Children and parents both live busy lives these days, and many parents choose to give their children cell phones so that they can always be in touch. In an emergency, a cell phone can be a lifeline between parents and children. Cell phones can also serve as a tool for teaching children about responsibility and the value of money. Check out the plans below to find the best cell phone plans for kids.
While important to many families, cell phones can be a costly investment, so choosing the right phone and data plan is key. Here is a guide that will help parents find the phone plan that suits their family's needs while not breaking the bank.
Essential Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Plan
Most kids will want the latest—and often most expensive—smartphone on the market. Before rushing to the store to buy the next big thing, there are several important questions parents should ask.
What will the phone be used for? While young children only need a way of contacting their parents in an emergency, teenagers will want to be able to text and use social networking apps. Many teens will use high amounts of data when using apps and browsing the web, which can get costly in the long run.
What features must the phone have? Young children simply don’t need smartphones, and it’s unlikely that they’ll care about having the latest and greatest device. For older children, a smartphone may be appropriate for their web-browsing and app-using needs. Many teachers are now using smartphone apps to communicate with students and for posting homework assignments.
Who will pay for the cell phone plan? Teens can learn the value of money by paying for their own prepaid cell phone plan. For parents paying for a prepaid plan, the main advantage is no bill shock at the end of the month, and the phones are relatively inexpensive to replace if the child breaks or damages the phone.
What happens if the cell phone plan doesn’t suit the family's needs? Find out what a carrier’s policies are for switching or canceling a data plan. Plans without fixed terms are often more budget-friendly, and customers have flexibility without the extra fees.
What happens if a child exceeds his or her limit on a post-paid plan? Typically, individual post-paid plans are not recommended for children and teenagers since it’s easy to run up additional charges on the account. If choosing this option, be sure to compare data costs among different characters. Families can also choose an unlimited plan.
Family Cell Phone Plans
If there are multiple family members who use a cell phone, a family or mobile share plan may be the right choice. These plans often help parents limit their children’s cell phone use by putting specific caps on data usage. Often, it’s easier to add a child to an existing cell phone plan than to switch carriers entirely or manage a prepaid plan. Many popular carriers have introduced changes to their shared plans, which are outlined below.
Verizon: In the summer of 2015, Verizon simplified their phone plans, adding a flat access fee for all phones, regardless of the amount of data you purchase. The company has ended contracts entirely, and offers shareable data in small, medium, large, and extra-large plans. Families are able to choose the data plan that is right for them using this shopper-friendly tier system.
T-Mobile: Families who use a large amount of data may benefit from T-Mobile’s 10GB Family Plan. The plan starts with just two phone lines, making it easy to set up. If a teen tends to rack up data bills through app usage or surfing the web, this plan may be the best option.
Sprint: The All-In Plan from Sprint allows customers to purchase a smartphone with no money down, and then charges a flat fee for unlimited data, text, and voice minutes. This plan is limited to a small selection of smartphones, so the phone that best suits a family's particular budget may not be on the list.
AT&T: AT&T recently introduced its Next plan, enabling buyers to choose the latest smartphone and only pay the sales tax up front. Qualified buyers can receive monthly installment payments that are added to their phone bill. AT&T also offers unlimited talk and text plans with rollover data, which can be a great option for families who use data heavily.
Many families choose not to be locked into a long-term contract or monthly installment fees for cell phones. Prepaid plans are great for teens and kids, as parents can control the amount of data that is loaded onto the phone. For prepaid cell phone plans, monthly plans start around $10 a month, and go up to top-tier unlimited plans.
Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and RingPlus are popular prepaid brands with competitive pricing. These carriers do not offer contracts, allowing customers to have a truly flexible cell phone plan. Another advantage to using prepaid plans is that they often allow customers to use an old phone, so they don’t have to shell out money for their kid’s new cell phone.
After selecting the right phone and data plan for their child, there are a few things parents should remember before purchasing a phone or signing a contract.
A child must be 18 before he or she can sign a contract, so most of the time, cell phone contracts will be in a parent's name. Legally, missed payments and large bills will be in the parent's name if he or she chooses a post-paid plan.
Be aware that premium content (ringtones, games, promotional texts) is charged at a much higher rate than standard texts or downloads. Monitor a child's content usage in order to prevent surprise bills.
Apps that run in the background or have automatic notifications enabled use up data and phone battery life. Teach children to close apps when not in use, or disable automatic notifications through the phone’s “Settings” area.
While there are countless options for cell phones on the market today, parents will be able to find the perfect cell phone for their children and budget by doing their homework.
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