Should you get your child a new phone or phone plan for Christmas?

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Christmas is drawing closer and as a parent, you may be feeling pressured to get your child that new smartphone they’ve been talking about. Research commissioned by Telstra found that 23% of parents surveyed were planning on giving their child a smartphone for Christmas, with 45% of respondents admitting they were asked by their child for a phone and 24% said they didn’t want their child to be left out because their friends had a phone. However, this is not a simple purchase to make, and it’s likely your child isn’t thinking about the same pros and cons that you are.

At Canstar Blue we’ve put together a guide on some phones you might want to consider, along with any questions you might have about whether you should get your kid a phone or phone plan for Christmas (or any other time of year!).

What age should kids have a phone?

There is no set age for when your child should have a smartphone, but there are several things to consider which should help you determine if your child is ready to have their own phone.

A common age for when parents may give their child a smartphone is around 10 to 13 years. Research commissioned by Telstra found that the majority of Australian parents surveyed believe 12 to be the best age for a child to have their own phone. You might also find that once your kid is in High School, it could be more beneficial for them to have their own phone as they start gaining more independence. It’s also worth considering if your child catches public transport to and from school, and if they have extra curricular activities outside of school hours, to help make pick-ups easier.

Young boy looking at smartphone with Christmas tree in background

It is also a question of maturity and whether you feel if your child is responsible enough to have their own phone. You’ll want to make sure that your child will be able to look after their phone, so consider if they’re responsible with their possessions or if they tend to lose or damage items, especially valuable ones.

Another consideration is how tech savvy your child is and what their internet habits are. The popularity of social media is perhaps one of the hardest things for parents to monitor and navigate in this tech-obsessed world. Cyber bullying and other issues related to social media use is very hard to monitor, so you’ll want to keep this in mind if you do decide to get your kid their own phone. The good news is that there are plenty of cyber safety apps available, and ways that you can monitor and manage how and when your kids use their phone.

Once you’ve taken these factors into consideration, the next step is to research a range of smartphones that might be suitable for your child. Let’s take a look at what’s currently on the market.

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Best phones for kids

Second-hand and refurbished phones

First off, consider whether you want to get your child a new phone or if you would be better off with a second-hand phone. Many parents pass on their old smartphones to their kids when upgrading to a newer device, so if you’ve been considering upgrading your handset, you might give your child your old phone. You can use our comparison tool to compare a range of new smartphones on plans if you want to upgrade your own device.

Another alternative to a second-hand phone is a refurbished phone. Refurbished phones are devices which have been returned to the seller or manufacturer, perhaps if there is an issue with the device or as part of a trade-in. Any parts of the device which are faulty are then replaced with working parts. Refurbished phones are usually older devices, so you might not have the biggest choice. There is also the likelihood that there might be surface scratches or marks from previous usage, but providers won’t sell devices when that damage affects performance.

If you’re looking for a refurbished phone, there are plenty of places you can get your hands on one. Some retailers such as Kogan offer refurbished phones, along with telcos such as TeleChoice and Boost Mobile. You might also be able to buy refurbished phones direct from the manufacturer, like Apple. One catch with refurbished phones is that if its a newer device or a premium model, it can still cost quite a bit, even if it is refurbished. For example, the iPhone X is now a few years old; however, a refurbished iPhone X can still set you back anywhere from around $800 to $1,000. Refurbished doesn’t always mean you’re getting a big saving.

New smartphones for kids

Samsung Galaxy A70 phone in black
Source: Samsung (Samsung Galaxy A70 )

If you want to buy your child a new smartphone, you don’t have to fork out thousands of dollars. There are plenty of quality smartphones on the market for under $500, especially if you’re looking to buy the phone outright. Brands such as Mintt, realme and OPPO have a reputation for creating quality phones with great features at more affordable prices. Even Samsung has released a range of smartphones at the lower to mid price ranges. Not all of these phones are available from telcos on a phone plan, so you might need to buy the device outright and pair with a SIM-only plan.

Cyber-safety company Family Zone (which operates cyber-safety software that allows parents to monitor and manage their child’s phone and internet usage) also manufactures a child-friendly smartphone, the FZ ONE which is available on a plan through Woolworths Mobile.

Select devices from the Samsung A Series, OPPO and a selection of older iPhones are generally available on plans from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Smaller telcos like TeleChoice, Southern Phone and Woolworths Mobile also sell some of these devices bundled with a plan.

The Samsung Galaxy A70, while on the higher-end of the A series, retails for around $649 upfront, but is available from a wide range of telcos on a plan. The following table shows a selection of 24-month plans for the 128GB Samsung Galaxy A70 as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest, then data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This table includes products with links to a referral partner.

Should I get my child a new iPhone?

Apple's iPhone 11 in six colours
Source: Apple (iPhone 11)

There’s no doubt that iPhones are a bit of a status symbol. If you have older kids or teenagers, you might find you’re being hounded for the latest iPhone. While this isn’t the most affordable option for all families, if it is something that you are happy to buy your child, there are a few options to choose from.

In the past couple of years, Apple has released a base model and two premium devices with each phone launch. In 2019 this was the iPhone 11, and in 2018 it was the iPhone XR. Both of these devices are still very expensive and have plenty of great features, but don’t come with all the high-end inclusions (such as extra cameras) that you’ll get with Apple’s premium products.

If you’re interested in picking up the iPhone 11 or iPhone XR, the following table shows a selection of 24-month plans for the 64GB iPhone 11 and 64GB iPhone XR from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest, then data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This table includes products with links to a referral partner.

Best phone plans for kids

If your child already has a smartphone, or you’re planing to buy outright, you will need to purchase a phone plan to pair with the phone. Choosing a phone plan for your child can be a complicated process.

Some telcos do offer plans aimed at kids, which might have extras like bonus data or free access to cyber safety apps thrown in. Woolworths Mobile offers a free subscription to Family Zone, which gives parents the ability to manage screen time, internet and social media usage. Yomojo is a prepaid plan provider and also offers a cyber-safety program called ‘Family Eye’, which is available if you’re an existing Yomojo customer (but you can sign up without being on a Yomojo plan). Yomojo also offers a cheap plan called the ‘Kids Plan’, which is under $10, includes 1GB of data, 200 minutes of standard national calls and unlimited standard national SMS.

However, first up, you’ll need to decide on whether to choose prepaid or postpaid as both options have pros and cons.

Prepaid phone plans for kids

Prepaid remains the most popular phone plan choice for children with Telstra’s commissioned research stating that 37% of parents surveyed choose prepaid plans for their child. The benefit of prepaid is that it makes monitoring your child’s usage easier. However if they run out of their inclusions and don’t recharge, they can be without access to calls, text and data until it resets after the expiry period. Expiry periods can also be shorter than one month, so you might need to recharge 13 or more times per year. These days, prepaid plans often include decent data inclusions at cheap prices, so it’s still a good option.

The following table shows a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database for $30 or under per billing period, listed in order of standard cost from lowest to highest, then data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.

Postpaid phone plans for kids

Postpaid generally has more features than prepaid plans and more data, but if your child goes over their data allowance, you’ll be charged for excess data and this can really add up. Most postpaid providers charge for excess data, around $10 per 1GB, so check the plan’s information before signing up. If excess data isn’t an issue, another pro is that the monthly bill will most likely be the same, and you won’t need to worry about your kid being without access to calls, text or data. Both Telstra and Vodafone also offer plans with unlimited data at capped speeds of 1.5Mbps once you’ve used up your data allowance, however these plans cost over $40 per month.

The following table shows a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database for $30 or under, listed in order of advertised standard cost from lowest to highest, then data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.

So, should I get my child a new phone or phone plan for Christmas?

This is ultimately your decision. No matter how much your child or children hassle you about wanting a phone, if you feel they’re not ready or they’re too young, that is your choice. It’s also a big change for you as their parent or guardian, as you’ll need to consider how you’ll monitor not only their phone usage and  access to inappropriate content, but also how to protect them online from cyber bullying and other dangers.

Christmas is also an expensive time of the year, so it might not be the best time to be splashing out on an expensive smartphone. Even the more affordable low and mid-range phones can set you back a few hundred dollars, so you’ll need to be certain that this won’t impact your Christmas budget.

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