chaperoned a group of sixth graders through a spectacular science museum. The texting fanatics didn't raise their eyes from their phones the entire trip. I think that's a waste.
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Old 09-03-2009, 05:44 PM
 
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There hasn't been much peer-reviewed research published to date, so the jury is still out on in that department.

My personal feelings come from observation. Dh teaches high school. He's got kids who are unable to communicate with any of their peers without machinery. He's got kids who want to write their assignments in text, rather than in English. While cell phones are banned in class, they are often smuggled in and used for cheating.

There's the sexting and the text-based bullying, which in recent years have skyrocketed in his school. I've heard the same things from parents of several of my kids' friends who have let their kids text their little brains out and are now starting to regret it. Yes, kids will bully other kids and do many other objectionable things cell phones or no, but there does seem to be something particularly enticing about doing it via text.

There's the opportunity cost, which is one of the things I find disturbing. If you've got your face in a keypad all day, you're missing out on a great deal of life. I chaperoned a group of sixth graders through a spectacular science museum. The texting fanatics didn't raise their eyes from their phones the entire trip. I think that's a waste.
:

I think your last paragraph is most salient.

I will also add that I believe that all children, teen or not, are happier, more content and more fulfilled when they're engaging in the world in ways that don't include their television, computer or cell phone. They're more curious, vibrant, optimistic, and ALIVE. Their lives are more experiential.

Also, I think we're starting to see some pretty interesting anecdotal evidence that teens who are "addicted to texting" or even those who maintain friendships largely through texting (and many of them do!) don't form social skills that allow them to maintain healthy relationships in real life.

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Old 09-30-2009, 12:48 AM
 
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We bought our dd one last Christmas when she was 12 after nearly a year of humming and hawing over it. I'm so glad we did as we live downtown and she walks everywhere. It's nice to know I can reach her and she me when either of us needs to. If payphones weren't so non-existent nowadays I would probably not have gotten her one.
Her plan is about $17 a month for 200 daytime minutes and texting has been blocked. She has never once abused the cell phone privilege and we talked at length about the responsibilities of having a cell phone.
I think my peace of mind is very much worth the $17.

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Old 10-07-2009, 12:55 PM
 
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My 12 YO has ADHD and is generally irresponsible. But, we decided to take a chance and get him a phone and he has been incredibly responsible with it. He hasn't lost it, it's always charged, and he almost always has it on him.

For my sanity, I like to be able to get a hold of him whenever I want/need to. It's as much for me as it is for him!
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:48 PM
 
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My DD is 11 and was bugging us for one. My mom had a "pay as you go" phone that didn't get good reception at her house. I was visiting her and went and helped her pick out a new phone that actually works at her house. She gave me the old one since she had like $200 credit on it.

I kept that one and gave DD my old one (also a pay as you go). She has used it ZERO times since she's gotten it. So maybe get your DS a pay as you go and see if he actually uses it.

I can see the utility of a cell phone for kids. I remember getting back to the school from cross country meets and having to wait in line to call home and then not having any money so having to call collect, etc. My monthly collect calls probably cost as much as a cell phone bill.

I guess I'm showing my age here! There sure were no cell phones when I was in 7th grade. Actually I don't think my parents even got a touch tone phone until I was high school or maybe college. I didn't get a cell phone until my second child was born. And don't get me started about how old I was before I got cable....
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Old 10-09-2009, 12:18 AM
 
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my 13 yr old has one and has for three years started with a pre paid one and after he proved he was able to follow the guidelines he is now piggy backed on my plan and as he only calls me cell to call is free and we share minuets or the very odd call to my mom it cost me nothing at all and the peice of mind and safety factor are priceless
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Old 10-12-2009, 12:58 PM
 
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My 12 yo is in her first year of jr high, and so far, is settling in nicely. Yesterday, she told me that some of her friends who were excellent students in elementary school, aren't doing very well in jr. high. She said she thinks it's because they are spending all their time texting, rather than focusing on school.
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