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Shopping for your child's first phone has evolved into a rite of passage. While giving kids a phone allows you to communicate with them when you're apart, it also opens them up to a world of technology and responsibility that can present certain challenges. Plus, smartphones and service plans tend to add to your household expenses. When it's time to find the best phone for children, you'll need to compare the total costs including service plans to make sure you're getting the best deal.

Consider Why They Need a Phone

If you ask your child why they need a phone, chances are that their answers will be very different from yours. While kids want to connect with friends or play games, parents often provide a phone for communication purposes, especially in the event of an emergency. Other times, health or medical issues are a concern and increase the need for parent-child contact throughout the day. Cellphones have both pros and cons; handling the responsibility of these expensive devices can be challenging, especially for younger kids.

Determine if Your Child Is Truly Ready for a Phone

The decision to give your child a phone can be highly subjective and not necessarily dependent on their chronological age. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. If you're not sure if your child is ready for a phone, check out Common Sense Media's tips for Cellphone Parenting. Take into account your child's age, but also their overall maturity level and their actual need for a phone at this point in their lives.

If you believe your child isn't ready for data access, there are other options available. Starter phones like the Nokia 3310 3G offer basic voice and text capabilities which may serve the purpose for tweens and younger teens. If you decide to purchase a smartphone for your older child, be prepared to set ground rules and teach them how to stay safe online.

Top Phone Features to Look For

Smartphones can be expensive and chances are you'll want your kids to benefit from your investment for several years or more. Rather than purchasing an inexpensive phone, it may make sense to consider the additional benefits and capabilities you'll receive from a range of brands and models.

  • Durability: Kids are notorious for dropping phones and cracking screens, so you'll want to ask about durability. At the very least, consider investing in a quality case and screen protector to prevent accidental damage.
  • Compatibility: Older phones may be cheaper, but they may also have limited usage. You may not want to spend money on a phone that doesn't allow your kids to use the latest apps and features.
  • Parental Controls: When phone-shopping, don't forget to ask about parental control capabilities. Linking your child's phone into a family plan may allow you more control as a parent to block purchases and downloads.

Teaching Kids about Responsibility

Cellphones can be used to teach kids about budgeting and financial responsibility. By limiting certain aspects of their phone, like money to spend on music or apps, or overall data usage, kids learn to prioritize their dollars and time spent surfing the internet. Talk to your kids about the costs of a phone and draw comparisons to other items they wish to spend money on, like video games or going out to movies with friends. Discussing the monthly costs and the time it takes to pay off a phone can also help them understand the total expenses associated with voice and data access.

Although your kids may want a high-tech device as soon as possible, it's a good idea to shop around when finding the best phone for children. Different carriers will offer specials such as favorable payment terms or service upgrades. Don't forget to budget for the extra costs of adding your child to your phone plan.


This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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