Let’s be honest. Most of us treat our smartphones like an extra appendage. We check them when we wake up and before we go to bed, and use them for everything from grocery lists to driving directions, social media, gaming and everything in between. So it’s understandable that our kids — even young ones — will want to join the fun.
But giving a pre-teen or even a teenager a smartphone for the first time can feel like handing over the keys to the kingdom. All of a sudden they’re walking around with the whole world in their pocket. My 9 year old has proven very responsible with a smart phone, but I know that’s not the case for every child. So when Walmart asked me to try Virgin Mobile Custom, a new smartphone plan that puts the control in parents’ hands, I couldn’t wait to try it.
How does Virgin Mobile Custom work?
Having tried a variety of cell phone plans, I couldn’t help wondering what is so special about this one. Well, Virgin Mobile Custom, which is available only at Walmart, doesn’t require a contract, which means if your smartphone experiment with your child doesn’t work out, you can easily cancel without fear of huge fees. What’s more, though, you can actually customize your plan down to the last minute and text. A basic plan starts at just $6.98, which includes 20 talk minutes and 20 text messages. That doesn’t sound like much to those of us who use our phones all the time, but that’s just the starting point. The cost steps up incrementally as you add minutes, texts and data, and there is an unlimited talk option for $18 and unlimited texts for $10. Data starts at $8/month for 250 MB, and you can get up to 15 GB for $131.50. To give you an idea of the in-between cost, 2 GB of data will run you $28/month.
In a word, this is awesome! You can really fine-tune your plan based on how you or your child will actually use it, rather than being forced into services that you might never use. Think your kid will text more than talk? Choose unlimited texts, but a small number talk minutes. If social media and online gaming will be used a lot, opt for a large data plan, but scale back on the other services. Plus, you can change those options at any time if you realize the plan isn’t working for your needs.
The Parental Controls
Once you’ve chosen a plan, the customization doesn’t stop there. Custom allows me to control not just the plan on my daughter’s phone, but also how she uses it. I can set a curfew if I don’t want her using her phone during school hours or after bedtime. I can limit who she is able to contact, block apps with the ability to allow specific ones, or turn data off altogether. For example, during the school day, my daughter can’t get on the internet or use any apps, but she can call her dad, myself, or her grandmother or aunt in case of an emergency.
And while I can control all of this by logging into my Custom account from a computer, there is also an app for iPhone and Android, so I can do all of this from my own phone, in addition to making plan changes or payments.
My daughter received the Android-powered ZTE Emblem, and as smartphones go, it does what you’d expect. She can check her email, play games, text her family and friends, log into her school’s website to check on and complete assignments, and more. It’s a great first phone for a child who is learning how to be responsible, and the Virgin Mobile Custom plan will definitely give parents peace of mind when they hand over that responsibility to their child.
What do think of a smartphone plan that gives parents total control? Moreover, what do you think about giving a child a smartphone?
Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.