When to get your child a cell phone
Security and cost are two issues to consider when making the decision.
By Marian Wilde , GreatSchools Staff
Cell phone companies are promoting new products to children (and their parents). Is your child ready for the responsibility of a cell phone?
Issues parents should consider
The pros and cons of security
- On the positive side, some kiddie cell phones have parental controls. For example, the Firefly cell phone requires a parent to use a PIN number to enter the phone numbers that the child will be able call.
- The Wherifone uses a GPS device to track the whereabouts of a child carrying the phone.
- Camera phones can provide a certain measure of security. There have been cases where children have scared away potential abductors by trying to photograph them.
- On the negative side, older teens often have Web-enabled cell phones, giving them access to the Internet when parents can't monitor their activity.
If you think your child can handle the responsibility of staying within a plan, here's what you need to know before choosing one:
- When phones are Web-enabled, parents are often surprised by the size of the phone bill. Customers can choose to go without this feature, but increasingly Web browsing and text messaging capabilities are bundled with extra weekend and night minutes.
- If a phone is Web-enabled, kids have access to games. Cell phone gaming is the newest market for companies and is expected to be big business in the next few years. Keep in mind, too, that there is a billion-dollar cell phone pornography business in Europe and Asia, which is expected to hit the U.S. market soon.
- According to the market analysis company, The Yankee Group, the biggest trend among teen cell phone users is pre-paid SIM (subscriber identity module) cards/family plan hybrids.
Kiddie cell phone companies
Currently available are the Firefly and Wherify Wireless's Wherifone.
The Firefly offers:
- "Mom" and "Dad" speed-dial keys
- A parent-programmed, PIN-protected phone list
- A 911 button for emergency calls
- Coverage is available in certain parts of the country only
The Wherifone comes with:
- A Global Positioning System to track the position of your child 24/7
- An "SOS" button
- Five preprogrammable dialing buttons so that parents can control costs
Other kiddie cell phones include: