By Derek Frazier

Staff writer

The newest generation seems to be on the cusp of a technologically savvy wave. Armed with gadgets that can instantly connect them to friends, family and even the world wide web, these youth can interact with anyone, anytime.

But while such amenities may prove useful and entertaining, are they necessary for children?

"No, it is not necessary," Kenna Roberts, mother of six-year-old Kiarra said. Roberts has supplied Kiarra with a mobile phone specifically made for young users, along with a personal CD and portable DVD player. "But I think a lot of it is, in case something did happen, I just wanted her to be able to get ahold of me or get ahold of someone. You never know what's going to happen anymore, and I would just rather her be safe and know how to get in touch with me."

Roberts isn't the only one equipping her child with a mobile phone. According to Boston, MA. based market researcher, Yankee Group, approximately 5.3 million U.S. youth from ages 8 to 12 own a cellular phone, with those numbers expected to double by 2010.

"He's had his phone since Christmas," Ada resident Brandy Griffin said about her 11-year-old son, Zac Dansby.

"We didn't get it for him to be 'cool', it was for a good reason," she said. "He is on the academic bowl team, basketball team, baseball team, and he takes it with him. If we are not able to be there, that way he can calls us and tell us he's on his way home or what time they will be back at school."

Zac falls into that ever-growing population of "tweens" — children from ages 8 to 12 — who are rapidly becoming the most important generation when it comes to spending. And Mobile corporations such as Cingular are taking notice of this trend. The company has a phone designed especially for children that is available online. Dubbed the Firefly, this 2 ounce phone has no numerical keypad, but only five buttons on the device, two of which are dedicated to mom and dad. There is also a 911 button.

"It's not necessary for an 11-year-old to have a phone," Griffin said, "but as active as Zac is and some of the things that he goes to during the school day that I or my parents cannot go to, then he can let us know how he did or when he'll be back, then yes, I think that is necessary, but for him to be calling his buddies, no."

Griffin also noted how much difference there is between her childhood and her son's.

"It's a whole lot different than it used to be," she said. "I don't think our generation was as electronically sound as they are. They rely on so much more now to keep them busy. My brother and I, we'd go outside and shoot hoops, we'd play catch, go run around with the dog It's a lot different now. But then again, our generation is a lot different than 20 years ago."