Stuff Kids Want: Cell Phones

This is the first installment in our latest blog series entitled Stuff Kids Want. Kids want lots of stuff , but there are some universal standouts and certainly cell phones are one of them. Getting a cell phone is a modern-day rite of passage for today’s youth, as fundamental as a driver’s license in many ways. Gift Surveys can help families frame the discussion about the right time for kids to get a cell phone, and all of the accompanying decisions that need to be made, like who will pay for the ongoing service contract?

Who should pay for the monthly cell phone bill: parents or the child using the phone? The good news is, there is no right or wrong answer. The big benefit comes from having a discussion, and knowing what your family’s answer is, in advance of the bill arriving. Cell phones, their purchase, and ongoing service contracts, are just another opportunity to drive home the power and importance of thinking before buying. Most parents agree to pay for a basic pre-arranged package, and require their children to pay for overages. However, as the old saying goes:

“When you owe the bank $10,000 you are in trouble. When you owe the bank $10,000,000 –  the bank is in trouble.”

And many families have had the upsetting experience of receiving a cell phone bill with overage charges that the offending child simply does not have the money to pay for.

Getting a cell phone is a modern-day rite of passage for today’s youth – as fundamental as a driver’s license in many ways. Gift Surveys can help families frame the discussion about the right time for kids to get a cell phone, and all of the accompanying decisions that need to be made, like who will pay for the ongoing service contract.

Nasty and surprising cell phone bills are usually the result of not fully understanding the terms of a carrier’s contract when it comes to data overages, or out-of-region roaming. This tends to happen when kids are initially placed on family plans and go out of town for the first time on their own, for example, on school trips or to sports tournaments. For this reason, Common Sense Media (CSM), only recommends family plans for cell phone veterans and teens.

CSM is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to empowering kids to thrive in a world of media and technology. We really like their comprehensive guide to cell phone parenting. Questions and answers are organized by topic and age. Check it out if you want help deciding when your child is ready for a phonesetting rules, choosing the right phone and service plan, or staying on top of what your son or daughter is doing on his or her phone.

Experiences like over-spending on a cell phone bill arrive much earlier in life for our kids than they did for us. So the cost of service contracts really needs to be part of the decision to purchase a phone. Question 5 in the DIMS (Does It Make Sense) Score Calculator for Electronics provides an opportunity for parents to discuss ongoing costs beyond the initial purchase of a device.

Question 6: “Do you need to learn how to use this item well?” and it’s LEARN MORE BUTTON: “Using technology safely and effectively is important. Remember, posting something on the internet is permanent.” were designed to remind kids and their parents that electronics can give powerful and immediate access to the online world. New phone users may well require education and/or training, but we can hardly think of a better way to spend time or money, than to ensure that your child understands best cell-phone-use practices, before they find themselves in a sticky situation!

Warranties are almost always offered against accidental damage when a cell phone is being purchased; while these can add a material amount to the phone’s all-in cost, they should still be considered. When your child completes a Gift Survey asking for a new phone, they will be reminded to research warranty offerings in Question 9. Finally, don’t forget that completed Gift Surveys can also be used to invite extended family members to collectively fund the purchase of a phone for an upcoming birthday or holiday gift. Cell phones are pricey, particularly feature-loaded smartphones!

Gifting Sense exists to help parents teach their kids to think before they buy. Our free safe service helps make sure that children understand the true value of their requests. As such, it is the perfect tool for families to use when considering cell-phone purchases. When talk of “their own” or a “new cell phone” enters the dinner conversation, ask your children to complete a Gift Survey for the device they want. See if you can’t teach them the value of a dollar while making their dreams come true. We are pretty sure you can do both at once, in fact, “we no u can”.


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