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My 9-year-old daughter has been campaigning for a cell phone for over a year now. After much discussion with my husband, we finally gave our tween her first cell phone. We considered many factors before taking this leap, including if she was ready for the responsibility and which cell phone plans could give us (her) unlimited talk, text and data/web. It’s a big decision because I’d have to come to terms that my little girl is growing up. (Sniff)
Is Your Tween Ready For a Cell Phone?
Every tween is different and each family’s needs are different. Here’s what we considered to decide if our tween was ready for her first cell phone:
- Is there a true need for a cell phone? In our case, the answer is “Yes.” She has a 45 minute bus ride to and from school, and her bus is prone to breaking down. Knowing I could call or text her if her bus ran late made me feel better.
- What is your child’s school policy about cell phones? My daughter’s school allows students to have cell phone but they must be turned off during school hours. My tween and I discussed the rules and what the consequences were if she broke them.
- How responsible is your child? This is perhaps the toughest question to answer. For a 9-year-old, my daughter is fairly responsible. But she’s also only 9. She misplaces things, forgets what she’s supposed to be doing, and gets distracted. There’s a bit of trust involved here and we felt she could handle the responsibilities. Signing a parent-child cell phone agreement is also helpful. (Keep reading for details.)
- What are the costs involved? Not only will you need to purchase a cell phone, there’s the monthly service plan to consider. Will you add their phone to your current plan or buy a new one? What happens if your tween loses or breaks the phone?
- Smart phone or not? It’s tougher to find phones whose only function is making a phone call. Smart phones are so inexpensive now and will make it easier for kids to text, listen to music or watch movies. However, access to text and data/web means more responsibility and parental guidance.
My husband and I wanted Sophia to have a cell phone for safety reasons and our peace of mine. Next was to figure out what phone and which service plan.
Buying Your Tween’s First Cell Phone & Service
We were more concerned about monthly service cost than the cost of the phone. We’re under contract with our currently company and adding another line would extend our contract agreement. Instead I researched no-contract services and settled on Walmart Family Mobile (powered by T-Mobile). The price was just right for our family budget: at only $29.88/month(for the first line) unlimited talk, text and data, the service plan includes up to 500MB of 4G LTE data. That is significantly less than what my husband and I pay for our phone’s plans–in fact we’re thinking of switching once our contract ends this fall.
Since getting your first cell phone is such a big step, I took Sophia to Walmart to get everything set up. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Samsung smart phones, so we picked out the Samsung Galaxy Avant, which is light and a good size for her small hands. Even better, Walmart has the Avant for the Rollback prince of $149.99 (originally $199.99). That’s a great price for a smart phone made by a top-notch brand. You’ll also need to purchase a starter kit for $25.
I asked local Walmart employee to activate the phone for me, but you can also activate it at home via the website. I’ve done it both ways. Having an employee activate it for me was the quickest and most painless way. I kind of wish I’d tried that option before! Since we’re in the DC metro area, he even gave me area code options for the new phone number.
The entire purchase and activation process took less than 10 minutes.
Discuss & Sign a Child-Parent Cell Phone Agreement
Before handing over the Samsung Galaxy Avant, Sophia and I discussed (again) her responsibilities and expectations as a cell phone owner. Here are some basic things we agreed upon:
- She is only allowed to call and text the people her approved list.
- The cell phone is not allowed in her bedroom and must be charged at our charging station in my home office.
- She must ask permission before taking photos/videos of anyone.
- She will not take photos of naked people or people in the bathroom (including those of herself).
- If she loses the phone, she will have to pay for a replacement
- Her parents are allowed to view all texts, photos and videos on her phone.
- I must approve any apps or games she wants downloaded on her phone.
There’s a few more things in our agreement. I adapted the family cell phone contract from Cyberbullying and created a free printable that you can use with your tween too. Download your free parent-child cell phone agreement.
Don’t forget to give your child a quick tutorial on phone etiquette and how to use the phone!
As you can see, Sophia’s pretty happy about her first cell phone. In fact, her first text was to me!
How old was your child when they received their first cell phone?
Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/aafid or your local Walmart for current pricing.