Once the domain of legal adults with paying jobs and busy schedules, mobile phones are becoming a necessity for school-aged kids as well. While they might use them most for chatting with friends on Facebook, the security of knowing that they can always reach you - or vice versa - is priceless.
If you've made the decision to let your child have their own phone, you'll now need to figure out which provider and plan best meet your kiddo's needs. We’ve come up with some tips for finding child and wallet-friendly mobile plans, including a few suggestions to help you narrow it all down.
Questions to ask before deciding on a plan
Before you go rushing out to buy the latest and most expensive smartphone on a top tier plan, there are several things you need to consider.
- What will they be using it for?
Younger children will just need a way of contacting parents in an emergency, but older kids will want data to keep in touch with friends online.
- Who will be paying for it?
Prepaid plans can help teach teens the value of money if they pay for it themselves. The biggest benefit of prepaid is no nasty bill shock at the end of the month, so it’s perfect for youngsters learning how to budget, or parents wanting to avoid bill-related heart attacks.
- Can you change your mind later?
Unless you buy a new phone on a contract, most phone plans are on monthly contracts and let you leave any time you like. Switching is easy to do, and you can always take your number with you.
- What charges apply if your child exceeds their cap?
Before you let them loose with a shiny new phone, make sure you understand what charges might be involved if they exceed their limits.
Our recommendation is a prepaid plan with unlimited calls and SMS; that way your kids will always be able to call home, regardless of how much they have used their phone to call and message other people.
If you're concerned about expense, don't panic! As you can see below, there are now many affordable options available: with unlimited national calls, an endless supply of texts, and reasonable data inclusions (or none at all).
Things to remember before you decide
- Your child must be 18 before they can sign a contract, so chances are the phone will be in your name. That means that large bills and missed payments are legally your responsibility: so be careful if you decide on a post-paid plan.
- Be wary of premium SMS services, such as voting for TV shows or entering competitions: they’re charged at a much higher rate than standard texts, and are usually not covered by plan inclusions.
- Although voicemail won't be as popular with kids as texting is, some of them may use it. Depending on plan inclusions, checking voicemail could come out of the monthly cap, so make sure you're aware of the costs before you allow your child to use it.
- For smartphones running applications such as games, be aware that allowing apps to run in the background or enabling automatic notifications for things such as Facebook or email uses up both data and battery life.
For other advice on how to avoid excessive monthly charges, check out our guide to preventing bill shock.
Boy on phone image via Shutterstock