Kid safe phones: The family conversation guide

Victoria S.
January 3, 2019
  When it comes to big purchases, talking things out with the family is important. If you’re thinking of purchasing a phone for your kid but feel like they aren’t quite ready for all the pitfalls that come with a smartphone, there are some amazing phones for kids out there to choose from. This guide from Relay outlines the big things to consider for the whole family beforehand.

Phones for kids: will it work for your family?

When choosing the right product, it helps to consider exactly what you want. That way, you can see which products miss the mark and which are a perfect fit. It also might reveal the different needs of family members and help everyone get on the same page from the start.

Why are you looking for a cell phone for your kid?

  • Think about the problem you are trying to solve by letting your child communicate this way. What results do you want to see? Do you want to contact your child after school or when they are playing with friends? Do you want to know where your child is through GPS technology?
  • Talk about when you need to be able to contact your child and what you are hoping to gain through the purchase. This might include things like peace of mind for you, freedom for your child, and other things unique to your family.

Talk about taking it slow with technology

  • Discuss why you’d rather use a smartphone alternative instead of buying your child a phone of their own. Is your child too young for a smartphone? Maybe you aren’t convinced they should own such an expensive piece of technology, or you are worried they might use it unwisely.
  • Could a kids phone serve as a set of “training wheels” that lead to smartphone ownership when your child is older? Talk about what skills and responsibilities you hope your child will learn from owning their smartphone alternative.
  • Try drawing up a practice smartphone contract that lists the responsibilities your child should master. But instead of giving your child a real phone before they’ve had time to practice, try thinking of the list as a set of goals your kid can strive towards while owning their kid phone. Here's a sample you can use.

Which kid friendly phones will work best for your family?

While many products on the market have overlapping features like two-way communication and GPS, finding the right feature set is important, as one product might work better for your child and your family.

What kinds of features are important to you?

  • Discuss safety and privacy. Do you want GPS tracking? Do you want parental controls over which features your child can access? Would you be uncomfortable if your child’s voice, personal information, and physical location were stored in the cloud?
  • Talk about communication. Would you prefer 4G LTE over 3G or 2G? Would you be comfortable with your child sending text messages? How about ease of communication? Think about whether you’d rather have a touchscreen with multiple menus or simple one-touch communication.
  • Consider durability. Talk about how your child typically treats their belongings and whether the devices are durable enough to accompany them on adventures. Do the products come with protective cases? Is it likely that you will have to replace the device due to physical damage?

What kinds of features are important to your child?

  • For your kid to want to use their new tool, they will have to like it. What kinds of fun features would your kid appreciate? For example, Relay offers music, language translation, and more.
  • Think about style. Would your kid want to wear a bulky watch or clip their kid phone to their backpack or belt loop? How might wearing a smartwatch affect them at school or with friends? Would it empower them or feel more like an ankle monitor?
  • Would your kid get distracted by a screen or any other potential features? Where do you draw the line between fun features and what is too much? Do you want to avoid a screen altogether?
  • Does your child want to talk to their friends who use the same tool? Does the product allow for that?

What are you prepared to spend on your kid’s new technology?

Money is not the easiest thing to talk about. Try having an open and honest conversation about your budget and exactly how much your family can afford to spend up front on a product and monthly on product service. These numbers can help a great deal on your product search when you use them as guidelines.

Consider up-front costs

  • How many years do you expect your child to use the tech? Buying a really expensive product might not be the best for your wallet if your kid will graduate to a smartphone in less than a year.
  • If you only plan on using it for a few months, cheaper tech could be a better return on investment. Bonus if the monthly fee is also affordable!

Consider monthly fees

  • How much is reasonable to spend in a month? Would you be willing to pay more per month in exchange for a cheaper product, or pay more up front and less in the long run? Talk long term: In three or four years, how much money will you have spent on monthly fees?
  • Check to see which products have hidden fees, like line access fees, extra data charges, and activation fees. These can vastly affect how much you spend on the product in the long term.

Compare and contrast

  • Do the math together and find the best overall fit for your family. Consider product cost, monthly fees, any hidden costs like activation fees, and state tax if applicable. Find a balance that works with your budget.
  • Keep in mind that some options have multiple plans to choose from. For example, Jiobit costs $50 extra if you say no to a 2-year contract and Verizon’s GizmoWatch costs a lot more money per device if you do not already have a phone on their unlimited plan.
We wish you luck finding the perfect kid phone alternative for your family and hope your whole family is excited and on the same page about your child’s big step towards freedom!  

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