This year we are getting some money back on our taxes. Each year we receive a tax refund, we look for ways to improve our family life and each year we spend it a little differently.
As our children are getting older and expanding their extracurricular activities, I am realizing how often they are away from the house. If they are not at school, they are at another class, practice, or game and when they are not there, often I have dropped them off at a friend’s house to play or they are outside playing in the neighborhood running from house to house.
Back when I was growing up, things were a little different. I played outside a lot and while my parents often worried, there was not much they could do about it other than to let me run free. Of course, I checked in with them or let them know I was headed out of our cul de sac to go play somewhere else. If I went to a practice or game, my parents just had to trust that I stayed there and when I went to a friend’s house, if I wanted to leave, I either had to walk home or use their home phone to call my parents.
Well, those days are long gone. As much as I want to let my children have freedom from me, I also want to be able to verify that they are safe. I want to be able to video chat with them when needed, for them to be able to send me a text when they are feeling uncomfortable at a friend’s house or when they’re headed somewhere else than where I had left them, or to be able to call them and let them know that I can’t pick them up after practice and their friend’s mom will be bringing them home instead. Some may say that I’m trying too hard to keep my kids close, I say I’m parenting the best I can by giving them the freedoms they deserve while still being able to watch over them from a distance.
With our tax refund this year, we are able to put some money into a new phone and phone plan for our children to share. When they are away from the home, they will be able to take their phone with them and have a way to stay in touch.
Things to Look for in Your Child’s Phone
Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this link or your local Walmart for current pricing.
1. First, you want it to be a reliable phone service.
I bought our service plan at Walmart through Walmart Family Mobile. We chose the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS Plan which is Unlimited* Talk, Text, & Data plus a free VUDU movie credit every month ($7 value) per line for $49.88. (*Includes up to 10GB of 4G LTE† data then 2G.) The value is great for what we need. It allows us plenty of high-speed data for what we need from our phone each month. Plus because of this plan, when the kids are not using it, I can use it during their practices to keep up with my friends and clients on social media. We also love using it for video chats.
I love the free VUDU movie credit as well so we can cast a movie through our Chromecast and enjoy a family movie night! The VUDU monthly credit is $7 which is the same as a new release rental. VUDU can be cast onto your Smart TV, ROKU, Chromecast, VUDU Spark, or other compatible devices
2. Choose a phone that will work for your child.
I chose the Samsung Galaxy ON5 (regularly $119) and bought the SIM kit ($19.88) to go along with it. Since Family Mobile bills you later, you only have to pay $19.88 when you sign up.
The thing I liked about the phone was that it not only is a great price, but I enjoy the Samsung interface and thought a smart phone would be ideal for my children as I wanted to be able to video chat. The Samsung Galaxy ON5 allows you to video chat and it was a feature that was required for a phone for my children. The only downfall is that it does use data but luckily we have 10GB of 4G LTE with the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS Plan each month.
There are many options for phones, including a flip phone versus a smart phone, so there are a lot of decisions to make when it is time to shop for a phone. Decide what you must have and find the phones that match those requirements.
3. Decide whether you are going to child lock your phone.
For me, this is a no brainer. There are a lot of things on the internet and YouTube that I do not want my children seeing and if they are taking the phone unsupervised, especially when they are spending time at a friend’s house, then the phone has to be locked down or I need to be able to have instant access to what they are doing on their phone.
One of the best, cheapest ways for me was to lock down the phone through a child lock app (shown in the above photo). It allows the phone to stay locked all the time except for the few apps that I chose. I also chose to allow the children to make and receive calls as I want to be able to talk to them if needed.
There are many great apps out there but if you are allowing your children to use a smart phone, I would decide immediately whether you want to protect the phone or not and if so, find an app that works for your needs.
4. Decide what apps need to be on your children’s phone.
Not only did we add a child lock app so that they only have access to some apps, we also added on a GPS tracker that links to our phones so we always know where they are. Our children are not yet driving age but I know when they are, this will be critical to making sure we know where they are while allowing them some distance so they don’t have to check in all the time. The GPS tracker is also great for making sure they made it to school, stayed at practices, and so we know which friend’s house they are at.
Other apps that your children might want include games and social media apps. Decide what you feel is appropriate for your children and discuss with them why or why you have not included certain apps.
5. Find phone protection.
Deciding on insurance and phone cases is all part of buying a phone. When I turned 16 years old, my parents bought me a phone to take with me while I was out with friends. Regular cell phone use, especially among teenagers, was very rare at that time so it wasn’t too exciting to have a phone (because who was I going to text?) but I remember my parents also got insurance on the phone. However, because there were no smart phones yet, or at least I didn’t have one, a phone case was unnecessary.
For me now, having a phone case on the phone and screen protector is essential for any phone for my children. Insurance, on the other hand, is not as important. These options are all things I look at when deciding what phone might be best for my children.