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Cell Phones and Children

Using Your Phone Overseas »

Does your eight-year-old need a cell phone? The cell phone industry, running out of untapped markets, would like you to think so. There are now phones specifically designed for the preteen years, as well as a new generation of cell phones with parental controls.

Phones Designed for Children

The Firefly and LG Migo, both introduced in late 2005, were the first phones specifically designed for preteens. The Firefly is available through AT&T or as a pay-as-you-go service from major retailers. The LG Migo is available through Verizon. Both phones have a limited number of buttons, making a quick speed-dial call to Mom, Dad, or 911 easier.

Introduced in 2006, the Sanyo SCP-2400 for Sprint has a full numerical keypad, but allows parents to control what contacts are in the phone book — and to limit incoming and outgoing voice calls to those numbers.

For those with existing service with one of the above carriers, we'd suggest adding your child(ren) to your existing plan, turning it into (or adding another line on to) a family plan. This should be a much less expensive option than getting your child his or her own plan.

Parental Controls

With the increasing use of phones to download games, ringtones, graphics, and other content, companies are making it easier for parents to restrict what their children have access to. This serves not only to limit billing surprises but also to protect children from mature material. However, there is no rating system in effect, so the carriers are the ones that decide what is mature, and this may vary from carrier to carrier. Note: Not all phones have the ability to control content.

Locator Services
Thanks to the global positioning system (GPS), some cell phones are now able to transmit the exact location of the phone in real time. This has many uses in the business world, and can be used by emergency personnel (in some areas) to respond to 911 calls. Most new cell phones are GPS-capable.

GPS can also let parents know where their kids are at any given time (or at least where their phone is). Some carriers are beginning to offer this location-based service as an optional “peace-of-mind” feature. For example, Verizon offers Chaperone for the LG Migo phone. In addition to letting you know where the phone is, an additional feature lets you receive an alert when your child enters or leaves a specified zone (e.g., school). Sprint Family Locator service offers many of the same features, and is available with many Sprint and Nextel phones.


Wireless AMBER Alerts

AMBER Alerts notify the public of an abducted child. You can receive these notifications, via text message, on your cell phone through an arrangement between the wireless industry and law enforcement agencies. There is no charge. Using Zip Codes, you can limit the alerts you receive to those relevant for your location. To receive AMBER Alerts on your phone, click here.