For kids, having a cell phone is about being cool; for parents it’s about peace-of-mind and cost. With wireless devices topping kids “school supply” list this year, here are some tips to help parents keep their sanity when shopping for a wireless device for their kids:
· First, parents should do a “cell assessment” to determine the plan and device that best meets the child’s AND family’s needs.
· For example, HOW is your child going to be using the device? Will she be making voice calls only? Be using it for texting… surfing the Internet… or staying connected with her social networks? If you’re okay with your child texting – and that IS the No. 1 way kids today prefer to communicate – you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate texting plan. At the rate most kids text today, most families find it more economical to go with an unlimited messaging plan, to avoid overages at the end of the month.
· Also, consider WHEN AND WHERE your child is going to be using the device. Will the child being using her device during peak calling times? How many minutes each month do you think she’ll need? Also, make sure you have coverage in the areas where your child plans to use the device most. Check out your provider’s coverage maps and see what their return policy is. You’ll want to make sure your child has ample time to use the device and service in the areas she most frequents.
· If you don’t want to sign a contract or are on a tight budget, then consider a prepaid option. With the prepaid option, you pay as you go.
· If you have a child who attends out-of-state college, consider a national plan to avoid unnecessary roaming charges.
· Don’t forget to take advantage of tools that help you keep track of your children and set limits on their use. Check with your provider to see what type of location-based services they have. For example, FamilyMap lets you track the location of your child’s phone from a PC or mobile device. Also, ask your provider what type of parental controls are available to you. Smart Limits for Wireless parental controls let you determine the times of day your child can use the device for calling, texting and web browsing; you can filter access to Internet content, define the # of texts and IMs allowed; block or allow calls and even set limits for mobile web browsing by assigning a monetary or MB or GB usage limit. So parental controls are another way you can control cost.
· Also, if everyone in your household is with the same provider, consider a family plan that lets users on the account share minutes.
· And learn how to keep track of minutes to help you better manager your child’s wireless plan. Check with the provider to see what tools they offer to help you track and manager your child’s wireless use. With AT&T, you can dial *MIN# to see how many minutes have been used or *DATA# to check on data usage. There’s also our online data calculator you can use to calculate your daily or monthly data use.