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Which cell phone should you get for your kid?

Wondering if you should get your children their very own phone? Sloan Barnett lists and compares different service plans for your little ones.

When we were kids we wanted to play with adult gadgets — our parents’ telephones, typewriters, anything in the kitchen, the vacuum, etc. Kids today are no different — they see us on our BlackBerrys or cell phones and they want one for themselves. It’s a scary thing to think your 5-year-old child wants a cell phone, so what do you do when they ask for one? And what about your teenagers who demand one? First you must decide if you are going to get them one.

Cons:  Several children's advocacy groups are worried about:

  • Children’s safety, privacy, education and health.
  • Privacy advocates worry that pedophiles may use cell phones to contact children.
  • Cell phones could become a vehicle for showing advertisements to children, ultimately reaching their parents’ wallets.
  • Advocates also worry about potential health risks: radiation, brain tumors …


  • Cell phones let you stay in touch with your child almost all the time.
  • Having a cell phone can help you easily get in touch with your kids in case of an emergency.
  • In the event of a real tragedy, like a school shooting or terrorist attack, a cell phone can be your only lifeline to your kids.
  • A cell phone can also be a way to stay in touch with your teen who might be driving … the GPS feature can help you figure out where your teen is at all times.

The cell phone industry does offer some helpful options. Check with your current cell phone carrier to see if they offer any type of parental control on their cell phones.

This service offered by Sprint comes with a parental control option. It’s one of the most popular phones purchased for kids at Sprint. It gives parents a simple security feature that allows you to set wireless usage boundaries for your child's phone and also:

  • Controls what contacts are in the phone book.
  • Restricts calls to only those that are programmed into the phone book by the parent.

Cost: With rebates, the phone costs $79.99; the parental control feature is part of the phone and can be added to your family plan.

This service offers a Chaperone feature for $9.99 a month. With Chaperone, you can restrict numbers, calling times and also use such features as:

  • “Child Zone,” which allows  you to easily locate your child’s phone from your phone or computer. You set up the locations such as home or school and receive text messages when the phone leaves those areas.

Cost: The Chaperone service must be activated by a Family Share account, which is $9.99 per month. Chaperone with Child Zone feature costs $19.99 a month.

AT&T is soon going to offer parental control service called Smart Limits. You can set limits for:

  • Number of text and instant messages
  • Dollar amount of downloadable purchases (ringtones, games and more)
  • Times of day the phone can be used for messaging, browsing and outbound calling
  • Who the phone can call or text (incoming and outgoing) by blocking or allowing certain numbers
  • Internet content access

There are phones designed for kids out there! But you must check with your provider first to see if you can use the phone on your current provider’s network. Most of the child phones do offer a phone service separate from your provider.

FireFly  — Basic FireFly phone for $39.99

  • Has 5 buttons and stores up to 20 numbers, including dedicated keys for Mom and Dad and emergency.
  • PIN protection allows parents to limit incoming and outgoing calls to numbers stored in the phone book.

GlowPhone, $49.99

  • Full color screen, built-in games, customizable ringtones and wallpapers, has a flashlight.
  • Stores up to 50 numbers, including dedicated keys for Mom and Dad.
  • PIN protection allows parents to limit incoming and outgoing calls to numbers stored in the phone book.

FlyPhone, $99.99 This is a multimedia cell phone with full color screen and built-in camera. The phone also comes with the ability to:

  • Play games, take pictures, listen to MP3s, watch videos and text.
  • The FlyPhone features a unique keypad that automatically switches between game controller, MP3 or video controller and number pad.
  • FlyPhone also includes PIN-protected parental controls. Parents can chose to limit incoming and outgoing calls to numbers stored in the phone book while preventing additional numbers to be added. Parents can also restrict texting.

Cost:You can pay monthly at a rate as low as 10 cents a minute; they offer prepaid minute plans. They estimate that each family spends around $20 dollars a month on the phone service. You can buy these phones at Target and Toys "R" Us.

Only on the AT&T network; can be added to the family plan for $9.99 a month. It's designed for kids ages 6 and up and comes loaded with five educational games including Hangman and other spelling games and math games. 

  • Parents can load the child’s spelling list into the phone to be used in Hangman.
  • Parents control the phone functions and features — who can call the phone, who kids can call, the times of day the phone can be used, such as after school
  • There are also plenty of high-tech features, including a built-in speakerphone, a variety of ringtones, and the ability to download photos.

Cost: TicTalk is priced at $99 with prepaid phone cards starting at $25 for 100 minutes (expiring 90 days from purchase). There is no activation fee.

For ages 6 to 10 and great for seniors — it's a great locator phone. Parents can locate their child with a built-in global positioning capability. You can quickly and precisely find your child’s phone via Web or phone access, and see its location on a street map or an aerial photo. You can also see where the phone has been throughout the day, and program for periodic updates.

  • The phone has 3 buttons for easy dialing
  • A 20-number phone book where parents can restrict calls
  • There is also an "SOS" panic button for emergencies.

Cost: As low as $20 a month. We found the phone for $80 online at Toys "R" Us. 

Conclusion: Only you can decide if a cell phone is right for your child. But there are many good options out there. It's always best to talk to your kids about the dangers, the costs, etc. Even the little ones can understand if you give them a chance.

So try to pick the right one the first time, especially since these phones can be expensive in the initial purchase. Also, with millions of phones — containing dangerous metals and chemicals — ending up in the landfill each year, choosing the right one helps the planet, too!