Q&A: Do your research before buying a cell phone for a child

Ivan Penn, who writes the Consumers Edge column that appears regularly in the Times, also answers reader questions about consumer issues daily on our website (www.tampabay.com/news/business; look for Consumer Edge heading). Ask the Times occasionally will run a sampling of those exchanges.

Phone for a child? Research first

I'm looking for a cell phone for my child to have for safety and emergencies during the school year. What tips do you have for finding the right phone for a child?

Here are some suggestions from Kelly Starling, a spokeswoman at AT&T, about choosing a cell phone for your child:

• Take a cell assessment to determine the plan that best meets your family's needs, including minutes needed each month, how many months of service, and the number of household members on the plan.

• Consider what time of day your child will be using the cell phone the most and how he or she will be using it. Will it be mostly to text, to make voice calls or to surf the Web? And be sure the service works where your child needs to use it. Check coverage maps and test coverage during a trial period with your provider.

• Check prepaid options and parental controls that allow you to put restrictions on the account if cost is a big concern. Example: Smart Limits parental controls (www.att.com/Common/about_us/files/pdf/Safety/Smart_Limits_ Wireless_How-to.pdf).

• Consider location-based services that allow you to keep track of your child. Example: FamilyMap ( https://familymap.wireless.att.com/ finder-att-family/welcome.htm).

• If your child is headed out of state for a private school, college or study abroad program, make sure they have an appropriate plan to avoid roaming charges and have functions that allow international calls, if needed.

Drawback of geotagged photos

What is "geotagging" and should I be concerned about it?

Geotagging is a tool on smartphones and some digital cameras that identifies the location of where a photo was taken. Some see it as a great feature to identify sites they visited.

But consumers are being warned about using photos with geotags to post online because thieves sometimes use the longitude and latitude information to track people. For example, combined with a social networking update, the geotagged photos you post can tell the location of your home and when you are not there.

The website Icanstalku.com warns that geotagging often has been automatically enabled on smartphones.

For more information, visit: http://icanstalku.com/how.php.

Q&A: Do your research before buying a cell phone for a child 09/06/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 6, 2010 5:30am]

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