A Complete Guide on Managing First Smartphones for Children

For parents, adding a first smartphone to their children’s school supplies isn’t as easy as giving them erasers and pencils. Many kids need to walk home or take a bus from school by themselves, so parents would buy them a smartphone. Giving smartphones to children may seem to address a few concerns felt by parents, but these devices can also bring countless new problems. Fortunately, there are many methods and advices family members can use to ease the transition.smartphone for kid

Major carriers are always eager to help parents provide communication solutions to the younger members of the family. T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T subscribers can get monitoring tools from Safely, which include apps like Drive Safe, Safely Go, Family Locator and Phone Controls.

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With AT&T, parents can choose mobile safety solutions separated into different age groups. As an example, for 8 to 10 years old age group, parents can subscribe to the Smart Controls services ($4.99 per month), which allows them to block text messages and voice calls from specific numbers. They can also set limits on in-app purchases, data usages, voice call minutes and text messages. Another popular service across major carriers is the Family Locator ($10 per month), which allows parents to obtain a map-based interface to quickly locate their family members. The service requires each handset equipped with GPS capability. While at work, parents can check the map at 2PM to ensure that their children are already at home. They can get an alert if children are not at a specific place at certain time of the day.

AT&T offers these services on Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Android and even, feature phones. iPhone users can open the Safari web browser to access these services. Subscribers of Verizon Wireless can also get the Family Locator service at the same monthly price, but it only works on Android smartphones. The SafelyGo app is currently available for free and users can download it immediately at the Google Play store. Subscribers can send text messages and answer class when they drive. The Drive Safe app is also available to block incoming texts and calls while subscribers are driving.

Parents can also use the Phone Controls app to disable children’s smartphones at certain times of the day, such as when they should be sleeping or at school hours. Sprint also published instructional videos on how parents can monitor children’s smartphone from a dashboard. They can view apps used, phone numbers received and called, number of text messages sent. They even have the ability to block the phone from calling or sending texts messages by using the dashboard. This helps their children use the communication tools with responsibility. While this is an impressive feature to have, some parents are still questioning real values of children monitoring applications and services. Regardless of whether these services are useful or not, parents should make sure that they can accurately locate their children’s location.

First smartphones and parenting

A study shows that many children receive their first phone at 12 and most of kids agree that parents should set rules on how they use the phone. However, not all parents actually do this and some of them even don’t talk to children about how to use phone efficiently and safely.
Smartphones may cause children to be bullied via calls and text messages. Many of them may also receive sexually explicit content from friends. Controlling how children use their phones is a part of 21st century parenting. Parents should give their children a tour on smartphone usages and show them things to avoid or they should do.

Some parents are unsure how they should control their children’s smartphone usages. For this purpose, parents can create a “mobile phone contract” and have their children sign it. Basically, the contract should say that the smartphone is a privilege and if children are incapable making acceptable decisions with their smartphone, they will resort to string and tin cans.

Unfortunately, children would easily find ways to circumvent rules set by parents. They may deliberately leave the phone at home or turn it off to avoid parents from finding their location. Consequently, the contract should say that children need to keep their devices turned on at specific times of the day. Older teenagers, especially those above 15 can get a fair amount of supervision. Some parents stop supervising their children’s phone usage at 18, although in some cases, young adults still make bad judgments until they graduate from colleges.

Choosing proper plans

A very affordable month-to-month prepaid contract is the way to go in many cases. Most parents start out their children on prepaid plans that include a specific allotment of minutes. Other children start out with mobile phone through a postpaid family plan. Some plans allow subscribers to upgrade their smartphones and pass older devices to other family member. In this case, kids may get used, but still fully capable smartphones from their parents, like the iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy SII.

It’s also interesting to note that according to studies, not all children are interested with high-end devices such as Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5. They are becoming disenchanted with expensive, high-end smartphones thinking that these devices are more appropriate for adults.
For basic services, prepaid plans may start from $10 per month with talk and text only support. Older teenagers typically want a data plan to access social networking services and web browsing. Since some children still can’t prove themselves responsible enough to handle a data plan, parents should avoid purchasing unlimited data plans. Some plans provide less than 250MB of data per month, which is ideal for casual Internet access. It may not be necessary to give children high-speed 4G LTE access, which is typically more expensive than standard HSPA access.
Parents who prefer to get family plans may consider using the T-Mobile Family plan, which is available for $90 per month with three lines. Each additional line costs $10 per month. Family members will each get unlimited talk time, text messages and web browsing. They can access reasonably fast HSPA data connection, but when each reaches 500MB of data, speed is throttled to a specific data rate.

With Verizon Wireless, consumers may consider subscribing to the Share Everything plan, with $30 per month for feature phones, $10 for tablets and $40 for smartphones. Unlike T-Mobile’s plan, Verizon only provides a bucket of data at 500MB per month that all lines will be sipping from.

AT&T offers the Mobile Share plan, which is quite similar to Verizon’s Share Everything. However, subscribers will get reduced cost per each device the more data they buy. For $185 per month, three smartphone lines share 2GB of data and all get unlimited talk time and text messages. With Sprint, households can add up to ten lines to the Unlimited, My Way plan. The first line costs $50 per month, $40 for the second, $30 for the third and the remaining six lines costs $20 per month. Each line can get 1GB of data per month after paying an additional fee of $20 per month. Unlimited data is available for $30 per month for each line.

In any case, parents should be aware about overage charges before proceeding. Most prepaid service will stop providing services when certain limit is reached, but others tack on expensive fees.

Additional advices

One good rule of thumb is to give children with simpler smartphones. Huge 5-inch or larger phablets won’t fare well on a football field or in a backpack filled with books. Most device manufacturers offer entry-level smartphones with 3.5-inch display or smaller. Since phones get broken, parents may invest on protective case.

It’s also important to consider certain safety risks that may affect children with smartphone. Criminals may attempt to pose as people they are not. They may try to gain critical information from children for illicit activities. When parents hand their children a new brand new smartphone, they may eventually use the device in ways parent wouldn’t think of. However, parents may also find new methods to counter that. As an example, parents may charge all smartphones in their room at night, so children won’t watch YouTube videos or send text messages in bed. Parents should also explain how video streaming works and why it can be a very expensive online activity. This should be a real learning process for the whole family to prepare them for what’s to come, such as first cars for older teenagers.

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