Buying Your Child’s First Phone
Buying your child’s first phone has become a rite of passage for today’s parents. It’s a little like that first day of school: you’re worried about what could go wrong. Will they understand the importance of online safety? Will they rack up hundreds of dollars in data charges? Will they post something on social media that will follow them for the rest of her life?
These are all valid concerns but remember smartphones for kids come with advantages as well. Knowing your children can contact you at any time gives you (and them) a sense of security as they explore the world. Here we’ll discuss how to buy kid-friendly cell phones, ground rules for phone use, and how to choose kid phone plans.
Talking to Kids about Phone Use
Before you buy smartphones for kids, have a talk with your children about the responsibility that comes with owning a phone and how it should be used. Topics to cover include:
- What is and is not considered acceptable behavior
- A phone is a tool, not a status symbol
- Never ignore a call or text from a parent
- How to identify cyberbullying and stalking
- How anything they post online is on the internet forever and can have long-term consequences
- Not answering phone calls or texts from strangers
- Their phone is a privilege and responsibility, not a toy or a right
- The dangers of texting and driving (or walking)
Some families write up a contract outlining phone rules, along with the consequences of breaking the rules. By signing the contract, children signal their understanding of their phone responsibilities.
What’s the Best Phone for Kids?
We could link to a wide selection of smartphones to kids but doing so doesn’t really answer this question. The best phone for kids is one which meets their needs without providing too many extras. For instance, if you want children to only use phones for communication, choose one with limited memory to prevent them from installing multiple apps.
Kids lose and break things all the time, and phones are no exception. With that in mind, you probably don’t want to shell out the cash for the latest iPhone (no matter how much your child wants one). Instead, consider a cheaper model or a refurbished phone. You can always tell him if he takes care of this phone you might consider an upgrade in the future.
Kid Phone Plans
Kid phone plans help prevent costly charges when children go over their plans’ data limits. If you want to control how much data your child uses a month, opt for kid phone plans with parental controls. If you use a family plan with unlimited data, you should still be able to put some controls and limitations on your child’s phone. Check out Verizon’s plans for more information.
Choose a Family OS
The best phone for kids is one that has the same operating system as yours. With everyone on the same OS, you’ll find it’s easier to set up communication apps everyone in the family can use. You’ll also find it easier to set up your kid’s phone if you’re using an OS you’re already familiar with and understand.
Quick Tips for Introducing Kids to Smartphones
- Walk the child through setting up their phone. They’ll likely have a phone for the rest of their lives, so teach them how to set up on now.
- Turn on the automatic Wi-Fi setting during set-up to ensure the phone will connect to your home network automatically.
- Add family communication apps and make sure everyone in the family uses them.
- Learn about the apps and social media platforms your kids want to use. Friend them on these platforms and keep an eye on their posts. Teach them how to block people.
- Add a tracker app to use your phone to find children in an emergency. Explain to them you don’t intend to constantly spy on them and will only use the app in an emergency.
Finally, demonstrate responsible smartphone use with your own phone. Your kids are more likely to use their own phones responsibly if they see you stick to the rules you laid out for them.
Smartphones for kids, when used correctly, teach kids responsibility while helping keep them safe. With a little forethought, you can choose kid-friendly cell phones that match your family’s needs.