Prepaid Wireless for Tweens

family picture at the top of the Incline overlooking Pittsburgh

We have 3 kids. With my son, my first born, we played the conscientious first-time parents. He was sleep trained and slept through the night at 12 weeks. We limited his screen time and dutifully potty trained him at 2.5 years old. He was the last kid in his class to get a PlayStation, the last kid to get a Facebook account, and the last kid to get a cell phone. At least it seemed that way.

Naturally, when the next child came along, we lightened up. By the time we had a third, we stopped keeping track. She still sleeps in our bed half the time. Sleep training, whattt???? She was potty trained when she finally showed interest, she’s had an iPod since she was old enough to talk, and she got an Instagram account at age 9.

While my son didn’t get his first cell phone until he was 12, my middle child started begging for one when she was 10. She had no need for a phone and no activities that we dropped her off for, so really no need to use it other than to text and call her friends. We didn’t want to pay to add another family member to our phone plan, so we held off until I got the opportunity to review (and keep) a new smartphone. We let her test it out. At that point, she was almost 12 years old, and I have to admit, there were times when it was incredibly convenient for her to have a phone. Our kids tend to run the neighborhood, and being able to text or call to locate her and ask her to come home is awesome.

Her phone came with a NET10® prepaid phone card to facilitate our review. When it ran out, we were on our own, which left us with a decision to make. Should we add her to our family plan and increase our monthly rate? Or should we just tell her to use it on WiFi and bag cell service altogether? She really didn’t NEED a phone, but it sure was nice that she had one. I admit, I got spoiled.

Caroline and Mom

We decided to go with a NET10® service plan, but in retrospect, it probably made more sense to stick with the prepaid cards, and here is why. There is no commitment and no contract. If, at some point, we decide that cell service for our tweens is a luxury we don’t want to pay for, we can stop at any time. After all, they can always use their devices on WiFi, and when we’re ready to have them pay for their own cell service, they can buy prepaid cards when they have the funds. It would help them learn to manage their finances, and it would be easier than having them reimburse us for their part in our family plan. We tried that with our son, and we eventually lost track and gave up on having him contribute.

Prepaid phone cards allow the child to be responsible for payments, and it gives them a sense of how much cell phone service costs. Let’s face it, kids ARE getting on technology at younger and younger ages, and it’s easy to take it for granted. By having them pay for their own devices, they learn what it costs to have a cell phone, and they are less likely to take it for granted.

The other nice thing about having no contract is the ability to buy a prepaid card only for the times when they need cell service, such as when they are going on a school trip or vacationing with friends. They can go back to using WiFi when cell service isn’t needed, and this way we aren’t spending money on an unnecessary cell plan. Plus prepaid phone cards are easy and convenient to pick up at the grocery store as needed. We will definitely consider going the prepaid route when it’s time for our youngest to get a cell phone.