Wondering when to get your child their first cell phone? For most Americans, the answer is age 10.
A recent study released by the research firm Influence Central found the average age that children receive their first cell phone now stands at 10 years and three months. Roughly 50 percent of children have social media accounts by age 12, the study found.
The study also found that many children use their phone to text their parents — even when they are in the same house.
The number of parents who use GPS capabilities to keep tabs on their children is also on the rise, doubling from 7 percent in 2012 to 15 percent in 2016, the study found.
As children return to school across Palm Beach County, wireless experts say there are a number of options to consider when trying to determine which device might be best for your child.
Options include: smartphones, basic cell phones, prepaid phones, wearables like smart watches with GPS tracking, and tablets.
Brandon Poe, Verizon Wireless District Manager for Palm Beach, said wearable devices like the LG GizmoPal 2 and GizmoGadget are good alternatives for younger children. The phones allow parents to track their children using GPS technology and can be programmed with up to four phone numbers. Models also include an auto-answer feature, he said.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury as parents to be close to our children as much as we like to,” Poe said. “I think it is great for parents to really invest in peace of mind.”
For older children, technology is becoming more important in the classroom and for homework assignments.
Roughly, 75 percent of teachers say that they regularly use technology in the classroom, Poe said.
There are a variety of smartphones available to meet the needs of every student, including one model that doubles as a projector, allowing students to share and display information quickly, Poe said.
AT&T recommends parents consider the following when trying to find the right wireless device:
* Do a “cell assessment” to determine the plan and device that best meets your child’s AND family’s needs. For example, how is your child going to be using the device? Will she be making voice calls only? Be using it for texting… surfing the Internet… or staying connected with her social networks? If you’re okay with your child texting or using data, you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate texting or data plan.
* If you want to get your child a device strictly for security, then you may want to consider an option like:
The SpareOne Emergency Phone features a flashlight, glow-in-the-dark keypad, a panic siren and a SOS signal built into the phone. It also has a Locate & Alert service included with the plan so that you can alert up to five people you want to notify in an emergency who will receive your location.
The FiLIP 2 is a smart locator with voice for kids ages 4 – 11. It’s a colorful wearable that looks like a watch and uses a blend of GPS, GSM, and Wi-Fi to help parents locate their child both indoors and out. You can set up to five SafeZones and receive a notification when your child enters or leaves the SafeZone. The FiLIP 2 can also make 2-way voice calls using a built-in speakerphone.
* If you don’t want to sign a contract or are on a tight budget, then consider a prepaid or no money down option. With a prepaid option you pay as you go. With plans like AT&T Next, you can purchase a smartphone with $0 down and pay low monthly installment payments.
* Don’t forget to take advantage of tools that help you keep track of your children and set limits on their use. Check with your provider to see what type of location-based services they have. For example, FamilyMap lets you track the location of your child’s phone from a PC or mobile device. Also, ask your provider what types of parental controls are available to you. With Smart Limits parental controls you can limit phone use during certain times of the day or night, check in on daily phone activity, block numbers and cellular data, set text and purchase limits, get customized alerts and weekly reports, and download the Smart Limits app to your iOS or Android phone.
* If everyone in your household is with the same provider, consider a plan that lets users on the account share data.
* Learn how to keep track of minutes/data to help you better manage your child’s wireless plan. Check with the provider to see what tools they offer to help you track and manager your child’s wireless use. For example, AT&T customers can monitor usage through the myAT&T app. You can also dial *MIN# to see how many minutes have been used or *DATA# to check on data usage. AT&T also offers an online data calculator so you can calculate daily or monthly data use.