Giving a child their first mobile device can be a tough decision: How young is too young? Will a phone be a convenient way to stay in touch or just another distraction at school? Which data plan works best? Will overages wreak havoc on your monthly bill? Honest communication between parents and children should ultimately guide the decision-making process, but if billing uncertainties are a concern, consider going the prepaid route—an ideal way to teach responsibility while also encouraging independence.
With easy-to-monitor data limits and easy-to-understand features, a prepaid handset can give parents peace of mind and so much more.
Here are three key approaches to prepaid options, as well as valuable information about prepaid devices available to you from Verizon.
1. Zeroing in on the best plan
A benefit of many prepaid plans is the option to pay for the amount of data you want and, in some cases, carry the unused portion over to the next month. That’s a valuable perk, given kids do not log much phone time during school hours. On the flip side, an unlimited prepaid option “simplifies the choice for heavy data users,” according to Time. The key is knowing how you want your child to use—and not use—their phone.
Prepaid plans also provide the freedom to switch plans when your family’s needs change—especially helpful as the amount of data your child uses grows.
2. Choosing the proper device
Younger children have little use for all the bells and whistles of a standard smartphone. That’s why PCMag.com recommends the ZTE Cymbal LTE. Editors praise its keypad, “with big, well-defined physical keys that are hard to mispress.” For tweeners and younger teens, low-cost smartphones are strong options. PCMag.com likes the Moto E5 Play, which “runs the latest version of Android and won’t put you out more than a C-note.”
For top-of-the-line functionality at a price that undercuts most top-tier smartphones, USA Today recommends the Google Pixel 2 or the Samsung Galaxy S8, two prepaid options “that will do just fine, and then some.”
3. Teaching personal responsibility
Prepaid plans can help parents set ground rules for acceptable amounts of screentime. Many plans “allow you to cap the number of texts a user can send or receive as well as the number of minutes the cell phone can be used,” explains WebMD. “If a child goes over the designated plan amount, have her pay the extra charges.”
The Harvard Graduate School of Education suggests working through the following questions in advance with your child: Who pays for the phone? Who is held accountable? Who will know the passwords? Who is the phone’s owner? If it is lost or breaks, then what happens? Are there certain times when the phone is allowed and not allowed?
Ultimately, a child who can consider these questions thoughtfully is likely mature enough for their first phone. As for questions and concerns regarding whom your children are talking to and texting and the content they’re viewing online, Verizon offers a number of parental controls. With the right phone, the best plan and the proper precautions, parents and children can feel calm and connected.