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How To Choose a Cell Phone For My Kid

Choosing smartphones for kids requires some thought. You want a phone that meets the child’s needs without providing her with access to features that could get her into online trouble (or negatively impact your bank account). You need to consider multiple factors, including the child’s age and level of maturity, cell phone plans for kids, security, and how much control you’ll have over the phone. 

Throughout the process, remain focused on the primary reason adults buy smartphones for kids: So children can contact parents or guardians in an emergency. You may decide to trust your child with additional phone features, but the phone’s primary function should be to improve your child’s safety. With that said, how do you choose the right cellphone for your kid?

Choosing the Best Phone for Kids Based on Age and Maturity

Kids, by definition, are not mature. They make mistakes. They do silly, thoughtless things, and hopefully, learn from their experiences. You can’t expect a child to handle a phone with the same thoughtfulness as an adult — a consideration you need to bear in mind when choosing smartphones for kids. While age and maturity don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, a child’s age usually influences a parent’s cell phone choices. 

For younger kids, buy very basic phones that only provide the features needed to stay in touch with you by phone or text. The best phone for young kids has simple controls, with no games, web access, or a camera. Such phones are generally smaller, so are easier for small hands to use, and can be set up to only allow the user to make calls from a preselected contact list. 

Tweens can handle more sophisticated phones, and want phones that look more “adult.” Depending on their maturity level, you might want to allow them limited access to social media or apps. Look for phones with parental controls, so you can prevent online purchasing and place limits on phone use.

Budgeting for a Kid’s Phone

Kids lose and break things with regularity, so you don’t want to break the bank on a child’s first phone. You can find perfectly serviceable phones for kids in the $200 to $400 range. The younger the child, the less you should spend on the phone.

You can find deals on your child’s first phone by purchasing refurbished phones, which typically cost less than new models. A refurbished phone is also a possible choice for the tween who wants a more adult phone with a few extra features. 

Cell Phone Plans for Kids

Cell phone plans for kids should, like the phone itself, be chosen with the child’s age and maturity in mind. Your options include:

  • Prepaid Phones for Kids: With prepaid phones for kids, you pay for a set amount of minutes and texts. You pay for usage as you go, and if the child runs out of minutes he has to ask you to buy more. One of the advantages of using prepaid phones for kids is the limited amount of minutes forces the child to consider how to use the phone more carefully than with other service plans. Prepaid phones for kids are usually affordable, have limited features, and don’t require a deposit or contract commitment.
  • Family Plans: Older kids can be added to cell phone family plans, where each user uses the same “data bucket.” If you choose to add a child to your family plan, be sure to limit their line to a set amount of monthly data —  a kid with access to YouTube can go through massive amounts of data without realizing it. 
  • Verizon Phones for Kids: Some cell phone plans for kids can be added to your family plan without adding the child’s usage to your data limit, such as the JustKids plan. Designed with Verizon phones for kids in mind, the JustKids plan can be added to any unlimited plan. The child-friendly plan gives the child access to 5GB of data while providing a robust selection of parental controls to restrict usage.

Security and Children’s Phones

Both Android and iOS provide built-in parental controls you can set to limit usage and block app installation. Blocking app payment options is recommended, as kids can inadvertently spend large amounts on app stores and in-app purchases. The third-party parental control software can also be used to track a child’s smartphone use, allowing you to view activity reports and set screen time limits. 

Don’t rely completely on security software. Explain to your child that one of the conditions of getting her a phone is that you get to check it as needed. This allows you to monitor the apps being used, social media posts, and any signs of cyberbullying or predatory behavior. This doesn’t mean checking the kid’s phone obsessively, but she should understand that you have the right to do so should you choose. 

Choose an Operating System You Know

The best phone for kids is one that shares an operating system with yours. It’s much easier to set parental restrictions and control data usage if you’re familiar with the operating system, so everyone in the family should be on the same OS. If you use Android and your kid uses an iPhone, controlling the device becomes more complicated. Make it clear that if you buy your child a phone, it has to share an operating system with the rest of the family devices. 

Take your time choosing smartphones for kids, and give serious thought to which cell phone plans are right for your child, your peace of mind, and your pocketbook. Look for deals like JustKids that help prevent accidental overuse of data, and impress upon your child the responsibility of owning a phone and your own expectations for phone use. A kid’s first phone is a rite of passage, and a great way to teach kids responsibility and restraint.