If you’re like most parents, the primary reason for getting a cell phone for your child is safety. So before just transferring your old cell phone to your child, be sure to consider if your hand-me-down device has all the features and capabilities necessary to give you the peace of mind you desire. Savvy parents should be able to find low cost new phones specifically engineered for needs of children and their parents. Let’s take a closer look at the most important features for your child’s cell phone.
Ease of Use
Depending on the age of your child, ease of use may be the most important factor when choosing a cell phone for your kid. If the device is too complicated you’re wasting your money. Don’t pay for features that your young child will either not use or not be able to figure out for years. By the time they figure it out they will need a new phone anyway. On the other hand, most children today are familiar with smartphone and tablet technology. Since modern cell phones are built on the same platform as those devices, figuring out how to use a cell phone should be fairly intuitive for your child. If you child is on the younger side and not familiar with modern technology then you’ll want to look for a phone that is more basic. In this case you may be sacrificing some advanced features for the functional aspects of the phone. This is ok since safety and making sure your young child can reach you in an emergency is the primary goal.
Speed or Easy Dial – Single button calling
No matter the age of your child you want to make sure that their cell phone has a very easy to use speed dial feature. In an emergency situation your child needs to be able to initiate a call by pressing a single button. Even very young children can be taught to simply press button to make a phone call. There are even cell phones available that take this feature to an extreme level by only offering two of buttons on the cell phone that are programmed to specific numbers. This is a good option for very young children.
As your child gets older text messaging will become more important. Younger children who either cannot read or write effectively will not need this feature. But the reality is that many people prefer to communicate via text message than voice. It’s just a much more convenient and time effect way of communicating. Limiting your child to a voice only plan may save you a few bucks each month but to me the extra cost is well worth it. Of course, as a parent you will need to establish rules around text messaging with your child. Many schools have strict rules about cell phone/text usage during class. There are parental controls available to govern text messaging but the first step should be a conversation with your child.
One great feature that many parents look for when purchasing a cell phone for their child is parental controls. Parental controls allow parents to monitor and restrict cell phone usage. For example, you may not want you child to send text messages after 8:00 PM. Or maybe you want to restrict phone calls to specific numbers during certain times of the day. Cell phones with this feature are becoming more and more popular as the number of children with cell phones increases. Parental controls also allow access to inappropriate material on the internet to be restricted, similar to what you may already use on your home computer. Lastly parental controls allow parents to monitor their children’s cell phone usage, including call history and text messages. Another feature of parental control is the ability to track the physical location of the cell phone (see GPS below). For safety conscious parents, the parental controls feature is a definate must have. While parental controls are a great feature for concerned parents it is important to have a conversation with your child and let them know that you are monitoring their usage. No one likes to be spied on and establishing this up front as a condition of cell phone ownership is the fair for both you and your child.
The last must have feature for your childs cell phone that we’ll highlight in this article is GPS (Global Positioning System). We’re not necessarily talking about the phone being able to help your child get directions to McDonalds, although this is a nice side benefit. In addition to navigation, the GPS feature allows the whereabouts of the cell phone to be tracked. When it comes to children and cell phone this is a great benefit. Assuming that your child keeps their cell phone in close proximity, parents confirm location of their child with a high degree of accuracy. Imagine a situation where your child is either lost or heaven forbid, abducted, the GPS feature on their phone may be a lifesaver.
We’ve highlighted a number of must have features for your child’s cell phone. Most of these features are aimed addressing usability and safety concerns. When choosing a cell phone for your child consider your needs as well as the needs of your child. You may want to consider a cell phone that allows you to progressively add features as your child is ready. Best of luck choosing the best cell phone for your kid!
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