It’s back to school time which means homework, extra-curricular activities and your teenager’s social life (yes, this is true whether you like it or not!)

Your teenager will undoubtedly want a smartphone. Teenagers love to surf the internet, check emails, instant message, and of course talk and text.

But where do you begin? Here are some things to keep in mind when cell phone shopping for your teenager.

1.         How much will your teen talk?

Depending on your teen’s needs, you’ll need to predict whether you will be able to cap the minutes per month or allow for unlimited calls. Some carriers will allow you to set a limit on minutes, or limit phone use to certain times of the day. Last thing you want is your chatty teen to go over the limits of the plan and be left with a hefty bill. An unlimited plan will likely save you money in the long run.

Most cell phone companies have a family-plan package that allows for another phone to the current plan.  If you have enough minutes that you don’t use on your own phone, you can add your teenager to a family plan. Again, you’ll likely save money in the long term if the whole family is on a family plan.

2.         How much will your teen text?

Your teen will undoubtedly want to text. Teens tend to text a lot more than adults! You may want to go with an unlimited package otherwise the costs will add up. Certain carriers charge extra for text messaging, which is why unlimited texts might be the best option. Some cellular providers attach larger fees for data as well.

3.         How much data will your teen need?

If your teenager will surf the internet, check emails and instant message, you will need to get a good data plan. If you don’t give enough data, your child can easily rack up the bill. Make sure you decide how much data you will allow.

Remember that downloading videos and music will use a lot of data. You’ll be able to get a smartphone for $0 with a contract with some providers, or even no contract by other providers with a data plan.

4.         How much control over your teen’s cell phone do you want?

Although your teenager won’t be impressed with you, for the sake of their privacy and safety you will likely want to consider setting some restrictions on internet and texting. The last thing you want is for your teenager to share locations of where he/she is or private photos.

There are several ways to use restrictions. One way is to ask the carrier to cap the number of minutes, messages and entertainment downloads on the phone. The last thing you’d want is to discover that your child has downloaded expensive apps! You can also request that the carrier block content or prevent a child from texting photos. There is also parental control software that can be purchased to allow the ability to filter, block and monitor how your child uses the phone.

Remember, you’re the parent! Having a cell phone is a privilege!


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.


  1. As a mom to 3 kids in middle and high school (and two in elementary), this is something we’re right in the middle of. So far, we’ve maintained a “family cell” that gets passed around to whoever needs it when they go out/babysit. And they all have itouches that we can text them on. I shutter to think of our cell phone bill if all of my kids had their own phone!

    • That’s a fantastic idea to have a “family cell” to share. Good tip!

  2. I’m soon to get into this…and limits and responsibilities are high in my mind. Maria – you point out some very good points for families to consider.

  3. It’s time for the 13yr old to get her phone (a rule in our house – you must be 13 before you can have a phone) and my biggest concern is NO DATA. I really don’t want her accessing the Internet unless I can be present (another rule in my house – no internet unless mom or dad is home). So right now, the struggle for us is to find a phone that offers the QWERTY keyboard but otherwise no frills and no data plan.

    • I agree with the no data at that age. I like your rules about no internet unless a parent is home. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  4. My cell phone bill is ridiculous! We have two teens with unlimited text and regular cell phones, but my husband and I have smart phones and our bill always runs into the $200 range every month. I am SO ready for a cheaper cell phone.

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