three girls chatting with their smartphones

With the advent of the modern age, the rights of passage for the American teenager are evolving. Milestones include first cars and jobs and now, cell phones. A cell phone is both a much-coveted status symbol and a valuable tool for parents to keep track of their children. In making the decision to purchase a phone for a teenager it is important to take a few things into consideration.

What exactly are your child’s needs when it comes to a cell phone? What ground rules are you going to establish? How much technology do they really need in the palm of their hand?teens with cell phone

Cell phone companies are all buying for your dollars with deals and sales on a regular basis designed to lure you in. You could easily take advantage of some of these offers and get a very good phone, such as a Blackberry Curve for next to nothing. Most companies also offer a basic cell-phone of some sort for free with a new line of service. Along with this there are service plans that are fairly inexpensive. If choosing a smart phone, you will find the phone does more and also requires more to function. Smart phones often have GPS and Internet access and require more expensive plans to enable all of these features to work. Newer phones can also have built in MP3 players with the ability to access and download tracks directly to the phone. Keep that in mind or you may discover a rather hefty bill at the end of the month from downloaded ring-tones and the complete discography of your child’s favorite pop star.

Speak with your provider, often there are deals on extra lines and family plans that will allow you to add your child to your own plan, with their own phone for a relatively low fee. Many providers now offer free mobile to mobile calls, or free calls to any phone on a shared plan. You may also be eligible for special rates depending on your history with the company. My family has been with Sprint for more than ten years and my parents get all sorts of “perks” for being long-term customers.

You may also consider a pre-paid phone if the phone is only going to be used for emergencies or for you to check on your child’s whereabouts. Many companies offer phones designed for teenagers with special features to make you, the parent, much more at ease. Just like you can monitor what your child does or does not access on the internet and on television you can limit what they can do with their cell phone. Keep in mind that smart phones such as iPhone and Blackberry are really sophisticated miniature computers capable of accessing the Internet. This provides another access point for your child to view things you may find questionable. Some phones even allow you to track the whereabouts of your child via special applications.

Cell phones are expensive and should be treated with care. Keep this in mind when purchasing a phone. Consider your child’s first phone being something simple and durable, such as a basic flip with talk and text features. Perhaps consider a hand-me-down when you receive an upgrade. While every teenager wants the newest thing out there, consider an older or simpler phone as a test-run to see how your child handles the responsibility. More sophisticated phones are also more delicate and more expensive to replace or repair. Also consider who will pay the monthly fees. If your child is old enough to work or receives an allowance this can be a valuable way to teach them the responsibility of paying bills. Also, if they have to work for their phone, it will help them appreciate it more and take better care of it.

It is also wise to establish ground rules and parameters for the use of the phone and to reinforce them.

While there is much to consider, fortunately, cell phone technology has developed to a level where it is easily affordable for many families on some level. With a little savvy shopping and some careful planning, a phone can be a wonderful asset in teaching your children and keeping them safe.


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