Mobile plans to keep both your teenager and your wallet happy do exist, but it pays to choose carefully.
Teenagers are universally their own tribe, and it’s always been that way, whether you’re a teenager reading this, or somebody who went through their teenage years a long time before mobile phones were anything but a Get Smart gag. If you didn’t get that reference, that’s probably not you, by the way.
One of the worst things you can do to a teenager in the 21st century is remove them from their mobiles, because they’re the very definition of a digital native when it comes to mobile access. While the phone market has moved at a rapid pace in recent years, they’ve never lived in a world without mobile phones, and not for terribly long in one without smartphones to boot.
Matching a plan to a teenager is a tricky business because as with any mobile plan, there’s no one single plan that’s ideal for everybody. In the case of teenagers, with mobile usage and ownership highly prevalent amongst the group, it’s safe to assume that they’re comfortable with smartphones and may indeed know more than you do. As such, if you’re the bill-paying parent, it’s worth pondering the following issues
Am I paying for communication or information?
For younger kids many parents opt for a phone and plan in order to ensure that their kids can always phone or text home on basic security grounds. That’s still true of teenagers (and possibly a bigger concern as they stay out later), but it’s not the only reason that a teenager will want or need a phone. Remember, they’re digital natives, so it’s as much about sharing selfies or streaming media as it is about phoning home.
Prepaid or postpaid?
Teenagers are (generally) more responsible than their younger counterparts, so the allure of prepaid, where they can’t overspend might seem like the obvious choice. For many teenagers it might be, but you’ve got to bear in mind that prepaid plans typically offer less data usage than their postpaid counterparts. With so many plans offering effectively "unlimited" calls and texts as part of the base offering, data is the key comparison point. If you’re always topping up their prepaid because the data’s running out, you might not save much at all.
Who’s paying for it?
Does your teenager have a part time job? It may be worth discussing their wants from a mobile plan, and if they’re able to fund it (or you’re happy to take some of their pocket money back) then you might be able to teach them a little about budgeting on the way, while also providing services that they want that you might not be as keen to spend on.
Pick of the plans: Which plans are best?
As we said, there’s no absolute "best" plan that will suit every parent. We’ve stuck to prepaid plans here because while teenagers can be more responsible, they’re also much more open to more data-sucking activities that could lead to serious bill shock for you as a parent.
Best plans for tweens
Rationale: They’re not quite teenagers, but you can’t quite treat them the way you would a primary school kid just yet. As such, prepaid plans with decent calling allowances but a moderate quantity of data would suit well.
Best choices: Kogan Mobile Small, Yomojo Unlimited 1GB
You don’t have to spend a fortune for a basic unlimited calls package with a chunk of data thrown in as well. Kogan Mobile’s Vodafone-4G-backed Small deal will regularly set you back $16.90 for a 30 day recharge, and even less if you buy the 90 or 365 day variants, or if there’s a special on. Yomojo’s Unlimited 1GB plan does similar on Optus’ 4G network.
Best plans for talking teens
Rationale: It’s like, your teenager, like, likes to talk. If that sentence sounded suspiciously familiar, then congratulations! You’ve got a heavily talking teen. The good part here is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on data services, but you may have to spend a little, given that communication between teenagers isn’t just talking. All those selfies and video calls can chew away at a data allowance too.
Best choices: Woolworths Mobile $30, Optus My Prepaid Ultimate 30
Woolworths Mobile $30 prepaid plan gives your teen as much talk and text as they can handle, alongside 3GB of data on parts of Telstra’s 4G network. As an added bonus for you, if you’ve got a Woolworths Rewards card you get a discount on recharges, making it even cheaper. Optus’ similar $30 plan gives you the same basic inclusions on its own 4G network, with the added bonus of music streaming that doesn’t impact their data quota when using Google Play Music, iHeart Radio, Pandora or Spotify.
Best plans for always-online teens
Rationale: Older teens, or those with specific online interests, whether it’s watching their favourite shows on Netflix or just perusing the odder corners of the Internet (be careful out there!) can chew through quite a bit of data. For these teens, there’s good sense in investing in a plan with a fair chunk of data already in the plan; while you can usually buy additional data packs, they’re almost always a more expensive proposition than raising your initial funding to score more data. Bear in mind with prepaid you can always slide up or down a prepaid recharge scale to meet predicted needs.
Best choices: OVO for Mobile $44.95, Optus MyPrepaid Ultimate $60
OVO’s long sold itself on the fact that it provides free streaming of selected Australian sports, which is great if your teen is a huge gymnastics or V8 Supercars fan, but it’s not the only reason to opt for its $44.95 plan, which comes with an impressive 12GB of data per recharge. That won’t last forever for a hungry Netflix user, but then again, learning young adult responsibility is all about dealing with limitations.
Optus’ MyPrepaid Ultimate follows the same path with a 28 day recharge cycle, 11GB of data, free music streaming and a quantity of international calling locations with unlimited calls, which could be good if you’ve got family or friends overseas your teen wants to keep in touch with.