Kids and Cell Phones: A Parents' Guide

Thinking about getting your child a cell phone or smartphone? Get tapped in to safety tips and smart ways to save. We've got your number!

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How to Keep Costs Low for Your Child's Phone

The average cell-phone tab from major carriers is about $140 per month, according to a recent survey. Use these tips to whittle down that figure.

  • For young kids and tweens with simple needs, pay-as-you-go service lets you load up a phone with a set number of minutes, text messages or both, then refill it for a nominal fee. As an example, the LG 236C with service provided through TracFone costs $15 at walmart.com, and time cards starting at $20 for 60 minutes are good for 90 days.
  • Check out T-Mobile. It has done away with contracts, meaning you can bring any compatible model (an old phone of yours you're willing to give to Junior, for example) to its network and get unlimited talk, text and 2 gigabytes of data, and up to 1GB of 4G/LTE data for $50 per month plus tax.
  • Explore family and "framily" (friends and family) plans—which are priced more competitively than ever. These let consumers share a bucket of data with multiple participants; the more people you sign up, the more the per-line fees drop. Sprint's Family Share Pack plan, for instance, costs $25 per line.
  • Investigate MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). These are carriers that piggyback off the major wireless operators. In many cases you can bring a compatible current phone (or buy a used one on eBay) and sign up without a hitch. The quality of service varies, but you can always switch out after a month. For a list with links, search for "MVNO" at phoneforums.net.
  • Keep an eye out for potentially big savings from rebates—you might even score a free phone! If no rebates are advertised, ask the sales associate to double-check; if any are available, find out if strings are attached.

Next Page: How to Set Basic Cell Phone Rules for Your Child 

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