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Younger children getting cell phones

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DANVILLE (AP) — Danville High School student Lanesia Lollar and her mom, Phyllis, are at odds about the 14-year-old having her own cell phone.

Cost is the biggest factor right now, mom Phyllis Lollar said.

"I can't afford it," she said.

That doesn't stop Lanesia from continuing to bug her mom about getting one.

Lanesia said all her friends have one and she wants one to call and text her friends and search the Web. Phyllis counters, however, if they have a house telephone, why does she need a cell phone? Then Lanesia counters with "what if there were an emergency?"

The trend and debate of younger children having their own cell phones has been going on for a while. According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, most teens — about 85 percent of those ages 14 to 17 — have cell phones. So do 69 percent of 11-to 14-year-olds and 31 percent of 8to 10-year-olds.

According to a July 2012 study by ORC International for the National Consumers League, 56 percent of parents of children ages 8 to 12 have given their children a cell phone. The percentage increases with age.

Age 12 seems to be the magic number, too. It's the most common age for children to receive their first cell phone, according to a "TIME for Kids" article in September 2012. The article also says 13 percent of children ages 6 to 10 already a cell phone. That's more than one out of every 10 children.

Brandy Brown, 15, also a DHS student, received her cell phone a year ago. She pays for the phone by doing chores at home.

Brown agrees most of her friends have cell phones, including her siblings. Her parents wanted Brown to have one too for emergencies, Brown said. She uses her cell phone regularly to call and text friends and search the Internet.

"I can't believe it," she said about younger and younger children getting cell phones.

Nineteen-year-old Samone Johnson of Alvin said she received her first cell phone at 17 years old because she was in volleyball and it was easier to communicate with her parents.

Twenty-year-old Zion Moses of Danville said she got her first cell phone at age 15. With her mom busy during the day, Moses said the cell phone helped her mom keep in contact with her.

While youths can have cell phones in most schools, the devices must be turned off during classes and can be used only outside of school hours.

Danville school District 118 has specific cell phone rules and policies.

Superintendent Mark Denman said school officials are seeing "students at all levels" with cell phones.

"Our district does allow students to carry them for emergencies or for use after school." Denman said.

"Students cannot have them out," Denman added, saying that teachers can take the phones away and not give them back until the end of the school day. "We can't have the classroom disrupted."

In addition to during classes, students are prohibited from using them too during lunch, in other free periods and in the hallways during passing periods, he said.

He said silent vibrating and text messages during the school day are unacceptable, according to district rules.

There are warnings and penalties in place.

"We used to have a rule they couldn't have them at all, but a committee of parents and staff (seven to eight years ago) said they were comfortable with students having them; they just can't use them unless it's an emergency or after hours," Denman said.

He said the committee agreed that the cell phones served a purpose if there was an emergency.

"It seems to have worked fairly well," Denman added.

Denman said school officials are committed to working with parents and staff to regularly review the district's rules.

Edison Elementary School Principal Mark Goodwin said he sees a few students "here and there" with cell phones. The ones with cell phones are mostly the older elementary school students.

"We deal with it periodically. It's not a big issue at the elementary level," Goodwin said.

Phil Cox, principal at DHS, said for the most part there aren't problems with cell phones during classes.

"A few kids sneak the text in," Cox said. "For the most part they put them away."

Students can have the phones on their person, but the cell phones must be off and out of sight, he said.

Cox said the phones are "not a huge problem." He agrees that the cell phones are helpful in certain cases.

"Sometimes it's easier to get a hold of parents with the cell phone," Cox said.

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