If you’ve decided that your child truly needs a phone (here’s how to decide), realize that there are phones, and then there are smartphones—with text messaging and web browsing and enough technology to launch a rocket for NASA. Just because your child needs to be able to reach you after school doesn’t mean that he needs the latest and greatest—or that you’ll want to pay the bill. Here are some things to consider:
For younger children who simply need basic calling capability, a very simple and low-cost phone will do. Don’t be dazzled by the touchscreens, bells and whistles of full-featured phones, because with all those features comes the ability to access more media (one more thing to monitor or filter) and communicate with more people in more ways.
Even for older kids and teens, you should think long and hard about smartphones with Internet access for similar reasons. While your child may argue for it, is it a want or a need? If you do decide to go with a smartphone, there are parental monitoring programs available. Take a look at Net Nanny Mobile, which allows you to monitor, cap, and filter your child’s phone usage, and see their Internet destinations from your own computer!
There are two main considerations when choosing a plan for your child: pricing and features/parental controls.
- Many families have gone with the popular “unlimited” calling and texting plans to eliminate overage charges. But do you want to encourage “unlimited” use? Studies show that kids on unlimited plans text and phone more than kids on limited plans.
Even if you go with an unlimited plan, ask your carrier if you can still limit the number of minutes or messages used. Another good option is a pre-paid plan.
- We at iMOM highly recommend that you put off giving your child a cell phone with Internet access as long as you can. Basically, a smartphone can be used as a distracting and addictive toy, and it opens the doorway to a hazardous world via the Internet.
- Ask your carrier about other parental controls which may be available. If what your carrier offers isn’t sufficient to keep your children within the boundaries you desire, you can add one of the third-party monitoring software systems (like the previously mentioned Phone Sheriff), but it is an additional expense.
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