Today's parents are almost as busy as their kids. Making sure every member of the family can stay in contact is vital to organizing everyone's activities and preparing for unexpected situations like a last-minute cancelled practice. Choosing the right phone for your child can be quite a challenge, but there are some models that seem ready-made for youngsters.
Cell Phone Models for Kids
In a joint survey conducted by Verizon Wireless and Parenting.com, parents of children ages 6 to 18 were surveyed on when their children got their first cell phones. Just over 32 percent got their first cell phone between 10 and 12 years of age with another 39 percent getting their first cell phone between 13 and 15 years old. If you have a child over nine or ten, finding the right cell phone is like a hunt, but fortunately, there are plenty of options.
Lots of Parental Control
If you need the ability to stay in touch with your child, but you worry about how much he'll use a cell phone, then the Firefly glowPhone offers an affordable option. This phone will work with providers who use a SIM card, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The glowPhone offers the ability to program the phone with specific contact numbers (up to 50), and features dedicated buttons for calling mom and dad. Built-in, parental controls allow parents to limit usage of games, restrict incoming and outgoing calls, and restrict texting. While CNET gave this phone a 3 out of 5 star reviews, stating that the lack of features makes it lackluster, those who are looking for a simple phone for a young child may feel differently. In fact, Consumer Search rated it as a good starter phone for younger kids and consumers at Buzzillions consistently gave the phone 4.5 and 5 out of 5 stars.
- Works with a family plan you may already have in place (you'll have to pay any activation and monthly fees)
- Comes in black or pink
- Large, one-touch buttons
- Phone cost: $49.99
For the Littlest Cell Users
You know your child better than anyone, and if you believe he is ready for a cell phone, but he is quite young, consider the Baby Bear Kids' mobile phone. The phone is easy to grasp for smaller hands and features a bear on the face of the phone. The buttons are labeled clearly and are easy for little fingers to navigate. The phone is perfect for GPS tracking and providing a one-touch button for instant access to mom and dad. The phone runs on GSM, which is typically offered by providers like T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless, but check with your provider to make sure the phone will work with your plan. This is the only phone available that is designed for the youngest cell phone user.
- SOS key to call emergency services
- No camera
- Comes in blue, orange, or green
- Phone cost: $55
Text Like Crazy
Whether you understand why or not, tweens and teens love to text. Even when a teen won't talk on the phone, she may text you some of her deepest thoughts. It can be a good way to stay connected with your child during the sometimes difficult years between 11 and 18. If your child is ready to start texting, try the Pantech Jest 2. The phone works with Verizon and has GPS tracking when used in conjunction with parental controls. You can also limit when and how your child uses the phone, blocking certain types of Internet sites or shutting off calls late at night. This phone offers a slide up QWERTY keyboard for easier phone typing. The phone has many features older kids appreciate. Reviews on Wireless Zone indicate that this is a great phone for young adults, including comments like "not fragile", "can block Internet" and "love the size."
- Camera that is 2.0 megapixels
- MicroSD card slot
- Retail is $249.99, but phone is cheaper with a contract
Kids who are middle school age and up will benefit from an iPhone 4S. The 4s has features, such as a built-in calculator, alarm, and calendar that you can sync among family members. The biggest advantage of the iPhone, however, is the ability to download apps to help with things like grammar, science, daily subject-specific prompts and even foreign language classes. If you want to limit your older child's usage, there is an app for that as well. If you want to track where everyone in the family is, you can install apps like Life 360 and get a GPS update on where your child is and where he has been recently. Reviews on CNET rate this phone 4.75 out of 5 stars. The phone also scores 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with one user saying, "Siri is the most amazing thing that ever existed on a mobile device." Teens will love asking Siri questions and having the artificial intelligence response.
- Available through multiple providers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon)
- 8.0 Megapixel camera
- Syncs with other Apple products
- Retail: From $99 with contract
Family Plans Versus No Contract Option
You may already be on a family mobile plan and can simply add a telephone for your child to your contract. However, if you do not have a family plan, or you are maxed out on the number of devices you can add, a no-contract option might be the best alternative for your child.
Straight Talk (Walmart) offers a $45/month option that includes unlimited data, text and talk. There are several Straight Talk phones that you can purchase for use with this plan, and the phones available can vary, depending on your zip code. For a complete selection, visit your local Walmart or shop online (input your zip code first). Some available models include iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy. You will have to purchase the phone outright, but you won't be locked into a long-term contract.
Cricket Wireless also offers a month-to-month plan for $35/month for talk and unlimited text. As with Straight Talk, the phones vary by where you live, but a few of the models available include Samsung Galaxy III and the iPhone 4S.
Staying in Touch
The peace of mind that comes from knowing you can reach your child at the push of a button, and he can reach you or another trusted adult in an emergency, is one of the main reasons parents buy their children cell phones. No matter where you stand on the issue of when a child should get his first cell phone, knowing what options are available can help you make an informed decision about which phone is right for your child. Your service provider is an invaluable resource about which of these phones works best with individual plans.