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Cellphone Parenting

Am I depriving my kid if I don't get him an iPhone?

Parents: you are not depriving your kid if you don't buy him an iPhone. Smartphones -- especially the latest, fanciest ones -- have become status symbols for kids and are the source of a lot of peer pressure. (Get tips on how to manage high-tech hand-me-downs.)

Be prepared for lots of impassioned speeches from your kid about why he needs an iPhone, but, if you don't want or can't afford to get one, know that plenty of kids don't have them and do just fine. He should have some exposure to digital tools and the chance to develop technology skills at home or at school, though.

One argument your kid may use is that he needs a specific iPhone app for homework. While it's true that some teachers ask kids to use certain programs -- for example, Khan Academy, they will typically make sure that the same features and functionality are available on the company's website (for example,

But, if you decide that your teen is responsible enough to follow your cell phone rules and you want to go for it, here are three ways to establish some control over the situation:

Discuss appropriate smartphone use. Make sure you and your kids are on the same page about when and how the phone can be used. Make this a discussion, not a lecture, so teens feel their voices are heard.

Manage smartphone features. The power that smartphones provide may make you uncomfortable. Know that you can start with limits on access (to the Internet, for example) and expand as kids demonstrate responsibility.

Have your kids pay their way. Have them contribute to the cost of the iPhone or the data plan -- or both. They'll probably take better care of the phone if they understand the costs.

Does your kid have an iPhone?

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