Children’s Plans in Europe and the US: Operators Woo Parents with Safety Features

What do I need to know?

  • Common features include geolocation, internet usage monitoring and emergency messaging
  • Standalone plans are generally aimed at older kids, and in some cases include larger data allowances
  • Add-on plans are mainly aimed at younger kids, and include either smaller data allowances or greater controls on what the kids can access

Background

Plans aimed at children target possibly the smallest demographic, particularly in Western Europe, where birth rates are among the lowest in the world. Italy, for example, is the lowest in Europe with 8 live births per 1,000, while Spain and Germany are close behind with 9 per 1,000. By contrast, the birth rate in the US for 2021 is 12 live births per 1,000.

Whereas youth plans are aimed at young people and students directly, as a way to create early brand loyalty and possible upselling opportunities, children’s plans are aimed at parents. This is especially true of the plans for younger children, which allow parents to keep in contact with their kids and ensure they’re using the internet safely and responsibly.

Types of Children’s Plans

Beyond segmenting by age, the two main types of children’s plans available are either standalone plans or add-ons that require a parent to have an account with the operator in question. Plans aimed at younger children, typically under 13, also have lower data allowances, though certain outliers, such as the plans in Italy, offer much more data. Other hallmarks of kids’ plans include some form of safe surfing, which can include blocking certain types of websites or phone numbers, or allowing parents to monitor their children’s web usage.

All of these plans are also distinct from family plans, which frequently offer a set pool of data for the entire family to use, and which are not covered in this report. However, this data-sharing feature is available in some kids’ plans, allowing the parent to share data from their own plan with their children.

Standalone Plans

This is the most common type of plan, and the most widespread across Europe. The upper age limit varies by country and operator, but is most frequently 13 or over. The oldest age limit is on Telenor Norway’s Under-18 plans, which are aimed at kids aged 13-17, while the youngest age limit is on Austria’s Magenta Mobile Junior plan, aimed at kids aged 6-11.

While these plans don’t require the parent to have a subscription with the operator in question, they are still aimed at parents, who are generally assumed to be buying the plan for their kids. Magenta’s plan has an interesting wrinkle, in that the child’s data allowance is doubled if the parent is already a Magenta subscriber.

OperatorCountryPlan NameAge Limit
MagentaAustriaMobile Junior6-11
YouSeeDenmarkBørneabonnementUnder 18
TelenorDenmark5GB (Til børn under 13 år)Under 13
TeliaDenmarkLittle OneUnder 18
TIMItalyTIM Junior16 and under
VodafoneItalyShake Remix Unlimited Junior15 and under
WindTreItalyJunior Crew16 and under
WindTreItalyJunior, Junior +14 and under
TelenorNorwayU1813-17
TelenorNorwayTrygg StartUnder 13
Ice.NetNorwayIce Junior, Ice JuniorPlussUnder 13
Table 1. Standalone Plans for Children

Most operators offer just one or two plans for children, frequently for different age groups, but Telenor Norway’s U18 is a set of plans, offering data allowances from 1GB to 12GB. The plans are cheaper on average than the equivalent Yng plans, aimed at youths aged 18-28, and offer less data: the top-tier U18 plan includes 12GB of data for NOK 449 while the equivalent Yng plan costs NOK499 for unlimited data.

The largest data allowances for children are available in Italy. TIM’s Junior plan offers a relatively paltry 10GB, while Vodafone’s Shake Remix Unlimited Junior offers twice as much, and both operators include zero-rated chat or social apps. WindTre’s plans, meanwhile, all offer an impressive 60GB, probably to make up for the fact that the operator doesn’t offer zero-rating like its competitors.

Add-On Plans

These plans are less common than standalone plans, with just five examples found in the US and Western Europe. Each of these plans requires the parent to have an account with the operator in question, either an existing plan or they can open their own plan when they also open the one for their child.

OperatorCountryPlanPrice (US$)Data (GB)
KPNNetherlandsKids SIM17.341
T-MobileNetherlandsPrepaid Kids8.67Unlimited (128kbps)
NOSPortugalNOS Kids8.671 (general)
2 (YouTube)
25 (NOS Kids app)
OrangeSpainKids10.352
VerizonUSJust Kids50Unlimited
Table 2. Children’s Add-On Plans

KPN’s Kids SIM is aimed at children under 18, and comes with the usual features like monitoring of internet usage and blocked add-ons. Its data allowance is relatively low, but the plan includes 5G and the parent can share data with their child when they run low. The other Dutch plan, T-Mobile’s Prepaid Kids, is aimed at kids aged 6-12, so its offering is more limited: there are just 30 minutes of calls or texts, and while data is unlimited, it’s throttled at 128kbps.

NOS Kids, from Portugal, is more generous, with unlimited voice and SMS, and different data allowances depending on the app being used. Normal surfing gets 1GB, while YouTube gets 2GB and NOS’s own Kids app, featuring movies and shows aimed at children, gets 25GB per month; the operator is also currently running a promotion where each of these amounts is doubled.

Orange Spain’s Kids plan offers 2GB of data, unlimited voice minutes within the family and SMS for EUR0.25 per message. Calls outside the family have no per-minute charge but cost EUR0.30 for connection, and parents can add unlimited texting to the plan for an additional EUR1 per month. 

Verizon’s plan is the most expensive, topping out at US$50 per month, though it does offer unlimited high-speed data. Calls and texts are unlimited, as long as they are to parent-approved contacts, and it also includes access to the Smart Family app, which lets parents monitor their kids’ usage and location.

Watch Plans

There’s one final type of children’s plan to note, those that offer smartwatches, though Austria’s Magenta and Vodafone Romania are currently the only operators we’ve found that offer them. Magenta’s Mobile Kids plan costs EUR6 per month for 500 minutes and 50 texts, plus 500MB of data (doubled if the parent is a subscriber). The watch, the Xplora X5 Play eSIM, costs an additional EUR89.

Vodafone Romania’s Abonament Connect Watch lets users choose between two watches, the TCL MT40 4G and the 2G/GPRS-enabled Myki Touch. The plan itself costs EUR5 per month for unlimited voice and texts in-network, plus 50 minutes or texts to other networks, and 1.1GB og high-speed data. The watch is paid for in instalments, with the TCL costing an addition EUR5 and the Myki EUR3 per month.

These plans are positioned more clearly as ways for parents to keep in touch, with geolocation and SOS-button functions included, but much smaller data allowances than smartphone plans. Magenta’s Xplora watch includes a “school mode”, which allows parents to set times during which smart features are limited, meaning the child can only check the time and make SOS calls.

Summary

Whether standalone plans or add-ons, children’s plans all emphasize child safety and parental guidance. Geolocation is the most common feature, followed closely by the ability to monitor and/or limit internet usage. Standalone plans are more likely to emphasize the child’s independence, and are frequently aimed at older kids, whereas add-on plans typically emphasize the parent’s ability to keep an eye on what their child is viewing. Certain plans even have features that use AI to monitor for cyberbullying in the child’s online activity.

This difference also extends to the plans’ data allowances, with a few notable exceptions. Verizon is the only operator to offer unlimited data at full speed, while T-Mobile Netherlands’s Prepaid Kids offers it at much lower speeds than its regular plans. The other three notable add-on plans offer no more than 2GB of data, not counting NOS Kids offering extra data for specific apps (YouTube and the NOS Kids app).

Children’s plans offer a relatively cheap way for parents to introduce smartphones to their kids, under the guise of keeping an eye on them and helping them to access the internet “safely”. It’s also notable that so many plans are SIM-only, presumably so that parents can offload their old phones to their kids when they buy new ones for themselves.

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