The United States of America is home to over 200 million cell phone users, with the fastest growing segment being young people. Whether your teenagers are already asking for a mobile phone or whether they just plan to start shortly, odds are good that you will have to choose whether or not to get them a phone, as well as which make, model, and service plan.

Although many adults are used to using a mobile communication device such as a cell phone, pager, or Blackberry for work, they are often unaccustomed to choosing their own plan or device. Actually choosing a service provider, plan, or mobile device is made additionally complex by the fact that the North American market particularly is home to a host of compatibility problems between devices, networks, and geographical locations.

Although convenient, cellular phones are the least reliable form of mainstream communication. As such, there are locations (even in major cities) where calls will be suddenly lost or where network access is totally unavailable.

For many teenagers, a cell phone is not as much a communication device as a fashion accessory. With this in mind, the style of the unit may be more paramount in their mind than the battery life, network modes, or other technological features. That said, it is very important as a parent to let your son or daughter have input into which phone model and/or service provider they want to use, as well as to understand the reasoning behind this choice.

If your teen’s choice is based solely on clever music video style marketing messages, you may want to go over their reasons for wanting a phone and what they intend to use it for. Try to see their reasoning, and at least get them to admit it if they want a particular model because they think it’s just “cooler”. There’s nothing wrong with buying something based solely on style, as long as they recognize their motivation for what it is.

As with most purchasing experiences involving both teens and parents, there will be compromise involved – if you are paying for the phone or plan, you may be inclined to make the final decision yourself. However, unless it’s solely a matter of price, it may be better to let your young person make the decision – they’ll have to live with it after all.

About the Author

Zed Hayden is a big geek. He is also a regular contributor to gizmocafe.com – an extremely biased guide to consumer electronics, with information about Firefly mobile phones, Sony PVR, Xbox 360 hacks and more.