Teens & Cell Phones

By Leslie Meredith
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With today’s busier families, cell phones may be the most common way parents and teens communicate. Cell phones, and prepaid cell phones, provide a vital line of communication for parents. Now it’s easy to keep track of where your children are and when they need a ride. There is no more waiting when practice runs over or excuses about not calling when there’s a delay.

But for teens, cell phones are the link between friends, and for that reason, teens may look for different features than their parents when it comes to the cell phone. Here we explain the cell phone features coveted by teenagers, and offer a few budget saving tips when it comes to adding multiple cell phones to the family plan or purchasing a prepaid cell phone.

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Texting Comes First

Teens text rather than talk, which means you may save on family plan minutes, but you’ll want a plan with unlimited text messages. Some prefer a full QWERTY keyboard, but you’d be amazed how fast kids type with one or two thumbs on a standard keypad.

Two texting terms to know:

Text Messaging (SMS): Text only messages that do not require Internet access.

Multimedia Text Messaging (MMS): This is like text messaging except it includes the ability to send pictures, video or sound files. Some phones have “picture messaging,” which sends pictures and text.

Everybody Loves a Good Picture

A good camera for sending photos to friends right from the cell phone, some across the room and others across the country. You can find phones with up to 8MP (megapixels).

And Don't Forget the Movies or the Music

Video capable phones are popular for making impromptu movies and sharing favorites from YouTube. Screen resolution is the measurement to watch for: the higher, the better. A cell phone that supports music in the form of downloadable ringtones and MP3 files for ringtones is a sought after feature as well.

A Little Surfing Too

Look for a data enabled phone for internet access. This may be an additional fee and is used for instant messaging and accessing the web, especially social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

In Case of Emergency

For emergencies or just to prevent the panic of being lost, GPS capabilities can save the day. Some services offer location services like getting directions or tracking the phone itself, which could be helpful in an emergency.

How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill

Whichever cell phone you and your teenager agree on, it’s the monthly service fee that can come as a surprise when a new phone is added. Here are several tips to keep your cell phone bill reasonable:

Family Plan: Shared minutes among family members over the one month billing cycle. Be sure your kids know when the minutes are free. Limit non-emergency calls to those times, typically after 9:00 p.m. and over the weekend. Providers are constantly updating their plans as cell phone usage levels off. Unlimited everything such as talk, text, GPS is now available. Check your provider options carefully.

Unlimited texting: A must with teenagers.

Shared provider: Find out which provider their friends use. Some plans offer unlimited free calling between customers with the same provider.

Teach your kids to check their minutes regularly, so you don’t get surprising charges. Monitor your plan and adjust the plan or your family’s communication habits accordingly. To avoid this problem altogether, opt for a prepaid cell phone. When the minutes are up, the phone is off.

 
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