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I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it’s happening. When I was a kid, we didn’t have cell phones. I had a landline with a busy signal and mom was my voicemail. Then call waiting came, then a pager and finally, the car phone – and that was only for emergencies like getting stuck in the snow or missing curfew because “it totally wasn’t my fault”. Times they have a-changed, and whether it’s for safety or socializing, it is important your kids stay connected. We took to Facebook to ask at what age you gave your son or daughter a cell phone and put together some options to help you get the best service for your dollar.
Best phone plans for kids
“When he got a job and could pay for it himself.”
For teens that are employed, it’s likely they will need a phone. Allowing them to pay for part or the entire plan is a great opportunity to teach budgeting and responsibility. A simple prepaid voice, text and data plan is ideal so they can stay in touch with family, employers and friends. Pay-as-you-go plans are great because your teen pays a monthly flat rate upfront. Once the minutes or data usage is up, they either have to buy more minutes or wait until the next month. Monthly plans start at around $10 a month and go up to unlimited plans for $80 – $100. Price depends on how much data your teen requires, whether it allows only voice calls or social apps like Facebook. Another advantage to prepaid plans is they usually do not require a long-term contract, so if your teen really isn’t ready for the responsibility, you aren’t locked into anything. The downside? Prepaid plans don’t offer parental controls, so you’ll need to make sure you have access to the phone anytime you need to. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all have pre-paid plans that can be customized to your budget and needs.
“Our 9 year old is in a lot of after-school activities, and has a Tracphone for emergencies.”
Tracfones are great for younger children because the phone itself is typically a basic model without the bells and whistles of a smartphone, limiting what the user can do. You have the option of putting money into an account or purchasing prepaid minutes over the phone or in local retailers like Target and Walmart. Plans can cost as little as $9.99 a month. There are no contracts, bills, or monthly fees. The Downside? Based on various online reviews, Tracphone doesn’t have the best cell coverage, so if your child is making calls on a regular basis, this might not be the best option.
“We got our son one last year when he was 11 because we got rid of the home phone. It has restrictions on it and GPS.”
Family plans are a great option for both young and older kids. Like our reader above, adding a phone to your line gives you full control over what numbers he or she can call or text, the frequency and times of day it is being used. You can add GPS, ensuring that you know where your child and their phone is at all times. For older kids, a family plan is an easy way for you to monitor phone habits and set up a budget for usage, if that’s the direction you want to go. Family plans allow you or your teen to choose from a basic voice only phone to a web-enabled smartphone. Verizon’s Share Everything plans allow you to connect up to 10 devices to one monthly plan. AT&T’s Mobile Share plans also allow up to 10 devices, and you can share either talk or data minutes, or both. TMobile’s doesn’t offer shared plans, but its family plan comes with unlimited talk, text and web. Sprint’s family plans offer unlimited talk and text plans for life for up to 10 phones. If you have multiple users in your home, family plans are absolutely your most affordable option. The downside? If you opt for a plan that is limited usage, your chatty teen can eat up data within days. Set limits, so your bill doesn’t skyrocket.
Take the time to talk with your child about what you both think is important in a cell phone. Shop together and find the right device and plan that matches everyone’s needs and allows them to make the most of their phone. In the end, your teen will learn how to manage money, time and possessions.
At what age should kids pay their own phone bill?