- Mint Mobile
- Freedom Pop
- Copper Valley Telecom
- Consumer Cellular
- Red Pocket
- Ting Mobile
- Verizon (requires the Verizon-version of the Slim!)
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Kids and Cellphones: When Should My Child Get A Phone? Parents Guide
Is Your Child Ready for a Cellphone?
From Cyber issues to Social Media FOMO to plain old distraction, there are many things to think about when you're child proclaims, "Mom, I want a phone!"
Parents, it's a great question and here are some things to consider as you decide when you should let your child have their very own cellphone.
Before You Hand Them A Phone - Consider Any And All The Ways Cellphones Affect Your Child's Well-being
- There's a critical link between phone and tablet use and Sleep-which is so important to teens especially. A recently released study found these interesting correlations:
- One or more cordless phone calls/week was associated with a lower sleep quality
- Habitual and frequent problematic mobile phone use was associated with a lower sleep quality
- Higher tablet use was associated with decreased sleep efficiency and increased minutes of wake time after sleep onset
- There are also health effects from the luminous blue light that comes from all digital screens. When your child has a cellphone, chances are they'll be looking at that screen a lot! When they do, they're exposed to intense blue light that can effect their vision and their sleep cycles and even contribute to metabolism changes and insulin resistance. To learn the latest on what blue light can do to our bodies, here's everything you need to know
Then there's the social-emotional issues for your kids that come with having what I like to refer to as their "most personal, personal possession. " a cellphone of their own. As a mom or dad, you may find yourself wondering if your child has developed or will develop things like Phantom Vibration Syndrome, that's where a phone is set to vibrate and even if it doesn't you think it does. Robert Rosenberger from the Georgia Tech wrote a paper pointing out how prevalent it actually is-noting that in two studies, 70 to 90 percent of participants reported they had experienced it. Or maybe they'll end up with the popular Nomophobia, a severe mobile phone induced anxiety, it can happen because of the dopamine/cortisol effect. Or they may have to deal with FOMO, Fear of Missing out- which happens when kids see what their friends are doing and are stressed because they're not doing it--or weren't asked to participate. As an adult it's hard to deal with seeing someone "appear" to have more or really have more and not get into a negative and depressing comparison cycle, so imagine how difficult it could be for your child.
- Just like adults, kids are exposed to Radio Frequency(RF) radiation and that's a concern for their growing/developing bodies and brains. Their skulls are less thick and their brains are smaller and cell phone radiation penetrates more deeply as a result. If you want to go deep into understanding RF, please consult our EMF Guide.
It's important that kids use Wired Headphones Or Speaker Phone. The Best Idea Are These SaferTech Air Tube Headphones That Stop Radiation From Going Directly Into Your Kid's Ears
- Smartphone addiction starts with a smartphone! We've all seen kids literally glued to their phones. Some may in fact have developed a biological "need" or dependence on their phones that can result in depression, anxiety and many other classic indicators of addictions. Dr. Kimberly Young, internet addiction expert has given Tech Wellness her Smartphone Addiction test and a list of symptoms . Dr. Young advises a "Digital Diet," and remembering that our phones are "treats" and not the veggies, protein or healthy fruits we need to sustain ourselves and be healthy and productive.
Bad or Good, They're A Big Part OF Our Modern World- When Should Your Child Have One?
Every parent needs to make that decision. It's so great to be able to locate and communicate with your child--anytime or all the time. To know where they are with location services can bring so much peace of mind, but think about how your Mom and Dad managed when you were a kid.
Dr. Young thinks kids under 3 shouldn't even see a screen as it inhibits normal development. Most parents agree that kids shouldn't have their own phones before age 10. In France, educators have decided that kids under 15 shouldn't have them in schools.
Cellphones in Classrooms in France have been banned for students age 15 and under since September of 2018.
In addition, many teachers and school administrators have said cellphones are hugely distracting in schools, and teachers have a hard enough time getting students to concentrate in the first place.
For health and safety reasons, we think it's best to wait until middle school. However, every parent has to weigh the pros and cons and make their own decisions.
When it is Time, Consider a Flip Phone or a Limited Function Phone - BUT Know That They Really are NOT Safe Tech.
When I think of safer technology, I think of less radiation, less WiFi, less Bluetooth. Remember when a phone was simply a cellphone? Some Flip phones allow you to turn off Bluetooth, but unfortunately, most Flip phones do have Bluetooth and most don't have WiFi functionality which is a good thing.
Flip phones and Limited Function Phones like The Light Phone, Gabb Wireless and Pinwheel ALL emit all the same RF radiation that all cellphones emit- from their antenna.
If the phone also has a BlueTooth function and a WiFi function than it is as power packed with EMF radiation as any smartphone.
The Gabb and Pinwheel are simply regular Android phones that do not have access to social media, the internet and most Apps.
Gabb Says Kids Might Not Be Ready for A Cellphone, But They Are Ready For A Smart Watch!
Really? Kids are ready for a watch attached to their bodies, sending EMF radiation 100% of the time? I'm sorry. I don't think any child is ready for an onslaught of wireless energy from Bluetooth and cell signal so parents know where they are and can call them at any time- or so kids can play a game on their watch(!) I just don't think it's a healthy trade off. I hear constantly from adults who tell me about their headaches and anxiety that disappear when they remove their Fitbits and Apple Watches. I can't imagine subjecting a normal, healthy child to something that could harm them.
Clearly, I totally DO NOT recommend the Gabb watch, which they say they have designed for younger kids. They tout it as a tracking device with GPS. Parents, please know that a safe level of RF radiation- the invisible energy that comes from all wireless devices has been scientifically proven to have a biological effect. Also, we know that children are much more susceptible to the impact of wireless radio frequency EMF because their bodies are still developing, then have thinner skulls and less bone density than adults.
Aside From Physical Health Effects, Phones Are Safer When There is No Access To Internet and Social Apps
Gabb and Pinwheel are soft introductions to browsing online.
Both have no ads, no social media, no gaming, no entertainment, no Internet browser, no app store. Both let your child text, take photos and make phone calls. Parents will appreciate the location tracking that they both allow.
I purchased a Gabb Wireless phone. It's an Android phone with limited functionality, but there are reports of some kids being able to "work around" the phones limited offering of :
Gabb Apps • Texting • Phone Calls • Camera
They will still get calls and texts from strangers and Robo calls
Gabb Apps include a calculator, calendar, camera, clock, contact book, file manager, FM radio, music player, video player, and voice recorder.
Gabb phone costs $99 and plans, one with just person to person texting for 19.99 a month for the wireless network that lets you
- Text Only Messages
(Excludes images and group texts)
- No Contract
- GPS Location
- Unlimited Talk and Text
The Second Plan offers Group Texting for $24.99 for the wireless network
- Image & Group Text Messages
- No Contract
- GPS Location
- Unlimited Talk and Text
They both have no contract. If you stop paying, they stop your cellphone connection.
Pinwheel is Just in BETA- meaning were not sure how the actual product will work- but we just purchased one so we will let you know how it goes!
In Pinwheel's App Boutique you have access to lots of Apps, including the Parent Control/monitoring favorite: Bark and Apple Music, Calm that you can download if you want.
They also have a Care Giver App where YOU control and set up your child's phone. They have the phone set up to work with Bark to monitor your child's texting and calls if you'd like.
The big difference between Gabb and Pinwheel is pricing and Network and who can call and text your child.They have a SafeList and the Phone is Modified:
Safelist-Only. Nobody can call or text the phone who isn't on the Safelist. Mode-Modified. Most parents limit the phone to emergency contacts at school and at night, but enable friends, family, coaches, or neighbors during other modes. With Pinwheel, you sign up Separately with the Carrier of Your choice. No AT&T or Sprint, but you can choose from
Empower them with healthy phone habits and boundaries
If and when you do choose to give your child any phone, remember the phone belongs to YOU. It's really your responsibility and it is in your control.
Some Best Practices To Use It With Their Health In Mind:
- Let them know it's a privilege rather than a right and when at home, position is as a "treat" between homework and sleeping.
- Children should never have a cell phone (or any technology) in their room when they are trying to sleep. It's a distraction and the blue light is an inhibitor to healthy sleep. Plus that wireless RF we talked about earlier is electrical energy that interferes with their body's own electrical energy.
- Keep the family table a device free zone. A device is a distraction from healthy meals, family time and peaceful and proper digestion.
Tons Of Tips to help Kids Make Good Choices With Tech
We have 20 tips to consider as you hand off the phone to your child-but with all these suggestions, it's really important that Mom and Dad are highly involved.
My kids learned a whole lot more from me when I showed them vs told them. Devorah Heitner, PHD, author of Raising Digital Natives advises parents Mentor vs Monitor what their kids are doing on their phones.
So here's checklist of items as you mentor and instruct your child on what they need to know when they have a phone of their own:
- Make sure they know not to use WiFi hotspots or public networks to save data. Public WiFi is a privacy and cyber-security concern.
- Make sure they use a pin/thumbprint. Kids are notoriously bad at responsibility when it comes to possessions and phones can be stolen, especially at school.
- Let them know that there cellphones and laptops run on wireless energy. Since it has been shown to bother some peoples bodies--just like LOUD music can hurt their ears--we can turn down the energy by keeping it out of hands, out of pockets and away from beds as much as possible
- Make sure that location services are disabled in all apps-except a tracking app you may wish to use.
- Technology can be a TIME SUCK. You know this but a kid who's just getting started doesn't. Please help them manage their time and avoid addictions by timing their phone use. You can use Screen Time apps that come with most phones to set up limits. But to start, use a timer, not just one on the phone. Visual Timers are best, because they can help kids see clearly(and take their eyes off the phone for a moment) how much time has passed and how much is left.
- Make sure they know how to spot fraudulent text messages and calls, and know not to respond.
- Make sure they don’t list their school on their social media profiles.
- Make sure you have their logins. Monitor their social media periodically.
- Educate them on social media perils. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Solidify an understanding that everything and every word they post can be shared and even if they have privacy settings, any post can be shared everywhere by simply taking a screenshot.
- Spend some time on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram with them. Sit with them as they go through their social feeds, and do this as often as you can. If you see them following someone that's not really a friend and their feeling too much FOMO or following them makes them feel bad, show them how easy it is to choose not to follow that person
- If you see them get bullied you can show them how to block certain followers, or it may be best to block comments altogether until the bullying is under control.
- Point out the sometimes "scammy" ads and show them why they should not click them.
- Have an Internet contract and limit or don't allow social media platforms where communication disappears after sending.eg Snapchat and Signal. It’s a paradise for predators and for bullies - making both hard to prove or track.
- Every app downloaded is one more app that could be a privacy concern. Remember apps have the ability to monitor what you do on them.
- We think it's a great idea to delete apps when not in use anymore, as some apps gather data on you to sell to marketers.
- Use privacy settings on Facebook and Snapchat and apps to manage what about you is shared and who sees it – and turn off any permissions that aren’t absolutely necessary. We've got an amazing guide
- Encourage them to use airplane mode when playing games taking photos. This way they will avoid unnecessary RF radiation exposure.
APPS AND GAMES THAT DON'T NEED WIFI OR CELL SERVICE
Please take a moment to review our incredible guide and review of 25 Apps and Games that don't need WiFi - updated for 2021.
This Link Take You To The Ones That Are Great For Kids 11 and Up. Each has a link to download The App in a Free Version that they can play offline!
- Encourage them to keep the cell phone out of pockets and hands. Apple's user manual recommends that the phone is kept from a quarter to a half inch away from your body. We use a case with straps--a backpack with the phone in the back pocket.
- Give them a pair of radiation-free Air-tube headsets or make sure they use the cell phone only on speaker mode when they make a call.
- Invest in a Faraday They're portable and effective. A little pricey, but worth the investment; it means no radiation and zero distractions. And we have this Value Faraday
- Talk early and often to them about the pitfalls of sharing intimate photos with ANYONE, even people they trust and how those situations can go horribly wrong.
- Ask the teacher first, if you it's okay to bring the phone to school. Her space, her rules. I talk about one teachers POV in this story on Cellphones In Schools
- A few moms have told me how much they love Our Pact. It's an app that allows them to keep tract and partially control their kids cellphones. Personally, I'm not a fan of monitoring Apps because they get all your child's data. It's a big privacy issue that concerns me. At the very least, please don’t release your child’s real name or birthdate to these apps. There’s no good reason they must have this information.
- Also, like most of the experts in the digital and tech wellness space, I think you should look at your child's phone- with your child- as much as you possibly can. Yes, review texts and browsing, but talk to you kids about what you're seeing and make recommendations. Still want to monitor? Here are some other ideas.
- My Mobile Watchdog: The parents dashboard, accesses text messages, contacts, call logs, block apps and websites, locate your child+more
- Bark monitors 30+ platforms like all the social media apps, browsers, text messages, emails, and looks through the activity for signs of harmful interactions and content.
MamaBear Monitors social media including bullying language, restricted words you set on Insta, Twitter or Facebook -plus someone new, or someone new follows them on Twitter Your child is tagged or @mentioned in a message, or checks in at a location on Facebook etc. and is a location tracker
Drive Safe Mode Location and speed tracker blocks phone use based on speed of driving, sends notifications, allows emergency calls.
If you're giving your child an iPhone the new IOS has a great password protected ScreenTime feature that allows you to block certain apps and set time limits for all phone use including Social Media - use it and review the findings with your kids. It's really enlightening to see what's being used and for how long.
Hope you enjoyed this guide, please let us know if you have any additional insight we can provide our readers.
Here's the research