But while us parents might use them the old fashioned way for chatting, when it comes to our kids they're more likely to spend their time texting or updating Facebook. And if you've taken out a contract deal you could be stuck on it for up to two years and face a massive bill if they go beyond their inclusive bundle. That's why it's important to get the most sensible deal for kids.
Four ways to stop big bills
• Pay as you go (PAYG)
Sounds like the easy option as you stick a fixed amount of credit on the phone and once it's gone that's it. No chance of bumping up a big bill but keep tabs on the credit or it could run dry just when they need to call home.
• SIM only deals
No need to change the phone or number; just the network and rate. For a fixed cost you get a month's worth of minutes, texts and data and most work on a one month 'rolling' contract basis which means they're easy to get out of when you spot a better offer.
• Capped or fixed cost contracts
These are the new PAYG. You get a 'free' phone as you would on a standard contract deal but can 'fix' the top whack you pay; typically from £10 a month which covers a bundle of calls, texts and internet use.
• Go with the crowd
Joining the same network as their friends can mean free calls and texts. With Orange U24 you get free calls and texts to anyone else on the Orange or T-Mobile network and with Vodafone you can pay £5 a month for unlimited calls to three mobile numbers. Or 'add' a phone to your existing account as some providers let you have one account with multiple handsets.
Can kids call home with no credit?
A new 'phone home' service launched by IRN, the radio news people, means kids can call parents even if they're out of credit.
• Parents pay £3 a month and once registered can receive incoming calls from phones with no credit.
• To make a call, kids dial a single '68700' number www.68700.co.uk and the service allows 10 minutes mobile to mobile talk time.
What are the best deals?
There's no 'one size fits all' deal but with one survey claiming teenagers send an average of 60 texts a day I reckon it's best to look for big text bundles and internet use rather than talk time.
• With a Tesco PAYG deal you can get a Nokia 100, which is a basic handset for £13 and with its triple credit deal every £10 is worth £30.
• Or with Tesco's low cost 'Sim Only' deal for £7.50 you get 250 minutes and 5000 texts. But to include a data bundle you'll need to pay £10 a month.
Free smart phone and fixed contract
• T-Mobile's 'You Fix' means a choice of phones like the Samsung Galaxy Mini (worth up to £100).
• A fixed rate of £10.50 a month means 50 minutes, 250 texts and 250 MB of data.
• Peace of mind for parents with capped bills.
Teenagers or students
• The Orange U24, (can be added to contract or PAYG) costs £15 a month for 250 minutes/5000 texts and an additional 1GB of data on top of your existing bundle.
Should you insure your child's phone?
Stand alone policies cost around £80 a year, but mobiles can be covered on household policies if you've got 'personal possessions' cover for valuables. But remember you'll still have to stump up the excess for each claim which could be £50 or more.
More on Parentdish: Smartphones put to the test
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