According to a National Consumers League survey, 56% of kids between 8 and 12 years old currently have a cell phone. Which means the other 44% are going home to their parents and endlessly asking, “When can I have a cell phone?” The majority of kids get their first cell phone between 10 and 11, but that doesn’t mean every kid should have a phone at the start of middle school. Kids of all ages want cell phones these days, and so for parents it can start to feel like an endless battle trying to decide one way or the other. There are obvious benefits to your child having a phone, for one they can always contact you, and you them. Secondly, in a dangerous situation their cell phone could really come in handy. What do parents across the States think about kids having cell phones? According to 61% of American parents, children between 13 and 18 years of age should get their first cell phone. Around 33% of parents with children 9-years and younger think that kids should get their first cell phone before they turn 12. (Read More)
Every parent wants their child to be safe, and they also want their child to be happy. So why are many good parents on the fence about their kid getting a cell phone? Kids are known to be forgetful. How many times have you left the house for school only to realize your child forgot their backpack, lunch, band instrument, or maybe even shoes? If your child tends to forget things, buying them a cell phone can sound like a scary idea. And this isn’t the only reason parents often put off buying a cell phone for their kid. There are plenty of other reasons parents feel skeptical about pairing kids with mobile devices:
- Don’t want the phone stolen by peers—we’ve all heard the stories!
- Unwarranted data plan usage or app downloads
- Constant texting costing a fortune
- Cyber bullying
- Encountering inappropriate content online
- Cell phone becoming a distraction during class
All of the potential drawbacks listed above might make you feel less than excited about signing your kid up for a 2-year plan. But kids everywhere do have cell phones, and rest assured it doesn’t usually end in a horror story. Here are some questions you can ask yourself in order to help determine if your child needs a phone or not:
- Is your child fairly independent?
- Are there times when your child needs to contact you for safety reasons?
- Are they mature enough to use a camera, video, and other phone features in a responsible manner that doesn’t harm or humiliate their peers, or themselves?
- Do you think your child will use their phone during class to text excessively?
- How well does your child listen to limits that you set in other areas?
Questions to ask your child to help finalize your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer:
- What are the main reasons your child wants a cell phone?
- How do they plan to use their phone?
- Ask them if they really need a phone, or simply want a phone.
The exact age or moment you decide to buy your child a cell phone is completely up to you. Each kid is different in terms of maturity, and when they are actually ready for the responsibility of a phone. Also, some kids are separated from parents more often maybe at after school programs or sports, and so the need for a phone increases. When the time is right, you will know it. And when that time comes here are some helpful tips to protect your child, their cell phone, and the affordability of your monthly service bill. -Go over the rules more than once, post them up somewhere visual, and stick to them. Don’t just tell your child the rules, but explain why these rules are put into place. Make sure your child knows and fully understands the consequences associated with breaking the rules. -Be open and honest with your kids about cyberbulling. By having up front discussions with your child they are more likely to come to you if any issues arise. -Make sure you have the best plan. How long have you had your same cell phone plan for? For many, the answer is years. It’s important to make sure you have the best option when adding a new member to the package deal. -Keep track of your kid’s cell phone usage. What are they using their phone for, and for how many hours each day? -Turn data roaming off when traveling oversees, otherwise data charges can total upwards of $9,000, no joke! If kids don’t understand how these charges work, they may turn their phone back on and call their friends the moment mom and dad are not around. It might seem innocent, but it can total a heck of a bill. -Consider benefits of a prepaid phone, which will shut off once data limits are reached. This keeps unexpected bills from arriving in your mailbox. -Set a good example for your child by setting limits with your own cell phone usage. For example, make the conscious decision to leave your phone in another room during dinner in order to encourage your child to do the same. -Don’t attach your credit card to any of the account settings for your child’s phone. If your card is hooked up to the iTunes or Android Store your child can purchase whatever they want, so long as they know (or can guess) your password. By making sure your card is removed from their device completely you can help prevent unexpected charges. -Strap on a heavy-duty cell phone case with strict instructions not to remove it. Let your child pick out their own case so that they don’t take it off the moment you’re not looking. -Teach older teens not to text and drive. I highly recommend making all teens watch the documentary, From One Second To The Next. It’s a short film that perfectly portrays the dangers of texting and driving with first hand accounts that will leave you with the chills.
Your child might have their eye on the latest iPhone, but for their very first phone it might be best to start with a simpler device. For young kids, any phone is an exciting ordeal, but for some older kids there is one phone in particular they really want. You can encourage your child by telling them the way they handle themselves with their first phone will determine if they are responsible enough to get a ‘fancier’ cell phone the next time around. Here are some of the best cell phone options for kids getting their first mobile device:
Jethro makes a number of different phones, many of which are sold to the senior crowd, but they also work great for a kid’s first phone. These phones are very basic and easy to use, they will allow your kid to text, talk, and take pictures but without an App store, or easy to access social media features, your child can’t get into as much trouble. Plus, these phones tend to be pretty durable. They come in a range of options, all around $60 without a plan.
This lightweight phone is super simple and offers everything your child needs for their first phone. Since this phone is made for kids, it comes with a number of useful features for parents such as a dedicated emergency key, and a parent programmable code. Kids enjoy the phone’s bright green color, kid-friendly ringtones, backlight LCD screen, and booming speaker. Your child might not enjoy the fact that this phone doesn’t send or receive texts, nor is there an option for voicemail. Without a plan this phone costs $130, which is more than other similar phones on the market (Learn more).
The Factor is a flip phone offering all of the basic features, including text messaging, and a camera. One cool feature this phone comes with is speech-to-text, allowing your child to say their texts instead of typing them—which is helpful considering this phone has the old school number pad instead of a full keyboard most phones come equipped with. Ranging around $29, the Samsung Factor is affordable, and is also available with pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plans.
If your kid uses an Xbox, this phone might be the winning option since it comes with a free app that makes it compatible with Xbox devices. If your kid is a bit older, they might also appreciate the instant access to Microsoft Office, plus you’ll like that it’s free! Boasting full smartphone capabilities and 3.7-inch color screen that trumps others on this list, kids can do homework, take photos, surf the web, or use their Xbox. Without a plan, this phone costs around $99. **Keep in mind, once you add a plan to most of these phones their overall purchase cost goes down considerably. Some of these phones end up being completely free with a 2-year contract.
How many times have you seen a little kid walking around with mom or dad’s cell phone in hand, and thought—is he or she going to break that? Every time I see a little kid holding a phone I can’t help but shudder. I’m already envisioning the phone falling to the ground, and being picked back up with a freshly cracked screen. Yet, time and time again you see kids trotting around with cell phones held between their little distractible fingers. So how often do cell phones really end up broken due to child-error? Kids of all ages account for a lot of broken mobile devices each day. Even teens that are old enough to have fancier smartphone devices are notorious for cracked screens, water damage, and lost devices. For these reasons it’s not typically recommended that you buy your child the newest, most expensive cell phone on the market. Used cell phones, or older more affordable models are a good option because they tend to be a bit less painful when broken, especially for you. Still, a little over 30% of teenagers in the US are planning to purchase the latest iPhone within the next 6 months. Meaning older kids might already have their heart set on one of the latest smartphone models. In the instance that your child or teen breaks their cell phone, it’s always better to repair as opposed to replace. Repairs offer a more affordable solution, and when properly conducted, cell phones tend to work and look just as good as new. Don’t panic if you or your child’s cell phone breaks, instead call or visit My Broken Phone at any one of our convenient neighborhood locations. We will have your phone fixed in no time—guaranteed!