Tween's First Phone?? S.O.S.

Updated on March 24, 2010
J.D. asks from Grapevine, TX
26 answers

We're ready to at least explore having my 6th grader get a first phone - and want to do it very conservatively, perhaps a simple prepaid phone, with no camera or internet. Just limited calling and text. Has anyone used Net 10 or Virgin Mobile before for this? He turns 12 in a couple weeks. I have T-Mobile but not a family plan any longer, so it's $40/mo. to add him and we're just not ready to make that sort of commitment yet. We want to start slow from a responsibility standpoint, ie two of his friends have already lost their first phones. Interested in your feedback. Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thx to everyone who responded; I received great feedback. We ended up surprising my son with a TracPhone for his 12th birthday a couple weeks ago. We purposely gave it to him a few days late, and he was completely blown away. Your responses were very helpful. We chose TracPhone because their minutes package doubles for the life of the phone, so we bought 200 and he gets 400, and one text counts as 3 minutes (so we didn't have to buy a separate text package). The slider phone we bought was $50 on sale for $29. He has been completely gracious about it, responsible, and quite frankly, there is not much activity. He still has over 300 minutes left, and it's been an excellent way for him to understand the cost and value of having a phone. He knows it's not a toy, but a privilege, particularly as I will be working more over the summer. I'm extremely happy we got this for him. I feel we were smart about it, did sound research, and he is being super with it. It is off at 8 pm at night and in our room. He gives it to me after school until all homework is done and he's off to his sports. Thanks everyone!

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answers from Dallas on

My son got a Vigin prepaid for his b-day last year. He really wanted one and now doesn't even carry it most of the time LOL ! Anyway - he got the cheapest phone Wal Mart sells for Virigin - $9. No camera, no internet, and I don't remember about texting. It is basically just for calls. He gets $20 per month and that's it. If he runs out (hasn't happened yet) he's done until the next month. If he has minutes left over, great. It's mainly if he is home alone and the electriciyt goes out, is over at a friends house, something like that. For him it's great. If he loses it, no big loss. My husband just got a Virigin phone also - just a little bit nicer. I use T-Mobile since I use my phone more (no plan though). I researched all the pre paid plans before I got my sons and Virgin had the best rates for the minutes.

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answers from Kansas City on

I know you already purchased your phone and it sounds like you laid some good ground rules! I did see several people suggest kajeet and just wanted to point out to anyone reading at a later date you can save 15% off any phone kajeet offers by going to

Plans start at $4.99 but the best deal right now is $14.99 a month with 60 anytime minutes and unlimited texting. Parental controls are always free - with the time manager you can set the phone to automatically not receive calls/texts at specific times (like during school) except from designated numbers (mom/dad and always 911). For a low monthly fee you can add GPS tracking.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

Read this if you want ideas on safety.
Phones need limits, these ideas from parents of older teens who shared with us.

For your own family:
make a rule that phone goes in charger at xx o'clock for the night. At our house it's 9:30 pm in kitchen. Each time he forgets, he loses it for 24 hours (we do it on weekends 'cause of weekday sports). One mom with two good-looking boys has her kids put cells in charger when they get home, and all calls after 8 pm come to house phone. That way they know who's talking at night... (unless your kid is on Skype to talk on computer during homework).

Check out Katie Koestner and her cross-country speeches about how teens can send messages, compromising images, or have their phone hijacked at school if you leave it behind on a bathroom break (they check your pics and email your bathing suit photo to friends, then it's all over school). Forewarned is fore-alarmed, and you can discuss in advance.

For sleepovers:
Collect cells up front with a basket for them to sleep in. They call parents goodnight from your phone. This prevents: kids calling girls at night way too late, embarrassing pics of slovenly sleepers, body part pictures that shouldn't be taken, and downloading anything you don't want them to see. Lets them interact with each other, gives them a better chance to sleep. Do not shoot video inside and upload to myspace; burglars can see what you have, and GoogleEarth can reveal your houseplan from above.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Try They have cell phones just for kids. You can control the phone numbers and time of day the phone is used. They have new and refurbished phones. They do not advertise it but Sprint is the carrier for kajeet. I am considering it for my 10 year old.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My husband and I were just talking about this last week (granted our son is only 20 months so we still have a L. time before we really consider a phone for him, lol). Anyway, the conversation was sparked when a friend's 11 yr old daughter fell victim to "sexting" by another 11 yr old from school.

We agreed there is NO NEED for him to have a phone until he's driving (and even then its for emergency use only). Once he turns 18 and can get his own phone and be responsible for his own phone, its on him and not on us.

Given that most people are getting rid of landlines and payphones are almost non-existent, we might pick up a prepaid phone when he's a teenager that he will ONLY have access to when he's going to be out or at a friend's house. He won't be allowed to use it for "social" calls though, it would only be so that we can get ahold of him or he can call us.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sherman on

Why does your 6th grader need a phone? Why are parents sucummbing to peer pressure to buy thier children phones? Did you have a phone in the 6th grade?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

We added my then 13 year old onto our plan. We have Verizon. Her phone takes pictures and texts but that's about it. It was the least expensive phone at Verizon.
She isnt' a phone hog and sometimes forgets it so we haven't had any issues.
We also got it for safety while she stayed after or went to games at the high school. My 12 year old does not have one and my eldest son didn't have one until he could buy his own at 18.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

No matter what plan you eventually settle on, as a parent ofa teen and two adult children who have been through it, my biggest suggestion is this:

Teens nowadays think nothing of calling or texting at all hours of the night. Even if you give the rule of no calls after 10, his friends don't recognize or respect it. My suggestion is that the phone is turned off and in your bedroom at 10 (or whatever his bedtime is, or a pre-determined time). Do not EVER give on that, or believe me, it becomes a real headache. Then every once in awhile read texts just to be sure that he is being the person you raised him to be. Kids say things in text that they would never voice out loud!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I find it funny that people think it's "ridiculous" for kids to have cell phones. Mamas on this site can be so judgemental! I have specific reasons for my 6th grader to have a cell phone, and obviously you do too and you have good conservative ideas about it, yet you get slammed. I have Verizon and was able to add my daughter to my plan for a small cost. I know someone with Virgin Mobile who constantly has problems when purchasing minutes for her phone. She's always on the phone with the company because they have taken minutes away from her unjustly. Their customer service is horrible. So I would be careful with that. I know there are other plans, but I would be wary of Virgin Mobile.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think it's wise to keep their first phone on the cheapside given the statistical probability that they will lose it. However, you do want to keep the features that kids want - like text and camera. Some phones even have GPS locators for an extra fee - they tell you at home, on a website, where your kid's phone is. When shopping for phone, all carriers keep their older phones and sell them cheap because they are out of production and replaced with the newest whiz-bang device. Heaven help you if he mentions the " i " word! Also, as a parent, you can dictate the hours of use. A 12-year old doesn't need to be texting at 10:00 pm.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think it's ridiculous for children to have cell phones. As far as safety goes, they should always be with a responsible adult, and the adult should have the phone. That's the case with my neice, who is almost 12. I realize I'm in a tiny minority here, and you 've gotten some good suggestions about how to limit the potential folly. It's hard to deny your child something all his or her friends have, and maybe that is actually a reason to do it, so he won't feel totally out of it. But I have tons of respect for parents who decide to be resonable and sensible, despite our nutty world!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Having seen many families go crazy over texting and over limit charges, (some into the thousands that the carriers wont wave) we will be getting our kid on an unlimited call/ text plan when she is in sixth grade. Her keeping up with the phone is the biggest responsibility I want her to have to worry with in the beginning. Later as we see how much she will be using it, we may get a plan with limits to texting but I would rather be safe than sorry to start out with.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Try Kajeet cell phones for kids. They are not kiddie looking but they have parental controls that you control from your computer. You can control when and how much they use it. I am going to get my son a phone for when he starts middle school in 5th grade and this is where I have been looking. Its nice to know it can be turned off during school hours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

well you didnt ask if you should get your son a phone. You have decided to get a phone. At 12 your not with your son all day......some people may have a rude awaking when their children get that age. I got my daughter a phone when she was 11. We were building a new home in a new town and they were going to a new school. I had to travel after work to pick them up. I got her a phone because, if I was running late or any type of an emegency, then I could get a hold of her. Could I have called the school and had them come out and say your M. is on the way? Sure.....but this is todays technology and its only going to get more advanced. She is 13 now, does she text like crazy, yes..(she is on our plan now)..she is also an A honor roll strudent and plays sports and is a very good kid......I like the advantages of being able to get a hold of her anytime I need to. I dont think that is unreasonable or unsensible at all especially in this "nutty" world. Anyhow, we got her a Trac phone. It was cheap and we bought the minutes to go with it. It was just for EMR's and a few texts she would do. Good luck in whatever phone you decide!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rockford on

Try Kajeet. My sons have them and they are great. They have all prices of phones, so you can get a real simple one to start with. They do not have contracts. You have many choices for how to pay for the service (it's all prepaid), including pay as you go and plans that you can change anytime you want. You can even have monthly refills or dole money out of your "wallet" as you see fit. The best part is that you can control everything. You decide how much money is on the phone and when it goes on. You can block numbers, block content, and can manage when the phone can be used and when it can't - all from the computer. It also shows you every single call or text number that comes in or goes out. I have two kids using it, and the controls and everything are shown separately for each child, so I can easily see each account. The service has been very reliable too (I think it goes through Sprint). I don't know how prices compare to the big companies, but I love the total access online and the no contracts.


answers from Spokane on

We got our son a "track phone" from Walmart. It was $20 for the phone (and came with "double the minutes" for the life of the phone) and we buy the prepaid phone cards that are $40 for 200 minutes...which gets 400 minutes for $40 bucks. Texting only takes 1/3 of a minute so it lasts him almost 2 months at a time!

It was the cheapest option WE could find--however--we are not cell phone experts, we have never actually bought one for ourselves, hubby's job has always provided him with one.



answers from Dallas on

look at virgin mobile website
I think they have the best prepaid service



answers from Lincoln on

3 of my 4 have phones, but they are prepaid and don't always have minutes on them. We use them as needed for safety issues when staying home alone, going out with friends, etc. We went with the prepaid Verizon just b/c that's who I have my phone plan with, so the calls back and forth are free.

At first, they would run out of money quickly when I put it on there by purchasing games, sending texts (which I didn't include in their plans) etc. However, I had clearly explained to each one how the phone worked and that I wouldn't be putting more money on it until X date. They quickly learned that they couldn't do just anything they wanted with their phones, or they would end up without any money for phone calls. This way, I didn't have to hound them about it either -- it was just the simple, natural consequence of their decisions. I wouldn't have been able to do this if I'd put them on my plan -- it would have just run up my bill and turned their decision into MY consequence, so I'm glad we went with prepaid.



answers from Dallas on

If you decided your 6th grader is ready, my hubby and I only have one phone and it is an At&t go phone. We purchase minutes according to our usage that month and it works for us. We don't text much, so keep that in mind when looking at prices. I think there is a plan for unlimited talk and text for $60 a month with the go phone. We don't use near that amount. We purchase $25 a month and we barely use that.

HOpe this helps...take care and God Bless!



answers from Fort Walton Beach on

Both of my daughters have pre-paid at&t phones. No calling just 20 a month for unlimited text. (Kids never call anymore anyway..waste of money). BUT! If you only want him to be able to talk to you..911..etc. you're best bet is to get him on your plan. Can't really limit who they talk to on the pre-paid plans.



answers from Chicago on

Watch for the cell phone carriers claims they can be misleading, especially to the youngsters! We are paying off a 2000! dollar phone bill because he thought it was free minutes after 9pm. But there is a catch...if you are on a call before nine you have to hang up and call after 9 and get your free minutes



answers from Philadelphia on

When our daughter was in 6th or 7th we got her a TracPhone, which is another brand of prepaid. It was just an emergency phone...not one to chat with her friends. Be careful with allowing texting...the kids use it instead of talking. We've only allowed it on an absolute "must" basis.

Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

Sounds great, but also make sure that you are monitoring his text messages!
Texting can be very costly and dangerous! I should know, my husband had an on-line affair and ran up the T-mobile bill to over $1,000.00 in text messages!!


answers from Dallas on

i also don't like the kids unde 15 having phone but is your decision i think a prepaid phone is grat because she can only use limited minutes each month a net 10 or any prepaid phone is pretty good.


answers from Dallas on

I have a 15 yr old girl and she got her first cell around 10 yrs old or so. We have ATT and added her to my plan.

Our primary reason for adding a phone was safety. She had it at sleepovers, etc and could text or call us anytime.

Her first was a little motorola flip which worked out fine. At middle school age, she got a motorola razor flip that was a good phone, however this was the age where 1 got lost, 1 got dropped in the toilet and the final one stayed around till 8th grade. We had the insurance plan with ATT and when one was damaged, lost, etc....we only paid $50 to get a replacement.

However, in 8th grade, she got her first IPhone. It was great and worked until beginning of 9th grade and she had her eye off of it for a second and it was gone. IPhones are NOT on the warranty plan with ATT but you can buy a plan for about $70. About 6 weeks after replacing the IPhone, she dropped the new one and while she was talking to me and crying, she dropped it in the toilet. The final IPhone was covered by the warranty we purchased and instead of paying $400+ for a new one, we were able to replace it for $199.

I would suggest starting small with your investment because they will lose it or break it at least once. My daughter does more texting than talking so that is an option as well. We have unlimited texting plan because we both text a lot.

One plus she has with her IPhone is that instead of buying the calculator the teachers wanted her to have for Honors Algebra at $140, she bought an app for her phone $4.99 and it is also used for that purpose.

I realize your child is not at the age for an IPhone yet, I think the way you are approaching it as in starting a good idea. Also, with texting....just like facebook..have the codes for the phone so you can check texts on occasion.

Good luck!! They grow up TOO fast.


answers from Dallas on

I suggest getting back on the family plan at t-mobile. It will save MANY headaches when it comes to texting amounts! Plus, you can get unlimited texting for something like $10 per month. (You will be amazed at how many texts they receive - even if they don't send that many!)

Plus, have your son pay "insurance" on his phone. (Through extra chores, pet sitting, yard work, etc.) That way if he looses it, he has the money to buy another one out of his own money.

Something they don't really tell you at t-mobile, but we found out, is this: you can purchase a "pre-paid" t-mobile phone at wal-mart and use that one. We got one for one of our kids for $50. It works like a charm.

And while these phones don't have internet, they do have the ability to update facebook, check email, a camera, etc. I don't think they even make cell's anymore that don't offer those things.

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