Authored by Phil Dotree in Gadgets
Published on 10-13-2009
Many parents consider buying their kids cell phones, both for safety and convenience reasons, but many don’t know what type of phone to buy. Some parents opt to start kids off with prepaid cell phone plans. This can be a great idea, especially for younger kids who may not be responsible enough to handle a normal cell phone plan. Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of prepaid cell phones for kids.
The most important advantage to buying a prepaid cellphone for a kid is that a parent doesn’t need to worry about a hefty bill at the end of each month. Prepaid plans are, pretty much by definition, great for fiscal planning. Parents can control the amount of time and money that their children spend on cell phones fairly easily. Most prepaid cell phone plans don’t have an expiration date (or have a very far-off expiration), so minutes that aren’t used each month simply go over to the next month. And while prepaid cell phones may actually end up costing more per minute than a standard plan, you’re under no obligation to put more money into them if your budget gets tighter. With a standard plan, you’re often locked into an agreement for a year or two years.
A cell phone can provide security for a child, as even if the minutes are used up on a prepaid cell phone plan emergency numbers will still function. Phones can be used by kids to contact parents at any time in the event of an emergency. On the same token, prepaid cell phones generally don’t cost as much as standard phones for the actual hardware. If a child loses one, it’s not as big of a deal. Plans don’t need to be canceled – a new phone simply needs to be bought (though you’ll lose any minutes stored on the lost phone).
Prepaid cellphones can also teach children the basics of budgeting. Parents should buy children a low number of minutes on a prepaid cell phone plan and resist the urge to up the number of minutes each month. Alternately, a parent might only increase a child’s prepaid minutes if the child doesn’t completely use up the minutes on a monthly basis. Finding some type of budget that parents and kids can agree on will build up a child’s budgeting skills, making it easier to handle money later on in life. Explain the prepaid cell phone plan to the child as a type of “allowance.”
There are some negatives to buying your child a prepaid cell phone. As mentioned before, the minutes are often more expensive than they’d be in a standard plan. There are no additional benefits like free nights and weekends, which may be common with other plans. If your child uses the new prepaid cell phone quite a bit, the extra charges can really add up.
Still, a prepaid cell phone plan is a great way to introduce a child to mobile phones. It builds respect for the phone as a tool and budgeting, and parents should consider the devices for young kids.