Sree's Stories

December 1998

Cell Phones, Beepers, Room Monitors
Useful gadgets that keep you and your child connected

Sreenath Sreenivasan is an assistant professor of journalism at Columbia University.

No matter how far from home you roam, you can keep in touch with your spouse and kids thanks to monitoring systems, two-way radios, pagers, and, of course, cellular phones. Here's what you need to know about these keep-you-connected gadgets.

Baby Monitors
These products (also called infant monitors or room monitors) bring your baby's middle-of-the-night cries directly to your bedroom. How? A cordless microphone in the baby's room picks up the sound and transmits it to a speaker in another room.

Where to Find Them: Any infant supply store.
Expect to Pay: The simplest models cost about $25. Those with dual monitors or accessories or are cordless go for up to $80.

Two-way Radios
These souped-up walkie-talkies, most of which have a range of approximately 2 miles, are great for monitoring youngsters while they play in the backyard. Attach one radio to your child and keep the other at your side.

Where to Find Them: Infant supply or electronics stores.
Expect to Pay: From $60 up per radio. (You need a minimum of two.)

Pagers and Beepers
Travel here and there and still keep tabs on your child with these devices. Beepers display phone numbers while the more expensive pagers include features such as text messages, voice mail access, and guaranteed message delivery.

Where to Find Them: Pager and beeper service is available through most major cell phone service providers. Check your newspaper or Yellow Pages under "Pagers."
Expect to Pay: Monthly beeper fees begin at about $10, often with a free beeper thrown in; monthly pager fees can go higher than $200, depending on the options you choose. Prices vary, so shop around.

Cellular Phones
The cell phone remains the best-and most expensive-way to stay connected. With it you can be reached almost everywhere, and unlike a beeper, the phone lets you dial out, too.

Where to Find Them: Major cell-phone service providers advertise in newspapers and are listed in the Yellow Pages.
Expect to Pay: Fees for basic analog service and digital service range from $20 to $50 a month. Analog phones range from about $45 to $150 and digital phones from about $90 to $350. Lighter phones with more options tend to cost more.