Cell Phones and Teens

Updated on July 17, 2013
C.B. asks from Roseville, CA
27 answers

My 15 year old currently has a basic cell phone with shared talk-time and unlimited texting. Our (family plan) cell contract is up and I am being hit up for an iPhone by my teen. Of course I am getting the "I'm the only one who doesn't have one" argument. I do see a lot of her friend have them but some don't. The high school has Wi-Fi. Since I don't have a Smartphone myself, I am pretty clueless. If we were to renew the contract, I would definitely upgrade my phone. I know it's a lot more expensive to add a data plan and I have no idea how much data would be appropriate.

My questions are- Does your teen have a iPhone (or similar) phone? Do they have data? How much data do they get? Do you make your teen pay a portion? What problems have you encountered? What recommendations can you give me? Help!!

Thank you in advance for your answers. I do plan to go visit the Verizion store but I wanted some Mama-Wisdom first.

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So What Happened?

Thank you Mamas for sharing.

Like many of you, I've never fallen for the "everyone else has one" argument. I have a "dumb phone" myself and I'm having a hard time justifying doubling my cell phone expense just to keep up with the latest and greatest technology.

I think I'm going to wait. When my teen can figure out a way to pay for it, we'll get one then.

Featured Answers


answers from Reading on

I have never (and never will) let "everyone else has one" sway me as an argument. Once you give in to that, the flood gate opens. There is no way I'd be getting my child electronics that I don't even have myself. When he can get it himself and pay for the difference in data, have at it (although, even then the rule applies that if anything inappropriate happens, it's gone, whether he paid or not).

ETA: And my thought is... if you're going to spend all that money to get a $400 phone and then block everything it's designed to do, don't get it in the first place. Kids are so driven by status symbols.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Both of my kids were due for new phones last Christmas and the non-smart phone options are pretty limited. They are 17 & 15. That's the only reason I bit the bullet and got them both smart phones (I pay). We got them both Galaxy S2s. They monitor their data usage and have them set to switch to wifi wherever available. We went with the higher data plans for them and they both use it, but have never gone over.

A month after they got them, my son broke his while visiting his dad. It was $200 to replace it. He paid $100 and I paid the other $100 in lieu of a birthday present. It was an expensive lesson for him.

Connecting with the school's wifi will limit the sites, etc. he can visit. Another option is to get him an iPod b/c that does everything the iPhone does except call as long as its connected to wifi. One of my daughter's friends does this.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

We all have basic cell phones.
If it ever gets to a point where basic phones are no longer sold and smart phones are the only choice, then we'll go that way.
Until then we don't need to be that attached to the internet.
Kids want what ever new gadgets come out, but until they can buy/pay for them on their own they have to make due with what ever we are willing to spend on it.
Bummer if they are the only kids who don't have what ever it is.
They should have chosen to be born to richer parents.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

My 16-year-old son will be 17 on Friday. We just got him an iphone in May as an early birthday present. He really was one of the last amongst his friends to get a smart phone. I held out because I had concerns about it and because of the cost. So far he seems to be very responsible with it. He doesn't look at it while driving, but he uses it as his GPS/mapping system. He likes to use the weather radar. We do have to watch his data usage because he uses a lot more than either me or my husband do. I haven't noticed any inappropriate uses, but I must admit I haven't looked too closely. He's always been a trustworthy kid. He had a very old ipod with a broken screen and his iphone has become his ipod too so that he has only one device.

We do not (yet) make him pay for a portion. It was a family decision that he is doing things other than working this summer (baseball, church mission trip, studying for the ACT, family vacation, marching band) so he doesn't have an income from which to pay us. He is also very frugal in other ways so his spending habits aren't a concern for us.

I think it really varies case-by-case. Does it fit in the family budget? Is this teen responsible and trustworthy? Do they have legit reasons for it? (I think my son will also use his for school work.) We did wait until he was almost 17 at least in part because I had concerns about kids having constant access to the internet. But so many of his friends have the smart phones that it had become virtually impossible for me to constantly police his internet usage anyhow. I decided it was just time to trust him.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My daughter is 18.5 now but we have all carried IPhones since they came out.

Our plan is bundled together through our company. I have the 4, hubby has 4s, and daughter has the 5. I do pay about $220 a month for everything which included unlimited texting and data and ours is a little pricier because we have international calling for our company.

Since daughter is a paid employee in our company, we pay her portion of the phone bill.

IF you get the IPhone, I strongly suggest the insurance plan which covers you for the accidental drops in the toilet, drops on concrete, etc. Believe me... it happens to the best of us. Hubby nor I have the insurance plan and he has already paid $100 3 times over 2 yrs to replace a cracked screen due to dropping the phone. He refuses to use the case.

We know a local guy who does repairs and he has come in handy often. Daughter's phone is covered and she has walked out with a new phone due to some defect, walked out with a new phone at $199 vs the list price when her phone was stolen.

We love our phones and wouldn't carry anything else. I can run my company on my phone and that comes in very handy if I am out and about and do not have my laptop with me. I can seal a deal and never miss a beat. Keep in mind, I have complete access to the internet and if you go this route, your children will too.. I have never blocked things from daughter, we use communication and so far, she has never wrongly used the internet, etc. However, we discussed the internet and potential dangers so that she is aware.

I think you are looking for feedback and not necessarily answers as to would you yes or would you no allow a teen to have a phone and how much data/text? It is a personal decision for you and your family. What has worked well for us may not work so well with another family.

You are on the right track with gathering all the info you can. With a lot of info, you can make a better informed decision. Best of luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My kids always pay the extra cost of their data and the cost of their phone. Pretty much a dumb phone is free so if they want a smart one they better bring cash to the game. So none of them got data until they started working.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My tween has the iPhone 4. She's on our family plan with AT&T. She has unlimited talk and text (whatever you do, get unlimited text or be prepared for a whopping bill), and the lowest data plan (because we have Wifi at home, and so many stores have it now as well). She's had it for about 6 months and hasn't gone over on data yet. We did tell her no Pandora or YouTube unless she's on a Wifi network. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My 2 kids and I have iPhone 4's and my husband has an android. My kids are 10 and 13. I have everything blocked on their phones. They don't have video or phone access (if we go somewhere, I turn it on), all their settings are password protected by me, everything is set to 9 and under, etc. We have Verizon and only got the kids iphones because they were free (they are the 3G older version). We pay just under $300 per month and have 6GB of data that we all share. My husband uses his phone for business so it's a business expense for us. I told both kids that I will see what they are doing (I check every night before I go to bed). I saw that my 13 yo was using cuss words and somehow got a Skype type app that I didn't approve. She lost her phone for SIX weeks. I told her if she does anything like that again, she will lose it for longer. She gets it. I have all their passwords to everything. I told them if I log on to check and it says "invalid password" and they changed it without telling me, they would lose it for a week. I have rules in a contract that they both signed. They have had the phones since Feb and only that one problem so far. I collect the phones and keep them in my room at night so they aren't tempted to be on them. Verizon also has times you can block on each phone so they don't work say after 8pm until 8am or whatever you want to set. My kids go to their dads every other weekend so he takes them at night also. We just figured out what will work and what wont. I think technology is a sign of the times and kids should not be punished because of that. My kids are not on them all the time. They make them now so you can monitor them pretty easily. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

The kids that I know, if they have an iphone, it is because their parents gave them THEIR old iphones so the parents have the newest iphone.

Since you feel like you do not know much about them, Why don't YOU get an iphone maybe a barely used one. and see how you like it. Then if you like it and think your daughter can care for it, you upgrade to the newest and give her the old one?

Technology is not going away. It is moving faster and faster.

Imagine this, No one goes to college without a laptop.. The one you buy today will be obsolete in 4 years..

Stay on top of the changes so you can guide and be aware of what your kids are up to.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have told my daughter that she will get a smart phone when she can foot the bill. She is 10, so it will be a few years. I don't worry about my kids computer use, they are 6, 8, and 10. They know what is appropriate and allowed versus what is no good. We teach them. So while we check up occassionally, we rarely find something they shouldn't be looking at....I imagine the older they get the more that may change, but I guess it depends on how much you trust your daughter to do the right thing with the phone.

Where my daughter dances, most of the girls have more stuff than I do (newer phones, fresh color in their hair every 6 weeks, nails done, etc)...we just won't do it all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

Just keep in mind an iphone (or any smartphone) is a direct link to who knows what on the internet. She's 15, so please be sure she is aware of the dangers that can lurk online! I think parents tend to forget that they can access anything on a smartphone that they could on a laptop, and it's easy for this vulnerable age to get into something they aren't equipped to handle.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

When it was time to upgrade, my husband got both our older kids smart phones (they were 16 and 18 at the time.) I wasn't crazy about the extra cost but he makes most of the tech decisions around here, so I went with it.
My 14 year old wants one too, and yes, most of her friends have them now, but we have said absolutely not simply because she is SO hard on her electronics and loses these things all the time. She's not getting one until she shows she's matured and is more responsible!



answers from San Francisco on

My kids are 15, 17, and 21 (still in college). I offer them the most basic phone available (on Tracfone, it's less than $7.00/month). If they want more they have to pay for it. Two of them have phones on Kajeet (inexpensive service with unlimited texting and no data - though we've had some issues with Kajeet's service) and one has a phone on Virgin Mobile ($35 a month for 300 minutes a month plus unlimited text and data). In all 3 cases they bought their own phones and pay for the additional service.

iPhones get stolen left and right at my kids' high school. There are very good smart phones that cost a LOT less. My kids have late model Samsung and HTC EVO phones.

The one thing I will say is that my teens communicate with me a lot more now that we can all text. So, for the sake of keeping open communication with teens (a sometimes tricky thing) I have to say that texting is wonderful!

Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

We have either 4 or 6 gigs, or MB, or whatever they are, data. Mostly the kids use the data.

It's common enough for 15 year old kids to have iPhones, but it's up to you to do what you can afford and what you think is fair. If you want your kid to pay for a portion, it's up to you, and it doesn't matter what "everyone else" does. Yup, they all use the "everyone else" argument.

Phones are a part of modern life, for everyone, so you don't have to be too strict about it. I think my teens got smartphones at about 16ish, long before husband and I got one. :)



answers from Philadelphia on

The iPhone was my daughters's Christmas gift last year. She was 14. She loves it and it is great leverage to make her comply with our demands. (You can have your phone back when your room is clean...or after you take out the trash out etc. 😊. I love her phone!!!). My daughter doesn't have a job so we pay for it but I do remind her that it is a privilege. At age 14 yo she was the last of her friends to get an iphone. Also, she is now 15 and she takes very good care of her phone. She knows if it is lost she will get a cheap phone to replace it.



answers from Boston on

My kids each have an iPod touch which is just like an iPhone minus the calling. For texting and calling we all 4 have basic phones. I have dropped mine, the kids have left theirs outside under the trampoline for a day in the rain, they have grabbed them to text while they were in the shower (really) and they still work. I love my LG Octane so much I am considering buying a back-up new on on Amazon. I asked Verizon why they do not offer better basic phones and the answer was that manufacturers are not making them. So at some point we will be forced to go to smart phones probably, but until then my 13 year old has a super basic flip phone for emergencies only, my 16 year old has a Samsung Intensity 2 with the keyboard, and my husband has a very old basic keyboard phone too. For 4 phones via Verizon with a company discount we pay about $120/month. Make sure to ask Verizon if they offer a discount for your company - all you need is an email address at the company and then send the confirmation there. My company gets a 17% discount on the main line, my husband's was less (around 8%) but every discount helps.



answers from Kansas City on

No, my kid is the only kid without an iphone!! We ended up getting our kids smart phones, because their school has wifi too, and you can hook up your phone to that when the need arises, so you don't have to pay any data charges. When we got the smart phones, it came with a month of free data, to entice you to sign up for it. We didn't sign up for it with the kids, because they really don't need it. They can use wifi at school and my computer at home. We do not make our kids pay anything for their phones. We make them work at home, and that is their payment.


answers from San Francisco on

My kids are 6 and 3, so I have a while before I'm faced with this, but I'm sure my stance will be about the same as it is now (and as it's always been). I distinctly remember my youngest sister when she was in high school, and it's always bothered me that she used to text me while she was in school. Call me old-fashioned, but there will be no texting or data allowed on any phone that my kids want to have in school with them. They can have a basic phone that can be used for ER calls only. School is a place to learn, not text your friends or browse the internet. Same goes for on the job (when they're old enough).

I have an iPhone, and I absolutely LOVE it. It's been a God-send out and about with iMaps, internet and a variety of other apps (such as Groupon). I actually bought a Groupon while in line at a park and saved my mom $25 :) However, I'm what you could call addicted to it. Email and Facebook are the top two things I do on my phone, and that's not a distraction I want for my kids in school or at their job.

During the summer may be a different story, but I just don't think all this technology is good for our kids. And I could care less if they're the only ones without an iPhone. They'll probably also be the only ones without a TV in their room.



answers from Washington DC on

My soon to be 19 yr old college student sd does not have an iphone. She never has. She has an LG something or other that is a smarter but not smart phone, if that makes sense (her mom maintains her phone contract so I'm not sure the data details but I'm pretty sure she can't surf the web on it). Her brother (my stepson) had an iphone but sold it for something else with a bigger screen. He's 23 and he bought the new phone with his own money.

IMO, smart phones are dumb ways kids get into trouble. They are expensive, they promote sharing of video and images and access to the internet that you can't easily control. And I found out that a lot of them are fragile, so it's the phone, the contract/data, the otterbox, the zagg screen protector...etc.

So the answer is: Of course she is not the "only one" and she can get along just fine with her basic cell phone. You do not need to buy her Pandora's Box.



answers from Boston on

My 16 y/o daughter has a prepaid phone from T-Mobile. What she gets on it depends on how much money she has on the phone. For unlimited talk, text and data it's like $50.00 a month. I give her $30, that gives her other options but not all of them. If she wants more she needs to put in the difference. There is no way I would buy her an iPhone let alone pay for the plan it requires. IMO it's a complete waste of money.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter is 12 and has been begging for an iPhone but she's not getting one until she has a job and can pay for her own plan. Then she will get her own plan (so if she goes over she will have to pay and if she can't pay then it gets turned off and doesn't affect us).

She has an iPod Touch that does everything an iPhone does when connected to the internet. I don't see a point in her needing to be connected to the internet 24/7. Her iPod Touch can do FaceTime and texting (although she texts through her regular phone) and it can do all the other apps that an iPhone does.

I know FOR A FACT that only ONE of her friends has an actual iPhone. The rest have iPod Touches.

My daughter doesn't argue when I tell her what's what. She knows it's no use! She seems perfectly happy with her iTouch anyway, she's mostly at home or at someone's house that has internet! She also purchased her iTouch with her own money, which we are very proud of her for.



answers from Boston on

We have the Sprint everything unlimited package so we don't pay extra for data, but we do pay $10 a month extra for "smart" phones. If we had to pay extra or had limits, I'd probably be more careful in considering our options. Both my SD and I have HTC Evos and we really like them. My husband has an iPhone 4 and my son has a 4s. The 4s was $100 and was his 15th birthday gift. All of the rest of the phones were free after rebates.

The downside of these phones is that it's really hard to track their internet usage or limit it in any way. The computer that they use is locked down really well as far as when they log in, where they can go and what they can do. With the phones, our policy is that we have to have the PW to their phones and will go through on a regular basis and read their texts and look at pictures. We do that pretty regularly so they do keep everything aboveboard. We also log in to their FB accounts and can go through everything there. However, I'm not on top of everything else - snapchat, instagram, facetime etc. are all pretty foreign to me. At this age, though, I have to trust that they're not being total idiots online and understand that if it's not something they want us to see, don't put it out there to the world.

There are definitely useful things about smartphones. They stream music all day on theirs, so they don't need separate iPods or even to buy music. They can e-mail documents back and forth with teachers and school so they don't have to carry thumb drives. They use our family calendar app (Cozi) so I can add appointments or To Dos that go right to their phones. They use them as alarm clocks. My son uses his for flashcards.

I think that if she is responsible and trustworthy and so far has managed to conduct herself respectably online and in texting, if you have a policy where she understands that you can and will go through the phone at any time, and if she's willing to pay for the data package every month with her own money and if she understands that an iPhone is very fragile (you can't take the battery out without voiding the warranty, the screens crack easily) so that she may not have it for long and would have to buy a replacement phone with her own money, then let her get it. Personally, I would go for a Samsung Galaxy or HTC Evo first as they are just as good and not as delicate.

ETA: Verizon and AT&T have WAY better parental controls than Sprint - but Sprint is cheaper. I definitely wish Sprint would get on the ball and upgrade their controls. Friends with AT&T can control when their kids can call and text, etc. We just don't let them take their phones to school and make sure they're not using them past 9PM. They use them as alarm clocks so they know if we see any usage past 9, they'll lose the privilege of having them in their rooms and we'll take them at 9 instead of trusting them to shut them off.



answers from New York on

At 15, sure he should have a smart phone ONLY if he pays for it himself and the monthly bill.



answers from San Francisco on

This struck me. I don't have a smart phone (just a flip phone) and I actually lost my phone for the 1st time! It's annoying. I won't get a smart phone. My company pays for my phone and it's enough for me. I'm very anxious about saying I lost it! We don't even have a working home computer, but I have an ipad. I think it's good that I do. Until 4 years ago, we didn't have internet at all but I could go on it at work it I needed to mapquest something or something like that. Now, my husband has a smart phone. My son is only 5, but if I were you, I wouldn't go for the iphone for your son! Not EVERYONE has them. If you do, I would make him pay for the data plan! Good luck!



answers from Baton Rouge on

If he wants an upgrade that isn't free with your plan, tell him to get a job and start saving.



answers from San Francisco on

My 10 & 12 yr olds both have dumb phones for necessity (walk to school and sports pick up drop offs). We already have a family plan with unlimited texting and never use anywhere near our minutes available. My 12 yr old wants a smart phone - he's been told he can wait til his bday/xmas and get one from mom and dad as a present or wait until our contract expires early next year and get my old android phone. In either situation he knows he has to be able to pay the difference in our bill for his portion of the data (about $20-30/month). He's leaning towards saving his money now so that he can get the phone for a present and then use the rest of his money to pay 6+ months of his bill. So long as he's paying for the data service, we'll pay the insurance (I wouldn't let him have the phone without it). He also must have a good case on it at all times. He also knows that I check the bill monthly and see if he's using it during school hours, he looses phone privileges. Our schools have tough restrictions about using phones and will confiscate them if caught using them (my son's also a real "rule follower") so I don't worry too much. They also know I will pick up the phone at random times and scroll thru it to see what they've been doing on it - so far they haven't done anything they shouldn't or have told me when they have before I found out! I think it's about responsibility - how and when to use it, and if I break/loose it it's on him. If he fails at the responsibility the phone is gone and he goes back to the dumb phone...


answers from Dover on

I myself have a "dumb phone" as does my husband. It works for what we need (phone calls and texting). Our adult son (21 college student currently in his last semester/internship) recently lost his phone while in Myrtle Beach (there interning) and called me to say he was going to bite the bullet and upgrade to an iphone and he would pay the extra $30 per month for the data plane (the lowest option). He's paying that so that's on him but he did get a great deal because we had held out so long on upgrading (he liked his old phone AND I said I wasn't paying the extra cost).

My concern with a teen would be using it during school hours and/or inappropriate use. I don't know a lot about them so I would suggest checking with your provider for info on Parental Controls such as time and/or access restrictions. Another concern would be over usage (it's cheaper to pay more per month than to pay for the overage fees but who wants to pay more than necessary)...so ground rules would be a good plan.

If you can afford the extra cost, you could have your teen pick up extra tasks at home to pay for the data usage. If you can't afford the extra cost, I would wait until she can pay for it herself.

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