My 12yo daughter has been lobbying for her own smartphone since before she was born, as far as I can recall. Maybe that’s not quite accurate, but it’s a sure bet that with siblings 4 and 7 years older than her, K- has been surrounded by older kids with cool tech since she first became aware of the world around her. And then there are the adults in her life. Her Mom’s careful with tech but me? Kinda off the charts with every device known to man, and a few beyond that on any given week.
Problem is, all of these devices are expensive, and just the apocryphal razor/blade duality, the “blade” part of cellular service is the data plan. From experience, if you’re using a smartphone for more than just texts and email, you can go through that data plan is alarmingly short order, and if you want to stream audio channels or movies, well, you’re going to need more than that gaunt 1GB/mo dataplan, for sure.
Enter Walmart Family Plan Plus, with its unlimited data, texting and talking for $49.88/month, the perfect solution for a tween who is eager to jump into the digital age and might not be great at setting limits on her digital usage. Of course, setting limits is a parent’s job and I’m fine with that. But ya can’t always be on top of every single data transaction on their device, can you?
From experience I also know that if the phone itself doesn’t get the imprimatur of “cool”, it’s not going to be a treasured possession and will end up ignored or lost. Make it something they love, however, and it’ll be treated like the digital precious jewel it is, always charged and always available for emergency phone calls to Dad if something’s afoot. And ultimately, that communication channel is the real parental point for a smartphone in the first place.
I headed into the local Walmart and bumped into their cheery blue WFM+ display, as you can see, and there were a number of different devices from which to choose:
The phone I picked out for K- is the surprisingly slick and sophisticated Samsung Galaxy Core Prime, priced at a modest $79.92, ready to go. You can see in the photos, it’s quite capable with it’s 4.5″ screen, running Android Lollipop (that’s Android 5.1 if you’re not familiar with the sweet naming scheme of the Android team) with 8GB of on-board storage, plenty of space for her top dozen CDs, a few favorite games (Dragonvale and Clash of Clans, if you’re curious), and a few million selfies from either the rear facing 5MP or front facing 2MP cameras.
And did I mention a few million hashtag-selfies? Just making sure…!
But Walmart’s not done with the package even with the reasonably priced, unlimited data Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan and the under $100 smartphone: They’re throwing in a family movie each month too, a credit on Vudu for a movie each month. Not to watch on your phone — who the heck wants to watch a movie on such a tiny screen? — but on a Roku, computer, or smart TV. Turns out that our beloved Vizio 4K TV has a built-in Vudu client so we don’t even need a box to get to this popular movie streaming service, as shown in the photo.
They’re not all suitable for a 12yo, but I can tell you right off the bat that every single movie shown in the above photo is well worth the time, starting with the powerful Straight Outta Compton and ending with the amusing and tween-suitable Goosebumps movie. All ready to go on our TV!
Add it all up and it’s a very nice deal indeed, perfect for getting my tween into the world of smartphones for under $50/month without ever having to worry about policing the data plan or whether she forgot and left Pandora streaming for the weekend while up skiing or got Netflix into binge mode while she was at school! And the bonus movie through Vudu? That’s just a very nice bonus and there are certainly plenty of films we can all enjoy each month through that too.
So here’s what it looks like in Chez Taylor now:
You can’t see the smile, but trust me, it’s there. Data and a movie. Very painless. From her perspective, she can enjoy the benefits of being a young digital citizen, and for us parents it gives her one heck of a tool to stay connected with all of us, eliminating any worry about her dropping off the grid. Now to make sure we instill healthy usage habits with the newest member of our digital family.
And please share, what are your plans for a first smartphone for your tween or teen? A digital hand-me-down, or are you going to pick up a new entry level Android device for the little darling??