Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reach out and Beep Someone

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reach out and Beep Someone

Article excerpt

`KEEP in touch" may be one of the most popular expressions around. Among friends, it can be casual to the point of cliche. Within families, it serves as the most urgent of appeals.

Now teenagers are giving new meaning to the phrase. The latest fashion statement for the well-outfitted adolescent has nothing to do with wearing the right brand of jeans or the latest style in sneakers. It's an electronic beeper, fastened to a belt or purse, guaranteed to keep a student only a beep-beep away from friends, current heartthrobs, and even parents.

Paging companies and retail stores report that teenagers now account for 20 percent of beeper sales. This youthful market, they say, is growing twice as fast as the business-user market. At $100 or more for a beeper and $10 to $12 a month for service, no one can pretend that talk is cheap. But for teenagers - or their parents - willing to pay the price, the old phone company slogan, "Let your fingers do the walking," is giving way to a new one: "Let your beeper do the talking."

Not surprisingly, some schools are banning beepers from classrooms on grounds that they're distracting. The students' response? Simple. Just switch from the beeper mode to the vibration mode. There's more than one way to keep in touch.

Although the device functions primarily as a teenage status symbol, it also serves a practical purpose. In an era when families scatter early in the morning and don't regroup until evening, the beeper offers a reassuring electronic tether, linking the busy schedules of both generations.

One of the largest paging companies, Pagenet, has devised a marketing banner called Family Network. The company hopes to attract parents eager to keep in touch with day-care centers, latchkey children, and of course teens.

Even without state-of-the-art electronics, we who do our part to keep the telephone company solvent, frequently dialing the distant area codes of scattered family members, can identify with a needlepoint canvas bearing the heartfelt message: "Call your mother. She worries." The advice is as applicable to middle-aged offspring as it is to young children and teens. …

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