Claire Nottage | October 11th, 2022

Guide to mobile SIMs for kids, teenagers and families

If you’re looking to buy a new SIM for your son or daughter, it can be difficult to know where to start with so many different providers and deals out there. Your starting point is likely to be cost, but there are a few other things worth thinking about before you plump for the cheapest option.

Kids using mobile devices

One of your main considerations will be how much data they need, but it’s also worth looking into contract length, signal quality, security, parental controls and even what extras might be on offer, so that you can get the best deal for your money.

In this guide, we take you through the key points to consider when shopping for a SIM-only deal for your teenager. We’ve done the research, so you can get on with choosing the right deal and get your teen happily browsing TikTok or listening to Spotify in no time.

Family SIM packages

If you’re happy with your own mobile service provider, then it is probably worth finding out if they offer a Family SIM deal. Most providers now offer Family SIM deals, which allows you to have more than one SIM on the same account, often with a discount for each extra SIM you add. BT was one of the first providers to offer a Family SIM, but a number of others now offer family or group SIMs too, including EE, Smarty, Vodafone and O2.

Not all providers refer to it as a Family SIM (you may see phrases such as Family Plan, Group Plan, Sharing Plan or Additional Plan) but almost all of them offer the option to add an extra SIM to an existing account – in return for some kind of benefit.

Why choose a Family SIM?

Most mobile service providers that offer Family SIMs have an additional discount on the second SIM – usually 10%. Some providers offer perks like additional data as a bonus instead. Tesco Mobile offers its Family Perks programme, whereby each person on a single account can claim a monthly bonus – choose from extra free minutes or data, a discount on your bill or even free Clubcard points. With BT’s Family SIM, the more SIMs you add, the greater the discount you receive, which could work out well if you have more than one child to cater for.

A Family SIM also enables you to consolidate your family’s mobile service finances in one place, and you can easily monitor and make changes from one app. You can also keep a close eye on how much data your son or daughter is using, and, in the case of some Family SIMs, such as those offered by Sky Mobile and EE, you can also share data between everyone on the same plan – useful if someone runs low.

Some home broadband providers will only offer Family SIM deals to existing broadband customers; Virgin Media is one example of this with its Family Plan. In comparison, Vodafone offers its Vodafone Together deal, whereby existing Vodafone broadband customers can also take a Vodafone SIM deal and then add as many extra SIMs to the account as they wish, with a massive 30% discount for each extra SIM added.

Downsides of a Family SIM

There aren’t many downsides of choosing a Family SIM, but a couple of things are worth bearing in mind. First, find out what the contract term is for additional SIMs. Some providers insist on locking in additional SIMs on a 12-month contract, which means you are committed for a year. Others, such as TalkTalk and giffgaff offer Family SIMs on a one-month or 30-day rolling contract, which means you can cancel them at any time.

Also, check the flexibility over data allowances. BT only allows additional SIMs to have the same data allowance as the main account holder. So if, for example, you only want 4GB for your phone but your daughter would benefit from 16GB, that is not an option with a Family SIM as she’d only be able to have 4GB too.

Finally, bear in mind that although the discounts offered by Family SIM plans are good, they may not always offer the best value SIM deals available.

SIMs with parental controls

Every parent worries about what their child is doing online. At home, connected to wifi, it seems less of a worry as you most likely have a number of security systems in place – including parental controls – set up on your home broadband connection. But if the prospect of setting your youngster loose on the net on a mobile phone is terrifying, don’t worry as there are plenty of controls you can establish on a mobile phone for extra peace of mind.

All providers automatically block access to 18+ sites via their networks. If you want a more tailored approach to what your son or daughter is doing, a combination of either the phone’s parental controls or a parental controls app, along with your own home broadband controls should do the job, whether it’s limiting access to certain apps or limiting time on the phone altogether. Apple iPhones offer built-in parental controls that you can set up and control using a passcode, whereas Android phones such as Samsung and Motorola do not. For Android phones you will need a third-party piece of software such as Google Family Link.

Capped usage SIMs

A capped usage SIM is anything other than an unlimited data SIM, where you pay for a fixed amount of data per month. Data amounts have been steadily increasing over the years but you can still get small allowances from 1GB upwards from some providers.

How to choose the right data plan for your child

If you have a younger child, it’s likely that they will be spending most of their time using your home wifi rather than mobile data, so they will only need a very small data allowance for the few times when they are out without access to wifi. Most of the time, even if they are at a friend’s house they can log on to the friend’s wifi and save their data.

If you are looking for a SIM-only deal for a teen, however, you might want to consider a higher monthly data allowance. Older kids might spend far more time out and about, and might be actively streaming from Spotify, watching YouTube or posting on Tiktok. Video and audio streaming can quickly rip through data so if you have a child of secondary age, it may well be worth getting them a bigger chunk of data to play with.

Several providers aimed at the youth market, including Voxi (Vodafone’s little sibling) and Smarty (which uses the Three network), specialise in offering SIM only deals for the younger market. These come with a chunk of data along with unlimited usage for social media and messaging apps, so all those hours your child spends on TikTok, YouTube, Facebook and the like won’t touch their data allowance, making a smaller (and cheaper) data allowance last much longer.

Consider setting up a spending cap

In most cases, providers will send a text message when you approach your monthly usage allowance. Some devices allow you to set a limit in your hardware settings as well, though you have to update to match your billing cycle to get an estimate of actual usage. To avoid being charged, you can set a limit on the account, either blocking any further usage completely or by setting a financial limit of say £5 or £10 extra per month so that you don’t get any unpleasant bill shocks. Also bear in mind that having to buy extra data is expensive and definitely something to avoid.

If you are looking for other ways to keep costs down, remember that some providers will give you a discount on a SIM-only deal if you also have home broadband with them. This is the case with BT – if you have BT broadband you will automatically be entitled to a discount of £5 per month on any BT SIM only deal.

Capped SIM deals

Unlimited SIMs

Increasingly mobile providers are moving towards offering unlimited data SIMs as standard. And fortunately they are also becoming increasingly affordable, averaging £20 per month. If you know that your youngster is likely to be using a lot of data, then it might just be worth getting them an unlimited SIM. This also has the advantage of removing any worries about being charged for extra data usage.

Unlimited SIM deals

Providers that offer unlimited data SIMs

Most providers offer unlimited data SIM-only deals; at the time of writing the only exceptions to this are Plusnet and Sky Mobile. (Also, BT only offers unlimited data as part of a broadband and mobile bundle if you are already a BT Halo customer.) Unlimited data will keep your offspring happy wherever they are and you won’t need to worry about dealing with the rage when they run out, nor will you have to pay more to keep them connected.

There are also a number of big data deals around, offering deals of up to 100GB of usage that should comfortably do the job and cost won’t be too far off the cost of an unlimited SIM deal.

Another alternative is to get a data deal that is partially limited. For example, giffgaff offers what it calls its Always On deal. Data usage is unlimited, but once the user reaches 80GB, speed is drastically reduced until the data renews at the beginning of the next month. This means your child won’t run out of data, but might have to put up with the frustration of slow speeds for a while.

Frequently asked questions

Who offers the best SIM only deals for kids?

This really comes down to how much your child does online – and what they usually do online. Some providers specialise in offering free social media and messaging app usage in their plans, which reduces data costs. If you are just looking for something very cheap, then iD Mobile, Asda Mobile and Tesco Mobile are all worth a look.

What contract length should I choose for my child’s SIM only deal?

In most cases, the longer the contract, the cheaper the monthly price will be. However, if you’re not comfortable with signing up to a long contract, there are many contract-free deals around that you are free to cancel at any time.

Can my teenager buy their own SIM deal?

No. To buy a SIM only deal, you have to be over 18 years old because you’ll need to undergo a credit check. This means the parent ultimately has to bear the financial responsibility (even if you deduct the cost from your child’s pocket money or allowance).

How much data does my child really need?

Between 2GB to 10GB a month would be a good starting point, depending on the age of your child, what they tend to use their phone for, and how often they are away from wifi. You can always increase the monthly allowance if you want, but you can’t reduce it mid-contract.