How To Choose Your Child’s First Phone

By Tracey Dowdy

Choosing your child’s first phone can seem like a daunting proposition. You may be tempted to walk into the store and look around, perhaps chat with the sales staff and make your decision then. A better idea is to do a little research, narrow down your top choices, and then head to the store.

As you do your research and compare everything from color options to carrier, focus on these primary areas:

Price. Does your eight-year-old have his eye on an iPhone 7 Plus? Better yet, does an eight-year-old need a $749 phone? When selecting the phone, remember you’re not just paying for the hardware. You’ll be paying for a monthly plan as well as potentially covering cost of data, insurance, game and app purchases. That already expensive phone just got even more expensive.

Operating system. The big three operating systems – Windows, iOS, Android – all offer excellent options. But before you buy, consider what platform you and the rest of the family are using. For example, my family all use iPhones, which allow us to share iMessages without using our data plan. No matter which platform you use, it’s a good idea to stick to the same for everyone in your plan, as things like calendars, music, apps, or even parental controls may not be compatible across platforms.

Durability. Let’s face it, that phone is going to get dropped – probably a lot. It’ll get chucked in a backpack that gets dropped on the floor, shoved in a back pocket and sat on, and tossed in a locker. Start with a durable phone. Some are shock proof and water resistant up to six feet – believe me when I say that’s more important than you realize – and invest in a screen protector and a good case like an Otter Box.

Size. Little hands, little phone. It just makes sense. If the phone is too large to grip easily, it will be dropped more often. On the other hand, if the numbers on the key pad or letters on the touch screen are too small, your child will likely be frustrated and not use the phone when they should. This is when it’s a good idea to have your child accompany you and give their input.

Security. Consider whether the phone allows password protection. If it’s a basic phone, it may not be an issue, but if your child is going to store personal information, you’ll want to ensure a level of security. What kind of parental controls are you looking for? iOS has a comprehensive suite of parental controls and Android offers Parental Controls through the Google Play store. Review them and see which best meets your needs. Finally, GPS tracking may not seem like a big issue but it will allow you to find your child when they aren’t picking up your calls or responding to your texts.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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