What’s the Perfect Age for a Child’s First Mobile Phone? We Learned It’s Not 9.

addie and the phoneWhen I was asked if I’d like to review and talk about ZACT mobile and their child friendly phones that come loaded with Disney content, I was open to the idea. While Cody believes Addie won’t have her first mobile phone until she’s 18, I’m aware there are very legitimate situations where a child should have a phone. For example, we have no land line — meaning if we had a sitter without a phone or we were to start leaving Addie home alone for small stretches of time, they would have no way of contacting us if something were to go wrong. I also enjoy giving her a bit more freedom with riding her bike around our neighborhood and being able to send a phone out with her would ease my mind greatly.

So the phone arrived, and I waited until our family trip last week to tell her about it. Before it was even placed in her hot little hands rules were laid down, and Cody and I both sat back to see what would happen. What were the rules we put in place?

  1. 1. It is never to be used at mealtime or during family time, in fact it doesn’t even come to the table.
  2. You may contact only the people already programmed into your phone. (She’s 9, this one isn’t unreasonable. She has no reason to be talking or texting with random people.)
  3. It turns off at bedtime, stays off until morning and only emergency functions will be available when at school. (This feature is thanks to Zact’s parental control features which I can control from my own phone. During school hours, she is only able to call Cody or me, nothing else. During bedtime hours? Same.)
  4. Once you reach your data/texting/talking limits? You’re done. Be judicious. (Another great Zact feature, I can set exactly how much data, talk time, and texting she is allowed. Rather than paying for one big data plan, I pay for only what I want her to have (which for us works out to be around $5-$8 a month.)

So rule number one was followed, but she still had her face in the darn thing an awful lot. She spent most of her time texting friends and family which was cute. Even better? She used proper spelling and grammar when sending texts. She even called her grandpa once, which is rare for her.

Rule number two was followed as well, none of her friends have phones and I think the concept of talking on the phone has sort of been lost on her generation. Sad, but a reality. She texted with me when I took Cody to the hospital, and she texted back and forth with other family members about how much she missed them and how excited she was to be in Florida.

Rule number three was a little hard for her to grasp, “What do you mean it shuts down?” I believe this feature makes the phone more of a tool rather than a toy.

Rule number four was probably the roughest as she used up all of her data availability in the first four days sending photos back and forth with family. Eh, that I can allow. It’s not like she was out surfing YouTube or goofing around on SnapChat. (It’s also quite difficult to download apps to her ZACT phone which makes me happy, not that I don’t think she could figure it out — it would just take a lot of effort.)

texting with my kid

The other issue we ran into? She dropped it on day four and cracked the screen. While I’m a little disappointed, I’m not surprised. She’s still a little kid, and a cell phone is a big responsibility. She was really excited in thinking that her phone was way more awesome than it actually is and in all of her excitement it was mishandled. She realizes now it is more of a tool to keep in contact with family and to be used in emergency or very important situations. (She also told me the truth instead of trying to hide it, which earned her double points.)

I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to see her learn these lessons, and learn them along with her thanks to ZACT. I have a feeling many parents are like me, they want their kids to have the security of a phone available to them in particular situations but want to make sure their kids are safe from all the scary stuff we know is out there. What we have now is even more rules (learned the hard way) but also a great way for Addie to develop a healthy relationship with a mobile device (which sounds so dumb, but it’s a very real concern these days, isn’t it?) and test her limits with technology in a safer way.

Who knows when she’ll be ready (or even need) a phone that will go with her everywhere, but for now I feel confident that she has a phone that will do what we need a phone to do when we need it to without wasting a lot of extra money on features or data we know we do not need.

To find out more about ZACT mobile phones with Disney content click here.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary ZACT mobile phone with four months of service to facilitate in my review. All opinions are my own.

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