A couple of weeks ago my son turned 12 and my husband and I decided that is was time to get him his own cell phone.  He had been asking for a phone since, well, I got my first cell phone back when he was 2 years old.  And to put him off  we told him there was no way he was getting a cell phone before 13.  I am a work-at-home mom and quite honestly he is never any place where he is either not near a land line he can use or near me who has a cell phone.

So why did we change our minds when he turned 12?  Well what we didn’t know, as he’s our first, is that 12 year old boys suddenly become very independent and are wanting to roam around the neighborhood from house to house with their friends.  Not wanting to stifle his freedom thus creating the grown man who won’t move out of our house, we decided rather than making him stop and call us every time he changed locations, it would be better to have a cell phone. (And we had finally convinced him that there was no way he was getting a phone before 13 thus making it a perfect birthday surprise.  AND have you every shopped for a 12 year old boy?  They’re impossible to please, almost as hard as shopping for 12 year old girls.)

Cell Phone for Kids:  The Options

Now in my usual fashion, aka not an impulse buyer, I decided to do some research concerning which cell phone would be the best.  I came up with three options.

  1. Buy a phone from my existing carrier and add him to our family plan.
  2. Buy a go phone.
  3. Buy a phone from Kajeet (as recommended to my by @akamonty who wrote Eating My Words on The Daily Bitch about Kajeet back in 2007)

Adding the Boy to the Family Plan

What I found with adding the boy to the family plan was that I could get him a decent phone pretty cheaply (under $30).  To simply add him to my plan I’d have to pay $10 extra a month.  Good right?  But then I asked about the option of limiting his minutes, time on the phone, etc.  That would cost me an extra $5 a month.  That brings the total to $15 extra per month.  Then the sales lady noticed that I did not have unlimited texting on my existing plan.  (My husband and I are not big texters.)  She highly recommended that with (almost) teens that you have the unlimited texting option.  As pretty much everyone on Twitter the night I quizzed my followers about cell phones for kids said that unlimited texting for kids is a must, I had the sales lady price it out.  It added another $20 to our monthly bill making our grand total for adding the boy up to $35 a month.  Also, he would have to sign a two year contract. And we have to pay $36 for an activation fee.

Getting the Boy a Go Phone

People who are interested in Go Phones like the fact that there is no contract locking you in to your phone plan.  However, for us to get unlimited messaging for the boy we would have to pay $60 a month.  End of story.  We stopped looking at the Go Phones at that price.

Getting the Boy a Kajeet Phone

For those of you unfamiliar Kajeet is a phone company that specifically caters to kids.  They offer online parental controls with every phone that includes setting usage times, budgets, and Internet access.  Every phone is allowed phone calls to parents or 911 no matter what times you’ve set for your child.  And all phones come with GPS capabilities.  There is no contract or activation fee, and the payment plans run month to month ranging in price from $5.99 – $50.00.  The phones themselves are more expensive than the others that we had been looking at.  Currently they range from $40 all the way up to $250.  To get a phone comparable the other phones on other plans we were talking about $90.

Cell Phones for Kids:  The Decision

So what did we decide?

We decided upon the Kajeet phone.  We spent the money and get the $90 phone in orange (son is a huge Oklahoma State University Cowboys fan).   We, along with the boy as he is paying for half of the monthly bill, picked the $20 a month plan that gives him unlimited texting and photo-texting with 150 phone minutes.  As we are not paying for an activation fee and the monthly bill is less than other plans we figure we will be making up the cost of the more expensive phone in less than two months.

As you can see

Cell Phones for Kids

the boy is very happy with the result.  And so are we.

**Teaching Kids About Money: Have your child help choose which phone plan they want and have them pay for a portion of their phone bill every month.   Make sure there are clearly defined consequences for not paying on time and for not paying at all.  You will be doing your parenting job well despite the uncomfortable silence you may get the first time they lose their phone privileges as your children will then be more likely to make paying their bills on time a priority as adults.

If you child has a phone, how did you choose what plan to put them on?  Are you happy with your choice?  What would you do differently?

Kelly Kinkaid (1006 Posts)

Kelly Kinkaid enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may contact her via e-mail kellyology(at)gmail(dot)com.

4 Responses to Cell Phones for Kids

  1. Wow. Thanks for researching all the options and spelling it out here. Saves me a lot of time since it won’t be long for us either. Happy Birthday to your boy!

  2. You made a very smart decision! I have a good friend that bought his 16 yo and 13 yo kids smart phones. I’m not sure if kids that age really need smartphones, plus you really can’t limit what they can access on the smart phone.


  3. Abby says:

    Remember when cell phones for kids were easy to pick out and not as expensive? Things have gotten so complicated lately but I don’t want to give in to the craze. I thought about getting them a prepaid TracFone. Anyone heard anything about them?

  4. […] said that our kids had to wait until they were 12 before they could have their own cell phone. We made my son wait until he was 12. And 12 was a good age for my son as he lacked the discipline it would take to not run up the bill […]

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