Tips for Kids Cell Phone Use

Cell phones offer kids the freedom and privacy they crave, and when your child begs for one, it's hard to say no. Before handing your child a phone, though, take a look at the device's safety features and parental controls. These tools allow you to control how your child uses her phone. Use them to set limits on how long your child talks or disable certain features, such as Internet access.

Prepaid Phones

Many kids don't realize that endless phone conversations and text messaging will cost you money on your wireless bill. Understandably, you're probably worried that your child will rack up a mile-long bill, and you'll be the one stuck paying it. You can easily avoid this by purchasing a prepaid cell phone for your child. To use the phone, you pay a set amount to load it with minutes. When the minutes run out, you'll need to buy more before the phone can be used. For example, $20 might buy 60 minutes worth of talk time. This is a good way to help your child set limits on cell phone use. These devices usually have no long-term commitment and no contract, so you won't need to pay a cancellation fee if it doesn't work out.

Parental Controls

If you opt for a smartphone for your child, take some precautions to protect them when they’re using the device. All smartphones can access the Internet, and this can be dangerous for kids. Many phones feature parental controls that enable you to block access to the Internet with a password. Some phones may have a timer that allows kids to use the Internet for a set time per day. If your device allows it, you can also block your child from calling or messaging certain contacts or phone numbers.

Data Usage Management

Many kids will want to browse the Internet and send text messages or emails to friends. If you have a limited data plan, you don't want your child to use it all up. Some phones have a setting that lets you manage data usage. This tool blocks further data usage after your child's usage reaches a limit of your choosing. Your wireless service provider may also offer a way to restrict usage. For example, you can set a daily time limit for your child's phone use or prevent your child from texting or emailing photos.

Security Tools

Many smartphones have a tracking feature to locate the device if it is lost. This comes in handy for kids who lose their phones or have them stolen. You'll need to set up the phone with the tracking service before using it. After you do that, you can see the phone's location on a map. The tracking app may also let you lock the phone remotely so no one who finds it can use it. This app is useful for finding your child's general location if you're worried about her whereabouts.

Other Tips

If your child owns a cell phone, she probably takes it with her everywhere. You'll need to set limits to prevent your child from using the phone at certain times. For example, you might forbid your teen using the phone at the dinner table or before homework is finished.

Teach kids the do’s and don’ts of texting. If your child doesn’t follow the rules, block text messaging on the device. Kids of all ages should know about cyberbullying. Tell your child to come to you or a trusted adult if someone ever threatens or harasses them on the phone.

Talking on the phone and sending texts while driving is dangerous, yet many teens do it anyway. If your teen drives, forbid them from using the phone on the road. Tell them to pull over if they must take a call or send a message.

Photo Credits: Anne Dale/Demand Media

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