I’ve known this dilemma would be coming for quite some time now. When should I get my daughter a cell phone? Should I get my daughter a cell phone? How am I going to afford yet another cell phone already paying Verizon Wireless more than $100/monthly for two smartphones (Motorola Droid 3). Not forgetting that there are two other girls waiting in the wings that will be wanting their own cell phones in the next few years as well.
What to do?
With my daughter entering middle school I thought she was old enough and responsible enough to have a cell phone. Obviously being the daughter of an Information Technology professional (me) she wanted a smartphone with all the bells and whistles having seen and used mom’s and dad’s Motorola Droid 3 quite often.
Thankfully I still had my old original Motorola Droid that I had purchased when I moved from AT&T Wireless (formerly Cingular Wireless) to Verizon Wireless back in December of 2009. I rooted the smartphone and decided to install Peter Alfonso’s Bugless Beast GPA19 custom ROM which is based on Gingerbread. It’s supposedly a very stable release and has quite a few upgrades over the stock Verizon ROM.
Which cell carrier to use?
Now that I had a phone I had to figure out which carrier to use. Since I already had a phone I had to stick with carriers that support CDMA as opposed to GSM. As I previously alluded to I already had a Verizon Wireless Family Plan for my wife and myself but Verizon won’t allow you to add a smartphone to any plan unless you purchase a data plan. I could change my grandfathered unlimited data plan to a Share Everything plan but the current data caps are really harsh for power users such as myself and my wife (Facebook). What other options did I have, what about the prepaid carriers?
I literally stumbled across Page Plus Cellular while doing some research. Page Plus Cellular actually utilizes Verizon Wireless’s cellular network so I immediately knew that my Motorola Droid would work without any issues. And that the signal coverage was excellent – in my area. While doing some background research on Page Plus I stumbled across Kitty Wireless, an authorized reseller for Page Plus Cellular. I posted a query to Twitter and received the following response;
Well I took them up on their offer… I activated my old Motorola Droid online via Kitty Wireless, I purchased a $10 PIN and I was off and running. The whole process took less than 30 minutes although there were quite a few things that needed to be accomplished as a first time customer of Kitty Wireless. I had no issues following the instructions (there’s a brilliant idea) and was up and running in no time.
Parental Controls / Monitoring
Now the question that almost every parent struggles with… should I and how can I effectively monitor my child’s cell phone (and Internet) activity? This topic really deserves a post by itself but I’m not sure that I have anything earth breaking to offer on the subject. I will probably do something for at least for the first few years especially since I have daughters. I see that “My Mobile Watchdog” seems quite popular so I’ll probably try that out first – can’t seem to find out how it’s monitoring (reporting) will work when the smartphone has data disabled and will need to rely only on WiFi for Internet access.
I came across this advertising image from IG Parental Control which is a definite attention getter.
I think every parent will need to decide for themselves what do-to and how far to take it. I think we’d all like to believe that our children are saints but there are definitely some that need a stronger hand than others to help them stay on course. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of apps out there that claim to provide filtering and monitoring.
Anyone have any recommendations?
Google Family Safety Center
Microsoft Family Internet Safety
I gave my old iPhone to my daughter when she is 10. My son is 9 y.o. now and I’ll buy an iPhone to him next year. Why an iPhone? Because we can share one Apple ID for all apps between the devices used in our family (including 2 other i-devices) and I can control which apps will be available for them there (I didn’t give them password for Apple account liked to my credit card). Also, I hope the parental control for the web browsing will be available from Apple soon the same way it’s currently used on our home iMac and MakBook.
Michael McNamara says
Thanks for the comment Alexey.
I like the control that both Apple and Google provide in terms of access to their respective stores. I’m just more concerned about inappropriate texting or Internet access. I’ve been looking at a few different solutions and Norton Safety Minder seems pretty good and comes with a cost that I can live with.
When kids start to go out by themselves and their friends I can understand the desire for parents to be able to reach them and know where they are.
Paul L says
Mike, you are stuck in the middle. Your kids were born into the wired generation. Younger and Younger kids will be going to school with mobile devices. This is a problem that my parents never had to go through. I got my first email address the year I started college in 1996. And I got my first phone (motorola startac) in 1998 while in college with money I was earning from a part time job.
As a future parent I will have the same fate as my parents as I won’t have to go through this problem either. Because my kids( that don’t exist yet) will be going to KG or grade 1 with a tablet or some kind of mobile device. It will be expected and automatic and no one would ever give it a second thought.
I say give her a phone, but in the deal make sure you that you never have to shovel a single snow flake off your drive way again. Or cut a single blade of grass off your lawn.
Michael McNamara says
I gave her the Motorola Droid this morning Paul… by 5:00PM this evening she had received ~ 79 text messages and sent ~ 26. I had purchased her a $10 pay as you go card on Page Plus Wireless which allows her any of the following: 100 minutes talk, 200 text messages or 10MB of data. In one day she blew through half her of what I had allocated for the entire month. It wasn’t her so much as it was her friends sending her text after text after text. I had to add the Power Text 2000 option (2,000 text messages for $10.95/monthly) to her account this evening. I bet you she blows through the 2,000 before the month is out.
Thanks for the comment Paul.
When my wife and I got the iPhone5, my 11 year old got my old iPhone4 and we added her to the family share plan for similar data-related reasons. Plus it has unlimited calling and texting, which we figured would be helpful.
My 8 year old – since we had my wife’s iPhone4 spare – got that, but he has no SIM so he’s data only. He can use it with the BYOT stuff at school, and we all use iMessage so as long as he’s in range of a friendly WiFi network, he can stay in touch.
Based on how my 8 yr old uses his phone (and he just successfully thought his way around an problem on the phone that Google searches weren’t helping to fix), it’s a good job we have iMessage for him to use rather than us paying for texts. He is unstoppable. He loves it. Worse, he understands it better than I do, and I like to think I’m tech savvy.
Good luck ;-)
Michael McNamara says
Thanks for the post John!
Page Plus Cellular has been pretty good so far… I just need to schedule a re-occurring reminder to deposit $25 bi-monthly into the account. If I added my daughter to my Verizon Wireless Family plan it would have cost me $10/month for voice + $30/month for data plan + $20/month for 5,000 SMS text messages. With Page Plus Cellular she gets 2,000 SMS text messages monthly for $10.95. She can make voice calls if she wants (really doesn’t use voice) and those get billed at $0.04/minute which isn’t bad. It was the SMS text messages that she was going through like made.