There are lots of benefits to getting your child a smartphone. (Getting him or her to stop asking for one is close to the top of the list.) There are also challenges and concerns. How much control and visibility will you have in your child’s phone use? Will it be complicated for you to set up and manage? Do you need to get your child the same phone on the same network as the rest of your family? The considerations below will help you find the right smartphone to add to your family.
Ease of Use
First and foremost, your child’s new smartphone needs to be easy to use. But easy for whom? Kids often pick up new technology easily, while the grownups tend to have a steeper learning curve. If you and your family are already comfortable with either Apple or Android, that’s a big check mark in the “Yes” column for that operating system. In addition to knowing how to get around, it’s easy to share books, movies, photos, and other media with family members on the same platform.
If you don’t already have a preference for one or the other, keep in mind that Apple has a reputation for simple, intuitive design, but Android is known for offering users lots of control and customization. The right fit for you depends on your priorities.
Cost and Convenience
Before going too much further, think about the price tag. Bargain hunters will be pleased to know that Android boasts several high-quality phones for less than $300. In comparison, the smallest and simplest iPhone, the SE, starts at $349, and newer models with more features run several hundred dollars more.
What if you want to use a smartphone you already have as a hand-me-down for your child? Some providers are happy to let you activate your old phone on their network. For instance, you can bring your old phone to T-Mobile as long as it’s compatible. Once you’ve verified that it is, just buy a SIM card, choose a plan, and you’re ready to go. T-Mobile offers plans with unlimited talk, text, and data to keep things simple; free streaming on Netflix so your child can watch his or her favorite shows; and easy-to-understand billing with taxes and fees included.
As a parent, location tracking is likely one of the most important features when considering a phone for your child. Apple and Android are both well aware of this, so you can do it no matter which operating system you have. Some users prefer Apple, which enables you to see where every member of your family is on one screen. (Though that also means they can see where you are.) On the downside, it’s possible for a user to turn location tracking off, so use your best judgment.
Give some thought to how much of your child’s smartphone activity you want to be able to see. Android offers more options in this area, from enabling you to monitor his or her texts to notifying you when he or she installs a new app. You can also install third-party parental control apps more easily on Android, whereas Apple’s preference for keeping a tight lock on system controls means fewer monitoring options.
Other Parental Controls
Both operating systems allow parents to install web filters for safe internet browsing, though you may need an app to get all the blocking features you want. Apple also gives you the option of requiring a passcode to access certain apps or install new apps. You can use the “Ask to Buy” feature in Family Sharing to require that you grant permission before your child installs a new app. You cannot, however, block specific apps during certain time frames, like during school hours. Android, on the other hand, allows this.
One great way to get some helpful insights is to talk to other parents who have gone through this process. At the end of the day, the right phone for you and your child depends on what you’re already comfortable with, how much control you want, and how much you’re willing to pay to get it.