Feeling anxious about purchasing your child their first cell phone?
Take a deep breath, sit down, and read this guide we put together so you can skip a few panic attacks. You’re welcome.
Should I get a smartphone or a basic phone for my child?
The main difference between a smartphone and a basic phone is access to the internet. Go for a basic phone (often called a “texting” phone but yeah, it’s a flip phone) if you want to cut out internet completely.
You’ll also get to enjoy a cheaper data-free service plan!
What features should I look for in a phone?
Durability: Show me a kid who has never broken their phone, and I’ll show you a unicorn. If you’re on Verizon, the Samsung Convoy 43 (basic, $60) is a rugged military spec phone that’s also water-resistant.
Smartphones tend to be more fragile due to the glass screen, but skip the monthly insurance fee and spring for a serious phone cover (Otterbox, $40).
Functionality: Ask your child what’s important to them so you aren’t paying for features they’ll never use. The Blu Tank 4 ($60) has external speakers for its built-in MP3 and FM radio player.
The ZTE Z432 (basic, $50) has a full keyboard for your little texting machine, and the BLU R1 HD (entry-level smartphone) has every feature your child could want including wi-fi, but is more easily replaceable at $79.
Parental controls: You can set limited Restrictions on most phones, but you’ll actually get the most control using parental control apps! We’ll dive deeper into that in just a sec, because really, parental controls are all that truly matter, amiright?
Can I cut out internet access completely?
Yes. Go for a basic phone, and opt out of the data plan. Basic talk or text-only phone watches are also a cool option.
Notice this phone doesn’t have Chrome or Safari at all. A teen can download apps (with parental approval) when there’s wi-fi access, but they cannot access any web browsers.
What about phone watches?
Don’t want your kid scrolling on their smartphone all day?
Try a basic phone wristwatch like the LG GizmoPal, which offers two-way calling for up to four numbers and GPS tracking for $60.
Which cell phone has the longest battery life?
The BLU R2 PLUS has up to two days of usage time and 30 days of standby time, and retails for $109.
I bought a phone and my kid is reaching for it — now what do I do?
You should panic a little. Just kidding.
Check for pre-installed apps, and add parental controls (if you want) before handing it over to your child.
How can I teach my child smartphone responsibility?
Parents can enroll their middle schoolers in a Cyber Civics class before handing over a smartphone. The program claims to turn new device users into “ethical, confident, and empowered digital citizens.”
Some parents print a phone contract for their child to sign beforehand. Contracts communicate clear expectations and boundaries, and discuss consequences for poor use.
Check out Pinterest for some printable contracts!
What are the best apps for parental control?
Before purchasing a parental control app, be sure to check which operating system it’ll work on: either Android or iOS. These two have awesome controls, with a decent price:
Norton Family Premier (for iOS or Android), $49.99/year:
- What you’ll love: It’s easy to install and create profiles for different kids so you can restrict usage according to user. The GPS location system can’t be beat, and you can actually block certain apps from the phone entirely.
- What you’ll miss: You can’t block certain contacts, and you can’t add time limits to certain apps.
- You might be on the fence about: Being able to read all of your child’s text messages. Maybe you’ll love this, but some parents feel mixed about it.
ESET (Android), $29.99/year:
- What you’ll love: Inputting your child’s age and getting automatically configured settings for them. It’s also easy to set time limits for your child’s phone use.
- What you’ll miss: You won’t get a log of your child’s location.
- You might be on the fence about: If you’re set on using the location services, these aren’t the most robust. For example, if your child turns off the phone, the location services won’t work.
Can I see where my child is located in real time?
Yes. Most parental control apps have real-time location tracking (if the phone is equipped with GPS).
Some, like Norton Family Premier, will provide you with a location log from your child’s day so you can see where they were during lunch or when they were supposed to be at soccer practice.
Can I get an alert when my child leaves a certain area?
Yes. Most parental control apps come with geofencing.
If your child’s phone is equipped with GPS, and you set a geofencing boundary on your parental control app, you’ll be alerted when your child crosses the line.
Can my child un-install the parental controls?
The short answer is no.
The app runs on your phone, so unless your child has access to your phone, they cannot change the settings.