When my 11-year old son got stranded in the terrible snowstorm we had here in Atlanta a few weeks ago, I decided that he might need an emergency cell phone for kids. While he does have an iPod Touch, I think he needs something else. Any suggestions? -Laurie
As a former Atlantan, I was horrified seeing some of the photos and stories from my friends and old neighbors. I’m so glad your son was okay, Laurie. When emergencies like this happen (hopefully never again! it is smart to think about cell phone options. And really, we get the When is my child ready for a cell phone? question a lot, so your question will surely help lots of other parents too.
Here are a few options for you to consider, including the phone I chose for my own 9-year-old.
Option 1: Prepaid cell phone
There are lots of prepaid cell phones out there that you can purchase, like this affordable Samsung t139 at Best Buy for just $29.99. You don’t sign a contract, and you only pre-pay for a certain amount of minutes so your child can’t go over. The challenge is that you will have to rely on your son always having his phone with him. And at least with my kids, I know that won’t happen if they’re not using it all the time, at least not without lots of reminders. But is a smart option for older tweens and young teens who will be carrying their phone around, and hopefully won’t leave it anywhere.
Option 2: A kid-friendly cell phone
Another possibility is to purchase a cell phone designed just for kids. I’m a big fan of Kajeet, which offers all sorts of cell phones, even smart phones, that are kid-safe. However, like the first option, you do need a child responsible enough to keep track of it at all times. And while it’s safer than a regular cell phone that doesn’t have so many safety features built in, because Kajeet only is on the Android platform, your son won’t have any synchronicity with his iPod Touch. So in your case, it’s essentially another gadget for him to keep up with, and one you’re going to be paying for monthly, on top of your own cell phone contract. But for other kids who are starting from scratch without any iGadgets, this is a terrific option.
Option 3: An iPhone 5C
While I was shopping for a cell phone for my 9-year old, I surprised even myself when I landed on an iPhone 5C. As with kid proofing an iPod Touch, the iPhone 5 C is extremely easy to lock down, which makes it more useful than his Touch so you can potentially retire that and give him a single gadget to keep track of. Plus, it’s super easy for you to move over all his apps, music, and other content without any cost. With the 5C he’ll be able to make calls–although kids aren’t calling anyone, really. That’s just us old folks these days. He can also text, but the contacts can be limited to those you input yourself. And with a kid-safe browser and restrictions heavily set, I’ve found it’s really pretty safe.
The phone was nearly free and to add my daughter onto my account was only $40 a month extra, which turned out to be less than a kid-safe phone. So you can see why I was sold.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you take the time to talk to your son about cell phone usage, boundaries, and general safety, and set up some sort of verbal (or hey, written) agreement as to how the phone will be used. In my house, gadgets are still all owned by me; kids just have the privilege of using them. That means they can be taken away, but also used as a reward when they show responsibility. So far, so good.
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[top photo via angeloangelo on flickr]