! Tips

Check the added costs - Carefully review the added costs associated with the cell phone. Make sure you recognize all of the long distance calls, text messages, music downloads, web use and photo fees. The added features built in to cell phones are there for a reason, to get you to spend more airtime - and more money.

Compare plans - Decide what you want in a cell package and check out all of the providers in your area. Don't settle for the first offer you get. You can often get significantly reduced rates if you are patient and determined. Don't forget to consider the cost of the phone itself. A "free" or discounted phone may require you to commit to a contract for two or three years.

Be an active co-signer - Children require an adult co-signer to obtain a cell phone. When you co-sign, you are accepting responsibility for any payment problems. Bear in mind that once you've signed up for a plan, it may be impossible to get out of it without paying a hefty penalty.

first cell phone

A child's first cell phone is a big step towards independence. It demonstrates that you have the confidence to trust them with this responsibility. Make sure you are both ready for the financial implications before signing up.

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Teach before they talk

If you think your child is ready for a cell phone, make sure that both of you understand what you are getting into before signing any contracts. Spend time together carefully comparing various plans.

Discuss the real costs associated with cell phones. Staying within the plan cannot be stressed too strongly! It is very easy to get carried away with text messaging, downloads, transmitting photos, long distance charges, surfing the Internet and buying ringtones. These uses can add up to hundreds of extra dollars.

Review the bill

Each month when the bill arrives for your child's cell phone, sit down together to compare it to the original plan. Go through it item by item. Are there any surprises? Have they stayed within budget? If not, ask your child what they will do about it in the future, and how they propose to pay for any extra charges. If there appears to be an error on the part of the phone company, follow up immediately to correct the issue.