The Best Smart Phone & Plan for Your Kid (or Teenager) - 2016

At some point as a parent, you'll probably decide to get your kid a cell phone. Maybe it will be after the first time they ask for one, or maybe it will be after they've asked a million times. When you get them a cell phone is up to you. What cell phone and cell phone plan you should get them is what I would like to suggest and recommend in this article. Many of the fifth and sixth graders at our kids' elementary school already have phones, though I think that is too early and the kids are too young to need a phone. Some of them even have the latest iPhone, including one third grader! We decided to get our daughter her first phone when she started junior high (7th grade). With all of her extra-curricular activities, including ballet  after school four days a week, it made sense for her to have a way to communicate with us when needed, and we also recognized that all of her friends had smart phones and she didn't. But a major factor standing in the way of us getting her a phone was the cost, both of the phone and the service plan. I didn't want to pay several hundred dollars for a smart phone that could easily be broken, lost, or stolen, nor did I want to pay a lot to add her to our T-Mobile plan we had at that time, which would have also locked us into a new 2 year contract. Then I read about a company called Republic Wireless that sold a decent smart phone (the 1st generation Moto G smart phone) for only $149, and more importantly, offered unlimited talk and text for $10 a month (I had been warned about how many texts a kid can send... a LOT), along with unlimited free internet access via wifi. We decided last year (July 2014) to get her a Republic Wireless Moto G on their $10 per month plan, and it worked out so well that we said goodbye to T-Mobile and now have three phones with Republic Wireless (one for my daughter, one for my wife, and one for me) and we'll be getting my son one this coming year when he starts junior high (in the meantime, it seems that he's always borrowing my phone, but that's another story).

I regularly tell my kids that I managed to survive childhood and grow up with out a cell phone, but they understandably roll their eyes and ask me if I also hunted dinosaurs when I was a kid. At some point, it's not unreasonable to get your kid a cell phone or smart phone, but I don't think it's critical, nor do I think that elementary school kids need cell phones. I think there's something to be said for holding off as long as you can, since most cell phones these days are smart phones, and smart phones can be like crack-cocaine to kids (and adults) as they end up always staring at their phone (playing video games) instead of interacting the world around them and talking to the people next to them. Rant aside, we decided to get our daughter a smart phone when she started junior high (7th grade) so she could communicate with us and her friends. We anticipated that it might be a challenge to limit the amount of screen time she got everyday, so she could continue to focus on school and ballet, and not spend all her time playing Angry Birds, watching YouTube videos, or checking celebrities' Instagram accounts. Although we sometimes have to remind her to put the phone down and find something else to do, getting her a smart phone has worked out surprisingly well for us... and hasn't sent us to the poor house, thank in large part to a company called Republic Wireless.

I would not get an expensive smart phone or cell phone for my kid. There is a good chance they will break it or lose it, and I don't see why a kid would need an expensive smart phone anyway. I would assume something bad will happen to their first phone (and be happy if it doesn't) and get them the cheapest decent basic smart phone you can find. I'm not advocating just buying the cheapest phone, if the phone is low quality and won't hold up. But don't spend more than you have to. It's a lot less painful to replace a $150 dollar phone than a $500 phone! One thing I love about Republic Wireless is they offer the perfect first smart phone for a kid, the basic but decent Moto E (2nd Gen), and it's only $129. A few years ago I don't think you could find a smart phone for under $500, but now Motorola offers incredible-value decent smart phones like the Moto E (2nd Gen) for $129 and the Moto G (3rd Gen) for $199. We bought my daughter the Republic Wireless Moto G (1st Gen) for $149, and it has served her well for over a year now (and should continue to serve her well into the foreseeable future). We also got a good case for for her Moto G phone, which has come in handy as I have personally seen her accidentally drop her phone on concrete twice, but thanks to the case, it has survived! The Moto G (1st Gen) isn't available anymore, but the Moto E (2nd Gen) for $129 is a great successor. It is perfect for talking and texting, as well as accessing the internet when needed. It has a great battery that should last several days on a charge (when used in moderation), or a full day if used heavily. I would definitely get a case for it, as kids will be kids, and phones will be dropped.

Republic Wireless offers a $10 plan that gives you unlimited talk and text both over wifi and over the Sprint cellular network. No matter how much your kids talks or texts, it's $10 (plus tax). You can have the piece of mind knowing your kid can't bankrupt you buy sending her best friend 100,000 texts in a month. The Republic Wireless $10 plan also includes unlimited internet access on wifi. If you have wifi at home and/or at your kid's school (or elsewhere) they can access the internet to search Google, watch YouTube, check Instagram, and all the other things kids like to do. Republic also offers refundable data plans that add cellular data to the $10 plan. I discuss their refundable cellular data plans here. I don't recommend these plans for kids. I personally think kids get more that enough smart phone screen time when they're limited to wifi internet. I don't see the need for them to have cellular internet. Our kids watch plenty of youtube on our smart phones at home (over wifi) and we spend enough time suggesting they find something else to do other that staring at a smart phone. They regularly tell us that the youtube video is about ballet or building with Legos, and is thus educational and good for them. We still tell them enough is enough, and to read a (real) book or go outside. Back to the subject of cellular date for your kids cell phone plan... as I said, kids get plenty of screen time if they're limited to wifi internet... they don't need cellular internet. They should be outside running around or throwing a football! Go with the Republic Wireless $10 plan!

FAQ: What if I want to be able to track my kid via his or her phone? Can I do this with Republic Wireless on their $10 plan?
My wife pointed out to me that some parents want to be able to track their children via their phones. The Republic Wireless $10 plan does not include any cellular data. The Motorola android phones have built in tracking, but the tracking program depends on cellular service to communicate with the phone. So if the phone is in a wifi zone, you can track it, but if the phone is away from wifi, you can't track it (with the stock android locating program). My wife thought this might be an issue for some parents. However, I did some research and found an app called Where's My Droid. If you download it and install it on your phone, you can then send a text to the phone, and the phone will text you back it's location (remember Republic includes unlimited texting). Of course, the phone has to be turned on, and it has to be under cellular coverage or wifi coverage. You also have to have "location" (gps) turned on (enabled) on the phone. I downloaded and installed the app on my Moto G, and turned on GPS. Then when I was driving around town (with no wifi) my wife texted my phone, and it sent her back my location (and the speed and direction I was traveling). I've had the app installed for a week now. I thought having the app running in the background and having "location" on might run down my battery faster, but at this point it seems like the effect on battery life is quite minor (if any), so I'm going to leave the app running. This also means if I misplace or lose my phone, I can locate it, even though I have the Republic Wireless $10 plan which does not include any cellular data. Bottom Line: Where's My Droid works on the Republic Wireless $10 plan, and provides an easy way to locate your phone (and kid) by sending a text. 

When you decide the time is right to get your kid (or teenager) a cell phone, get them a Republic Wireless Moto E (2nd gen), or spoil them with a Moto G (3rd gen) if they're a really good kid, and sign them up for the Republic Wireless $10 per month plan (unlimited talk & text plus unlimited internet over wifi). You'll be getting them a perfectly good smart phone, and you'll be protecting your wallet.


Click here to get your kid a Republic Wireless smart phone

read my original Republic Wireless review

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