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Should a 7-year-old have a cellphone? Read this and decide

May 31, 2012|By Rene Lynch

How young is too young for a cellphone? Parents and their kids have been arguing about this one since, well, ever since there were cellphones. But the news out of Utah this week might convince parents that a child is never too young for a cellphone -- not even a 7-year-old.

A Utah school bus driver is out of a job after she ordered 7-year-old Kya Hobdy off the school bus and drove away, leaving the girl crying in an unfamiliar neighborhood that was about a mile from school and a mile from her home. The problem? The child didn't have the proper paperwork allowing her to ride the school bus.

Luckily for Kya, she held a secret weapon: a cellphone. She kept her wits about her and called her mom for help. The sharp-eyed youngster was able to identify a neighborhood church, a landmark that her mother used to go and find her.

"I was dumbfounded," the girl's mother, Amber Hobdy, told the Desert News of Salt Lake City. "Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone drop off a 7-year-old?"

Earlier in the week, a representative for the Alpine School District outside of Salt Lake City said the bus driver had been placed on administrative leave. On Thursday, spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley told the Los Angeles Times that the driver is no longer working for the district. She declined to say whether the driver quit or was fired.

The incident unfolded Friday when Kya figured she'd join a friend on her school bus so the two could have an after-school play date at the friend's home. En route, the driver noticed Kya as a new face and asked whether she had a permission slip signed by a parent. Kya did not. So the driver pulled over, dropped off a crying Kya, and continued along the route.

"At that point, the driver told her to get off the bus," Bromley said, "and that is absolutely unacceptable, obviously."

Bromley said children typically ride only on the buses assigned to run along their typical school-to-home route. However, they can ride on other buses within the district network, but only if they have a permission slip. Regardless, once a student is on a bus they can be let out only at an official bus stop or back at the school, she said.

So back to the debate about when a child should get his or her cellphone. Opinions run the gamut. Some tech-savvy folks say parents should hold out for as long as possible. Others say a cellphone can be lost or stolen, or held hostage by a bully with an agenda. Still others say -- and Amber Hobdy would probably agree -- that the upside of a cellphone far outweighs the downside, particularly in case of an emergency.

Bromley agreed that Kya's story will probably refuel that debate, as the story has been widely reported coast to coast. "Many people have heard the story, and obviously everyone has thought through, 'What would have happened to her if she didn't have that cellphone?' "

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+, Facebook or Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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