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Your Finance: Insuring mobile devices

The Samsung Galaxy S4 at its unveiling in

The Samsung Galaxy S4 at its unveiling in Manhattan. (March 14, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Studies show what parents know: Electronic devices, particularly mobile ones, tend to break when kids are using them.

SquareTrade, which provides extended insurance policies for these products, says that 50 percent of parents report that their kids have damaged an electronic device, costing families some $2.8 billion over the last five years.

That is not to mention theft, which typically would have to be covered under a homeowner's or renter's policy.

Here are a few things parents can do to help keep these devices safe.

Insurance: For new devices, particularly cellphones or tablets, you will be hard-pressed to find a parent who does not recommend insurance.

When it comes to phones, you need to know the replacement cost -- excluding the subsidy from the service provider -- if the product is lost or damaged. That tops out at $850 for a 64-gigabyte iPhone 5.

Protection plans start at $99 for two years of coverage with no deductible. For laptops, most schools have some kind of insurance on the machines they issue to students, as well as tracking software that can locate a computer if it is lost or stolen. Experts say parents probably do not need an insurance plan for low-cost machines or older hand-me-down models.

Cases matter: A tough case, like an Otterbox Defender or a Speck, can sometimes protect smartphones from damage when dropped; they run around $30.

Backpacks are particularly unforgiving to tablets. Screens often get crushed by books, or the corners get dinged when a bag is dropped or stepped on. Laptops do not fare much better in backpacks. A simple neoprene sleeve can run just $5.

Stick it to 'em: Beyond etching a name into a machine, simple stickers and other decorations help deter theft. In fact, the more personalization, the better to provide easy identification of a device in the event that it is lost or stolen.

Instill ownership: Students tend to take better care of their own devices than school-issued ones. Some schools now charge penalties for broken iPads or smartphones -- and even to retrieve lost ones that have been turned in.

Getting educated: It also helps for kids to learn how much it would cost to replace the item. A recent study by electronics insurance provider Asurion found that teens typically underestimate what they would have to pay for a phone. More than 50 percent thought it would cost under $300, when the most popular phones start at about $550 if they are not subsidized by the phone carrier.

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