A smart phone is no longer a luxury, even for the under 10s, with over half of young children already having a mobile. As a parent, there are tons of advantages to letting your kid have a phone, not least that they can contact you in an emergency. But there are downsides too, like the possibility of unexpectedly large bills. Some UK operators provide safeguards against some of the dangers younger customers might face when using a mobile. And that's why we're taking a look at what operators offer, so you can make a good decision for your kid's phone plan.
What Are the Options?
From parental controls to money saving family contracts, there are plenty of kid-friendly options out there. And which operator you choose is, of course, up to you. But in order to make the best decision, you're going to need to know what's on offer. And in order to help you do your research, we've compiled a list of kid friendly plans with major UK operators below. So let's get on with it!
We're starting out with one of the most popular choices for young customers: Tesco Mobile. And there's good reason for this. Tesco Mobile is one of the most family friendly operators around. Why should you choose them? There are three main reasons.
Firstly, child settings are default on all Tesco Mobile plans. This means that rather than you needing to fiddle around and block adult content from your kids phone, you can just hand it over without a worry (the flip side of this is that if you as an adult want to access grown up content, you'll need to prove your age at a Tesco Mobile branch in order to get that content unlocked…). Secondly, Tesco Mobile offers capped contracts. This means that you set a spending limit for each month, and once that limit is reached, no more charges can be made (so no surprising bills). Thirdly, Tesco does offer family plans, and every time you add a new member to your contract you get an extra perk (which can be anything from extra free data to points on your Tesco Clubcard). Pretty sweet.
As the UK's largest operator, EE might have the contract for you. But are they good for kids? Well, they offer three different content control settings which let you either access all content, block content rated 18 and up, or block content rated higher than PG (which will also block dating sites and social media sites). That's not bad if you've got curious little kids and a curious teen too.
EE do offer family contracts, though there aren't any perks for doing so like Tesco offer. But you do get just one monthly bill, so you can easily keep track of who's spending what. And, of course, there's the EE Ticket programme, that gives you discounts for theatre, music and entertainment tickets.
O2 were the first UK operator to recognise that child customers needed more support, and they are partnered with the NSPCC to promote kid mobile safety. On their website you'll find a vast range of articles about how to keep your kid safe with their phone and what kind of groundrules should be set, as well as plenty of videos to show you how to set up kid friendly settings through the network.
They don't have family plans per se, but they do have family data sharing. So if your kid goes over their data limit, extra data will be taken from your limit (where possible) as long as you're both on the same contract. And there is the O2 Priority programme, which gives discounts on everything from cinema tickets to cheap lunch deals.
Vodafone take kid safety seriously, and they're partnered with CEOP (the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) to help protect kids from unsuitable online content. If your child accesses something unsuitable, call their helpline, and the taskforce aims to have that content removed within six hours. Plus, the Vodafone website is jam packed full of helpful articles, as well as guides for setting mobile rules and for setting up parental controls.
Vodafone do offer the Red+ Family Plan. This gives everyone on the contract unlimited UK calling and texting, and you can share data amongst family members. You can even set data limits so you don't spend too much. Plus, with each member you add, you get a 15% discount on certain Vodafone services.
Three do have filters set up which allow you to block certain kinds of content from your child's phone. But it is up to you to turn those filters on, they're not default. Other than that, the company doesn't offer a family plan. They do offer free roaming (useful if you travel abroad as a family often), and many of their plans have unlimited data (which might help avoid big bills).
Finally, TalkTalk is another popular operator for kids' mobiles. They do have default content filters in place for under eighteens. However, they also offer a programme called SuperSafe Boost. This have phone tracking and virus protection, as well as a host of parental controls (letting you choose which websites and apps kids can access). SuperSafe Boost also allows you to set time limits on your kid's phone, ensuring that they won't be using it in school or in bed.
Another good family friendly perk with TalkTalk is their Family Circle calling advantage. This lets you link up to five SIM cards to the same account, and all calls between those five SIMs are free. So even if your kid uses up all their talk minutes, they can still give you a call when they need you.
Choosing an operator for your kid's mobile can be tough, whether you're going contract only or pay as you go. But hopefully we've given you enough info so that you can make a great decision, keeping your kid happy and safe, and not hurting your wallet too much either!