Interesting thread. Many of my thoughts have already been covered....like how we did fine without cell phones. I also never had a computer as a kid, but my kids need to be computer savy to function in today's world!
There aren't pay phones around me. However, since "everyone" has a cell phone, kids without cell phones can easily borrow one. Most school situations or times when kids are out in groups would find at least one of the kids with a cell phone!
I got a cell phone for my son as an older teen...for my convenience. He often flew out of state for weekend visitation with his Dad, and it simply made connecting with him easier. Later, when he started driving, and had a job, and went to college, it provided me with additional peace of mind. Now that he has lost it, I really miss it. However, I am restraining myself to allow him to learn an important lesson. (I sometimes loan him a cell phone if he will be in an unusual circumstance...again, for my peace of mind.)
I got my daughter a cell when she turned 12. It was for my convenience, not hers. By then most (if not all) of her friends had them, some for several years. She has a pay as you go, and has already proven to us that she is able to not overuse minutes/texting, so when the time comes, we will get her another phone and put her on the family plan.
I think each parent needs to decide about cell phones for their kids. They do make a good perk to ground the child from! And do watch for overuse...dd has a friend who sends hundreds of texts daily! My dd has forbidden this friend to send her multiple texts so she won't use up all her minutes!
I learned to text when ds19 and dd24 were paying for their own cell phones. The texts are simply cheaper for them, so it gives us a simple way to keep in contact without burning through their minutes.