When you are setting up cell phone plans for teens in your home, there are many points to consider. They will need to be able to talk on the phone, as a basic service, and most cell phone plans for teens also need to include an option for unlimited texting. Internet access can be nice, but that adds to the price and creates new opportunities that you might not want your teen to have, so be sure to add the content filters that you feel are appropriate for your family's values. With some careful thought, cell phone plans for teens can be a great tool for good communication for the whole family.
Here are some thoughts specifically about AT&T cell phone plans for teens
1. REGISTER THE WIRELESS NUMBER
Did you know that your teen can Register their number and create a myWireless account on their own, without you even knowing about it? This will give them complete access to the Account and the ability to change your Rate Plan, manage your Features, change restrictions, and do all kinds of things within your Account. To avoid this, you might want to consider Registering the number before they do, so that you will know the password and can maintain control.
2. CREATE A PASSCODE FOR THE ACCOUNT
As another layer of security, the Account Holder (adult in charge) can create a "passcode" that will override the personal passwords that secondary users might create. This is an effective way to prevent your teen from accessing your account. Be careful that you choose something they are not familiar with, as they might have overheard you giving passwords on the phone in the past. You will need to call Customer Care to set that up (611 from your phone).
3. ADD THE FEATURE 'SMART LIMITS FOR WIRELESS'
Smart Limits is a feature offered by AT&T for contract plans. Any contract plan subscriber can use this, not just parents. It is useful for setting restrictions on time of day the phone can be used, number of text messages allowed, content filters, blocking numbers, and various other tasks.
Some parents consider getting prepaid GoPhone as a way to limit their children on the amount of minutes or time they can use; however, GoPhone is not eligible for Smart Limits. It is usually best to get a contract cell phone plan for teens, and then use Smart Limits to add restrictions as needed
4. SMART LIMITS - FATAL FLAW
Smart Limits has one fatal flaw, and that is that incoming calls are allowed at all times. Yes, that's right, even if you have set "time of day" restrictions for all night, your child can still receive calls (except from blocked numbers). The best way to ensure that your child gets adequate rest at night (and is not texting or talking all night) is to establish a rule from the first day your child gets a phone that the phone must be left plugged in at the household charging table at bedtime (and of course you'll want to take the phone into your bedroom with you later that evening, just to be sure.)
5. FAMILY MAP - FATAL FLAW
Family Map is another popular feature and it allows you to track the phone. Keep in mind that Family Map tracks the phone, not your actual child, so if they forget their phone or leave it with a friend or otherwise don't have it with them, you will not be able to locate them with Family Map. Fortunately for parents, most teens are inclined to keep their phone with them at all times.
Family Map sends a text each month to the phone that is being tracked, to let that user know that their phone is able to be located. If you add Family Map late in the game, after problems have already begun, this can cause great strife between parent and child, and can be considered a fatal flaw. However, the "you're able to be located" text is really a good part of Family Map, so that the feature can not be misused for stalking.
It is best to add Family Map on the first day, so that your children are accustomed to the fact that you can locate them. If this is approached carefully and respectfully, (without being pushy about it or using it too frequently), many children come to find it reassuring to know that mom or dad can locate them, if needed.
In summary, parents need to know that cell phone plans for teens can be far more complicated than they might realize at first. Be sure to take several minutes to actually read the details and terms carefully for any feature that is available, whether you might need it now, or not, so that you are fully informed about all options.
(These features were current in September 2010. Please check AT&T site for updated options.)
(image by Karbyn)