By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The latest research shows the average age for children to get their first cell phone is 10 years old. You may be a parent considering whether to get a phone for your child this holiday season.

Last week, a Verizon spokesperson told us they’ve sold phones for kids as young as 6.

“This is a vastly different age group that we’re dealing with. There’s an incredible amount of things these smart phones can do, so this is an important conversation these families are having and continue to have of when is the right time to get that smartphone,” Verizon’s Steve Van Dinter said.

Ultimately, it’s up to parents to decide when the right age is for that first phone. And when you do make that decision, how do you know which device is best for your family?

Many phones come with a variety of options, but many parents might not want their kids to have access to all those options.

Almost every carrier and phone manufacturer has its own version of connected technology for kids. Some are in the form of a smart watch, some might look like your first cell phone (if you remember those old Nokia flip phones).

Based on what your child needs, you can get something as basic as a GPS tracker that’s compatible with your phone. You can get phones catered to adults but just keep certain features off until they’re ready, or maybe you want to resist that temptation altogether and get something like a Gizmo watch from Verizon, which has GPS and also lets them call and text, but only to a limited number of people that you decide.

“It doesn’t allow anyone to reach out and talk to them and they’re not able to download those applications,” Van Dinter said. “So you know that would probably be the lowest end device for a child in terms of the simplest for them to use, and then graduating them up. … Feature phones are very much something you could give a child. It gives them the ability to call and text, but again you don’t get the full access to the applications.”

All four major carriers — Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon — all have their own versions of parental controls. The apps themselves vary in price and ability. They can all limit which apps can be used, as well as limiting screen time. Some, like Verizon’s, can track your child’s location and send you a push alert when they get somewhere specific.

As far as the price for those services, Verizon’s plan costs $10 per month, though they have a cheaper option for $5. T-Mobile’s is also $10, AT&T’s is $8. Sprint’s Family Locator is $5 per month.

The data restriction option is also an interesting one, being able to go on your phone and effectively make your child’s phone useless. Of course, that’d be popular during homework and dinner time, but also could assure you your kid isn’t distracted driving.

Christiane Cordero

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