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Best Cellphones for Tweens

Updated on October 31, 2012

Deciding on a Cellphone for a Tween this season?

I've been dealing with tweens and cellphones for 7 years. I taught middle school back in the day when cellphones were big, bulky, and outrageously expensive. However, my students would brag about keeping crazy hours while talking on the phone in their rooms at night. Not a chance, I thought. Fast forward, and your tween with a cellphone is definitely the equivalent of that 90s room phone. It's even worse, because it's portable. However, for many of us, the tween cellphone is a necessity for safety's sake. I hate the idea of my mobile tween being at a practice or a friend's house without a way to communicate quickly with me. I love texting because it gives me the opportunity to obtain quick assurance that all is well. You can't be too careful, and I find a cell phone to bring me a lot of comfort when kids are out in the world.

However, not all cellphones are equal. I have stringent requirements of my kids as they use their phones, and they start with freedom that can be lost for poor handling. I've had to deal with imposing consequences for poor choices. Phones are tools first. Following are my suggestions as you deal with preteens and cellphone selections.

Tween Cellphones

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The Samsung Focus is similar to the Samsung Solstice, my daughter's touchscreen phone that doesn't require a data plan. Data can be added, but since it's not a smartphone, it's a lot cheaper. My daughter didn't advance to this phone until she was 15. It's important to note a couple of problems you could face with a touchscreen phone and a tween. Data is the main issue. Accidentally activating data related parts of the phone can lead to unexpected charges. The $10 fee that I pay for data is better than unexpected charges accidentally incurred. However, it's also possible in many cases to block data access so that this accidental access doesn't occur.

Touchscreen is cool, no doubt. However, if your tween is accident prone, a protective case and insurance are sensible. You don't want a broken phone a month into the contract. (Read More about Samsung Focus 2 4G Windows Phone (AT&T))

One of my teens had a slider phone as a tween, and it was a popular choice among the age group. I like the keyboard, and the touchscreen on the front is equally interesting...they seemed to strike a cord among teenagers when they first came out, and continue to be excellent options if data plans aren't desired. Again, for a tween I suggest a protective case and insurance...especially on a more expensive device. Mishaps are easy. I actually like flip phones for my tween sons. I have seen them dropped enough that I like the protection inherent with the open/close option.

My son was about 13 when he washed his first simple model cell phone. He dropped his second a year later, leading to a broken screen and non-functioning device. His best friend ran a phone through the wash too. Protection plans are sensible unless the phones are so inexpensive that replacement is less than the cost of the insurance over a couple of years' contract period.

Finding Flip Phones and Cellphones for Tweens

I prefer making sure that there is a spare phone in the house. When we upgrade a responsible tween's phone, we keep the old phone in case of accidents. I also appreciate the value of no-contract phones as there is no penalty if the child loses the right to have a phone. I don't treat a phone as a right, but as a privilege. If a child abuses the phone, limits are imposed through parent monitoring options. Privileges are earned back as responsibility is demonstrated.

You need to set an example, of course, in your own cellphone use. However, before diving in with an expensive smartphone and contract, consider starting your tween with a no-contract gophone or a simple phone for learning to correctly manage an expensive device.

Transitioning your tween to a smartphone: when is an iPhone appropriate?

An iphone seems to be a great smartphone choice for the tween who has proven to be responsible. If you can afford the data plan and if your tween has shown responsible use of a phone, I think that this can be a great alternative to an iTouch or a precursor to a tablet like iPad for a preteen or tween. Protective gear is important. The availability of unlocked devices is making it easier to afford them without contractual obligations, too. You can consider the cheap upgrades as you work within your cellphone plan. Just make sure that you are confident in your child's ability to respect the rules and care for the device.

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