Considering buying your child a phone? Wondering which are the best phones for kids? There are so many mobile phones to choose from, but which are really the best for children, and how can you be sure that what you get doesn’t end up costing you a fortune! Here’s some tips to consider when choosing a mobile phone for your child.
Agree Phone Guidelines
First things first – it’s worth deciding on family phone guidelines, and getting your child to agree to them, before you ever even buy your child a phone. Here are some points to consider when developing your phone guidelines
1. Phone Usage
- Agree on where and when they can use their mobile phones
- There should be no phones at mealtime(make sure you also comply!)
- Phones should not be used in school.
- Don’t let them take their phones to bed at night – leave all phones in common areas.
- They must answer the phone if Mom or Dad is calling.
- They should not answer any calls from numbers they do not recognise.
You might also find this useful – Tips on Cyber-bullying for Young People
2. Appropriate Language
Outline what is appropriate language when they are calling and texting – being respectful.
Explain that they should only write things that they would not mind being made public (and even if their text is intended to be private, information can be leaked, so trust no one!)
3. Camera Usage
Define rules around camera usage including asking permission before taking photos and before forwarding photos. Ensure that they never take and send on images that might embarrass people.
4. Data Usage
If choosing a smartphone for your child, ensure they comply with your data usage guidelines.
- Explain that apps, music and in-app purchases cost real money.
- They should ensure their data usage is on wi-fi primarily rather than 3G.
5. Features to Turn Off
- Ensure GPS is switched off for children – GPS allows for phone’s location to be determined by anyone.
- Bluetooth – Switch off bluetooth on your child’s phone to prevent unsolicited connection by any nearby devices. Advise teens to never accept messages from strangers, if they have bluetooth enabled (wireless music speakers often employ bluetooth connection).
6. Maintain Open Communications
The most important part of trusting your child with their phone, is maintaining open communication with them over it’s usage. Encourage them to talk about their phone usage with you – we like how TECHMAMA covers active communication in their article Choosing First Phone for Kids, where they talk about a “discuss anything” policy.
Set Up Parental Controls
For peace of mind, you should set up parental controls on your child’s phone. MobileMinder lets parents set up controls on up to 5 devices, which will allow you to block unsuitable apps, see where your child is 24/7, view their photo gallery, web history and app usage, and lots more too.
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Types of Phones
There are 2 types of phones on the market
1. Basic Feature Phone
- Cheaper to buy.
- Suitable for making calls and sending and receiving texts.
- Phones don’t typically allow internet access either on 3G/WiFi.
- May or may not have camera(depending on model).
- More suited to younger kids
- More expensive to buy.
- Include a colour touchscreen.
- Internet Access.
- Options to play games.
- Better suited to older kids/teenagers.
It can be overwhelming trying to figure out which phone specifications are really important, when choosing a mobile phone. This article, Phone Specs: Which ones are actually worth paying attention to, from thejournal.ie can help you understand the various specifications available across the different phones.
If you have an older handset lying around the house, just buy a new SIM card and let your child use that.
If you are buying a handset, then it’s probably best not to pick the latest smartphone for your child, as about 40% of mobile phone thefts occur for under 21s. Ideally you should buy the cheapest, oldest handset – one that will not appeal to thieves.
Most of the phone manufacturers will have entry level basic phones that will allow calls, texting and radio, which should be sufficient for younger children, and also cheap enough to replace, should they get lost.
Which Payment Plan?
There are 2 types of payment plans available
1. Pay As You Go – pay in advance for usage.
- Prevents high bills.
- Ideal for younger children and first-time phoners.
- Calls can be more expensive than contract, so investigate the various monthly Pay As You Go options.
- If the phone is stolen, limited call credit will ensure thieves can’t rack up large bills on your account! Once credit used up, calls and texts can no longer be made.
- Credit can be easily topped up online.
2. Contracts – sign up to monthly payments for a contracted time
- Call, data usage and text costs are usually lower on a monthly contract.
- You can add your child to your monthly tariff, so can see who they call on a monthly basis.
- It can be easy for your child to incur large bill costs if calling abroad, texting premium numbers, or high 3G data usage (using data when on the go).
Over to you! Any more tips to add? Let us know in the comments below.