When teenagers leave home to start college or university they never have any money and phoning home with the money they have is not a top priority for most. You have to help out by making sure they have a phone and contract that will allow easy contact.

Who Pays?

A phone contract counts as a credit agreement. At 18 years old this will be your son or daughter’s first credit agreement in many cases and you will need to sign as guarantor. It is best if the agreement is in the student’s name to start building up a good credit record.

As guarantor you are liable for any bills, which you will probably be paying in any event, but you want a limit on your liability. Ask the network customer service person to cap the phone’s plan at the included minutes, texts and data. This means that after those are used up there will be no extra hours of phone calls at premium rates charged to your account.

The Phone

Choose a phone together with your teen or you are just wasting your money. Young people have very fixed ideas about the phones they ‘need’, parents just don’t understand. Their priorities are different from ours and we just have to accept that.

The Contract

This is the crunch part of the phone deal. You have the three components to juggle; calls, texts and data. You do not want your son or daughter to end up in debt, but you do want him or her to learn to appreciate the value of money. If you can get an unlimited everything deal for the price you are willing to pay then that is perfect. Unlimited everything deals are few and far between though so compromises will have to be made.

There are always hidden ‘fair use’ limitations to any unlimited deals hidden away in the small print, so you will need to explain to your son or daughter that watching online videos or talking 24/7 on the phone will exceed the ‘unlimited’ included allowance limit.


The phone is not going to be your student’s prime way of connecting to the Internet, so data use does not need to be unlimited. 2Gb per month is a reasonable amount for mobile email and the like. Video calls use up data quickly, so if you anticipate video use of any description then you will need a data package that is nominally unlimited.

Calls and texts using phone apps over the Internet use data rather than call and text allowances and work out much cheaper.


To decide how many call minutes you need check back on recent bills and double that. Doubling it should give plenty of call time. 1,000 Minutes a month is 33 minutes each day, which is way more than most adults use, but much less than a teenager would use if it was available. There are plenty of contracts that include 2,000 minutes, which is over one hour a day.


Again, check back over recent bills, 5000 texts a month will be plenty for most; that is 150 a day after all! There are plenty of pay monthly phones that come with plans that include this number of texts.


What happens if the cap on the account has been reached and your student son or daughter needs to ring home?  There are plenty of alternatives:

  • Public phones – Yes they still exist
  • A cheap Pay as You Go (PAYG) back up phone that has credit on it and that you can send credit to if necessary
  • Some contracts allow you to add credit on a PAYG basis if the included limits are reached
  • Internet connections still allow email and Facebook and video calling via Google hangouts

Your teenager has less excuse than ever for not staying in touch.