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How to control your teenager's phone use

  • Make sure you can contact your child
  • Avoid bill shock with prepaid plans
  • Consider unlimited cap plans
Written by Mikaella Clements
03/04/2012

A sixteen year old girl with a mobile phone is a double edged sword. On one side of the blade (hey, we're a mobile plan comparison site, not weapon terminology experts) is the threat of your child being out somewhere and unable to contact you or be contacted if you need to speak to them; on the other, a massive bill at the end of the month because your teenager can't control her usage.

 

Frustrated parent/child

Let's discuss plans that will be able to cater to these two options. We'll focus around addressing those two key criteria:

  1. Ease of access.
    It's important for most parents that they are able to contact their child when they need to. Sometimes this involves sending a child a text getting them to call their parent, or asking a child to call their parent and let them know that they have arrived at their destination safely. It's not enough for parents to be able to call their child – most parents require their children to be able to call them.
  2. Affordable and predictable.
    Lots of parents still pay for their child's phone bill, and in this case, you want the phone bill to be a standard – hopefully small! – amount every month with no nasty surprises when you open the letter.

Bill shock can be a tricky beast to manage when you're not the one in control of the phone, but you are responsible for the bill. Speaking from experience, if you're not paying the bill, it's hard to care for the consequences.

This means that while you may be monitoring your own usage to avoid bill shock, it can be difficult to make your child do the same thing. Ideally, we'll all have conscientious children who hate the idea of costing their parents unnecessary expense; realistically, it's going to happen at least once, and very often more than once.

This isn't just about your child's carelessness. Call rates can be misleading, and many teenagers underestimate just how a call costs.

For example, say your provider has a call rate of 90 cents per minute along with a 35 cent call connection fee – that's pretty standard. Your child may understand that nearly $1 per minute is going to lead to some expensive calls, and so rationalises it by calling his/her friends quickly, saying, "Call me back!" and waiting for the call to be returned. However, because providers charge immediately upon someone else answering, that call is going to be $1.25. Consider how many of these "quick, cheap" calls your child might make in a month. More often than not, if they're a chatterbox, they'll be going over their limit just with these $1.25 calls.

As a result, when it comes to picking a plan for your child, we recommend two options: unlimited plans, or prepaid plans.

Unlimited plans

It may seem misguided to "reward" a child who can't keep control of their phone usage by giving them as many phone calls and text messages per month as they want. Ultimately though, this is the kind of plan that is going to keep you from getting hundreds of dollars in excess usage charges per month.

We do recommend in some of these cases that you steer clear of smartphones. This is because even with unlimited plans, you're going to get only a certain amount of data, and excess usage charges for data can get very expensive. You probably don't need your child to be able to access the internet on their phone, so if you're worried about them using it too much, it's best to just take the option away and make your child resign themselves to an older handset until they can afford to pay their own bills.

When it comes to unlimited mobile plans, Amaysim are hard to beat. They offer the Unlimited SIM Only Post-Paid plan for $39.90 per month. This plan gives you unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and 4GB of data. Importantly, Amaysim include 13 and 1800 numbers in their unlimited call value, unlike most other providers. Amaysim do not include phones, so you can buy this SIM card for your child's existing handset, and the plan is available on a 0-month contract. Call Amaysim today on 1300 791 895. Amaysim also offers a similar experience with broadband plans for iPads and laptops, so have a look at Amaysim broadband plans if you just want data.

Club Telco offers the ClubMega Cap for $60.00 per month. This plan gives you unlimited calls, unlimited texts, 3GB of data, and $100 worth of international calls. Like Amaysim, Club Telco do not offer phones, only SIM cards, and they are available on a 0-month contract. Call Club Telco today on 1300 138 155.

Dodo offers two tiers of unlimited plans, catered to those who need more or less data. The first is the Flexi Mobile $49.90 Plan, which includes unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and 2.5GB of data. For an extra $10 per month, you could upgrade to the Flexi Mobile $59.90 Plan, which includes unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and 5GB of data. You can also get some great phones on this plan for only a little extra per month on the hardware charges. However, these plans are both only available on a 24 month contract. Call Dodo today on 1300 136 793.

Prepaid plans

A prepaid plan comes with a major advantage – and what may be, for some, a major disadvantage.

First of all, a prepaid plan allows you to control exactly what you spend. You pay upfront, and then once the limit has been reached, your child will be cut off until you recharge the phone again.

The disadvantage is that your child could be "out of credit" when they seriously need to contact you. This is a bad situation to get involved in, whether it be that your child is out of touch when you want them to call you, or whether because your child might be in danger and need to call you and be unable to.

If you decide to go for a prepaid plan, there's more to take into consideration than just which plan offers you the most value. Make sure you look at things like call rates and expiry dates before you sign up with a provider.

We offer a great guide to prepaid plans, but here are some of the best value plans to get you started.

For the light user, Vodafone offers the TXT & Talk Prepaid Plan for $20 every time you recharge. This plan includes $20 of phone credit, along with twenty free text messages and ten minutes of free talk time, and fifty minutes of Vodafone to Vodafone talk time. The expiry date is a length sixty days away from when you recharge. Call us for more information about Vodafone or to sign up on 1300 850 518.

Heavier users can go straight for Virgin's Your Cap Recharge 49. For $49.00 every time you recharge, this plan gives you $800 of included value, unlimited calls and texts to other mobiles on Virgin, and 1GB of data. The expiry date is, unfortunately, much closer – after only 28 days. Call Virgin for more information or to sign up on 1300 768 103.

Which one do I choose?

Eventually, this is a parenting decision you'll have to make on your own. If you feel like you can control your child's prepaid usage so that they suddenly can't call you as they've run out of credit, it's definitely the more inexpensive option.

 

Child on phone

Photo credit: eyeliam

However, if your child is more likely to put up a bit of a fight about how much they should be calling their friends as opposed to their parents, an unlimited plan might be the solution. It may be more than you'd like to be paying per month, but an extra $10-30 isn't so bad when you think that it could be an out of the blue $200.

If you want expert advice on your own personal situation, or have further questions about this article, please don't hesitate to call us at Compare Mobile Plans on 1300 850 518.

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