Picking out a smartphone for your child can be a tricky affair. You want to buy a phone that satisfies their needs. At the same time, you don't want your child to run a huge bill or get into trouble online. If you’re stuck, there are some factors you can consider to make your decision, including age, maturity, security, and the best phone plans.
Children tend to make poor choices without thinking critically and only make better decisions with experience. Although age and maturity do not always follow each other, using your child's age to make a phone choice is probably your best bet. According to Influence Central, the average child receives their first phone at ten years old these days.
Of course, you'll need to decide when you get your child a phone based on your family's specific needs. For example, is your child alone for long periods? Will they need to contact you or your family members quite often? You have to consider these questions.
The best phone will have simple controls for a child and not have a camera, web access, or games. If you are buying a phone for a young child, consider getting a phone that only allows them to call you or send text messages. A phone like that will be smaller than the average smartphone, making it easier for their small hands to operate. You also want to make sure you can restrict your child to calling numbers on a preselected contact list.
Although immature, teenagers can use and take better care of sophisticated phones. At that age, they'll also want devices that appear more "adult." Consider getting them standard smartphones, but set up parental control on the device. This way, you can monitor their online behavior or purchasing habits.
Before heading down to the phone store, ask yourself how much you plan to spend on your child's mobile phone. Remember that losing and breaking things is a part of childhood, so spending $1000 on a child's first phone might not be ideal.
Many phone makers offer great deals on refurbished phones that can be as good as new devices (cheaper). Refurbished phones are also good options for teenagers that want adult-like phones. Your best bet is to look for a used, serviceable phone in the range of $200 to $400.
Many parents worry about security and the possibility that their child may get into trouble using a mobile phone. Fortunately, telephone and OS makers consider this as well.
Both Android and iOS have created parental controls within their operating systems. These tools allow parents to set app use limits and keep children from installing apps without permission. Also, third-party apps on both OS would enable parents to track their children's phone use and set limits for screen time.
However, depending on security software to keep your children safe isn’t foolproof. Parents must teach their children how to use their phones and explain best practices clearly. It would help if you also took the time to speak with your child to know how they use their phones. Parental guidance software cannot keep your child safe from everything, for example, scam calls. So, you must stay on top of your child's activities and teach them basic security practices, like call blocking for scammers and creeps who spoof their numbers. Furthermore, encourage them to report unsolicited calls from unknown persons so you can use a reverse phone search to look the caller up. A reverse phone search lets you access publicly available records on an individual by using their phone numbers only.
When choosing a smartphone for your child, you should pick one with the same operating system as yours. It's easier to control data use or set parental restrictions when the whole family uses the same operating system. However, if your child uses an Android device and you, the parent, use an iPhone, controlling their device will be challenging.
When you get your child a cellphone, you also need to put them on a carrier and choose a plan. As with the phone, the cellphone plan of choice should consider your child's age and maturity. You have two options for cell phone plans:
Use a Family Plan
When considering a plan for your child, the simplest thing to do is to buy a family plan. Everyone shares the same call and data bucket with a family plan - meaning you can put a cap on the family's phone bill. When you add your child to the family's phone plan, you get to set a data limit on their phone. Setting a boundary is especially important if you give your child access to video streaming apps like YouTube.
Get a Prepaid Plan from an MVNO
If you prefer to keep your child's phone bill separate from yours, you should consider buying a prepaid plan tailored for young people. You should look to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to find these. These are phone operators that operate by piggybacking on legacy carriers' infrastructure.
An advantage of buying an MVNO's prepaid plan is that it automatically limits the data and minutes your child can use the internet. These limits force the child to learn how to manage their mobile resources. For parents, MVNO's primary advantage is their availability, limited features, and the fact that they come without the need for a deposit or a contract.
If you're thinking about getting a prepaid cellphone plan from an MVNO, you might be overwhelmed by the possible options. Below are four of the best MVNO plans for kids and teens. In addition, you can get any of them without having to buy a contract or a locked phone.
Tello is a Mobile Virtual Network operator that offers flexible plans at a low cost. The low price makes it an excellent choice for your children. As with other MVNOs, you can get it without paying activation fees and stop using it without paying early termination fees.
Tello runs on Sprint's network and offers nationwide 4G LTE coverage. For users in cities where Sprint offers 5G, Tello also provides 5G coverage for free. In addition, they have various low-cost plans, including:
To get on the Tello network, you can bring your phone or buy one of theirs. Prices vary but can work with any budget.
Subscribing to Tello comes with several advantages, including:
Tello is excellent, but it also has some drawbacks.
Ting comes second on the list of Mobile Virtual Network Operators list with great phone plans for kids. Ting has no set plans but allows customers to design plans per their specific requirements.
Currently, Ting offers unlimited talk and text for $10 per month. However, users pay only for data, for which Ting charges $5 per GB. Ting is also available on two legacy carriers - T-Mobile and Verizon.
Subscribing to Ting comes with many advantages, including:
Ting's biggest downside is its data speed. Although you only pay for what you use, the data can get slow - especially if you live in a congested area.
Twigby is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator that gives new customers a 25% discount for their first six months of pay-as-you-go phone service. Twigby also runs off two legacy carrier networks - Verizon and Sprint. The MVNO gives unlimited text messages and lets customers decide what they want to pay based on data and call minutes.
For calls, Twigby charges $9 per month for 300 minutes, $11 per month for 500 minutes, and $13 per month for unlimited talk time. For data, Twigby charges:
Per Twigby's fees, you could get your child an unlimited talk plan with 2GB of data for $23 per month. However, with Twigby's 25% discount, your child's phone bill will come to $17.25 for the first six months.
Subscribing to Twigby comes with some advantages, including:
Twigby is great. Its only downside is that it won't let you actively choose between Verizon and Sprint.
Finally, on the list of MVNOs with affordable phone plans for kids and teens is Mint Mobile. Mint Mobile piggybacks on the legacy carrier T-Mobile and has plans starting at $15 per month. However, the phone company allows customers to buy bulk plans or make payments in three, six, or twelve-month increments.
Two of their most popular plans are:
The unlimited plan is great for a teenager that requires lots of data for research, homework, etc.
Subscribing to Mint Mobile comes with several advantages, including:
Once you pay for a plan, you cannot change until the current one expires. Mint Mobile only offers bulk plans or payments in three, six, or twelve-month installments. There is no monthly plan.
If you decide to get a smartphone for your child, you will have to consider many factors. For example, you need to consider your child's age and maturity levels, budget, mobile security issues, and the type of phone plan.
The simplest way to go is to put your child on your family's phone plan with a phone plan. However, if you prefer to give your child some independence, you can get them a phone plan from a Mobile Virtual Network Operator.
Whatever you decide, make sure you teach your child how to be responsible with their device. Owning a phone is a rite of passage at this age, and you can use it to teach your child responsibility and restraint.