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Do I need a SIM for my Child’s phone?

Will my Child’s phone work without a SIM card?

Published by ParentShield’s Phone Experts.

One of our biggest questions is if a child can be given a phone without a SIM card. It’s a pretty common scenario. A child will often be ‘gifted’ that old contract phone at a very young age and they can face-time Granny and play games in the home. It’s great’s

But what happens when they need to start developing some independence? Walking to school. Going on school trips? Is a child’s phone with no SIM card still appropriate, is it safe, will it work outside the house?

Firstly it’s probably best to explore what a SIM card is, what a mobile network contract is, and how it all works.

What does a SIM card do for a Child’s phone?

A SIM Card and mobile network contract will provide:

  • Mobile Network Telephone Calls
  • SMS Messages
  • Mobile Data Connection
  • A Phone number

Without a SIM card, there is generally no service from carriers. You may still be able to make 999 emergency calls though by the power of some magic. This is certainly a way to use an old smartphone. It’s a common thought. Could my child cope with an old iPhone with no SIM? and in some circumstances, the answer might even be yes!

What they won’t get, however, is a phone like yours. It won’t have a phone number, and will only be able to communicate with the world when it’s on WiFi or tethered to the internet via someone else’s mobile phone. It won’t do many of the things you might need a mobile phone to do like sending messages while outside of WiFi reach.

Should they only need a mobile phone that acts as a clock, plays ‘offline’ games, and possibly the ability to call or message home while taking advantage of the school bus’s free WiFi, then maybe consider this route. But it’s not generally something we see as satisfactory.

Without a phone number, many of the data services you need won’t work – such as WhatsApp, and providing a phone that can connect freely to WiFi is certainly not the very best, if at all any, sort of parental control scenario.

There is of course, no cost. No mobile contract to pay for, and no hardware cost. But the old out of contract mobile is likely to be unsupported, not updated, and incredibly vulnerable to malware and hackers. If the phone is used for anything useful like online banking this is a huge risk that can’t be overstated. The battery is likely to be old, and the phone hardware itself out of date, and flaky, so even when connected it might be far less reliable than you would like it to be.

Hopefully, being here at ParentShield means this solution has been ruled out. We do hope so.

Currently there are Apps that will do virtually everything over an internet connection without paying any fees or using SIM cards. All you’d need is an internet connection (WiFi access) and several different applications.

Why a no-data or controlled data SIM card is your child’s best Option.

Internet connections come with a risk that we’re now all aware of. An ability to share messages, voice, pictures, and video with anyone anywhere brings risks that hopefully don’t need illuminating here. And while data-only SIM cards are certainly a thing, it’s possibly not what you want for your child’s first mobile phone. We go as far as saying it’s NOT what you want.

What is PAYG data only SIM?

A PAYG data SIM will provide internet access to a phone when it’s away from WiFi, or bluetooth range of another person’s mobile phone that does have Mobile Data. It will possibly come with a mobile number ( for legacy mobile network purposes ) but it’s not essential that this is a routable number. It may even be a premium rate ‘expensive’ number so be very careful.

Benefits of Using Mobile Data Over Public Wi-Fi

Wifi is great! Especially free WiFi. We all like free stuff and, it seems so tempting to make the most of it. The benefit, of course, is all the apps on the phone will probably work, WhatsApp will do voice calls, and video sharing applications like YouTube and TikTok are all in full swing. Your Google Maps and location services will work, and you can browse the internet and do all the things that you are familiar with working while at home.

The downside of using Public Wifi

Firstly it’s use is restricted to being close to where it is. OK, so you can ‘WiFi surf’ from the Starbucks to McDonalds, to Nandos, the Trent Barton No. 38 bus etc. but this means multiplying the risks that we’ll list below by the number of different networks that you might connect to. Each of the networks that you surf will likely require a log-in so you will also need to share your email address, name, probably a mobile number also with MANY networks. The dangers should be self-evident.

We have to ask what the motivation of providing public Free Wifi is. It may be ‘customer service’ but the amount of data that these WiFi links can collect is simply nothing short of staggering. It also creates users who are wifi-hungry and prepared to overlook a network that has no, or poor WEP security, to get that connection. While the WiFi provider themselves has access to ALL the data you share over that WiFi – yes, all, that includes your banking details, personal data, your Facebook login details, your passwords, everything, an ‘open’ public wifi shares the same scary data with everyone else that’s in wifi range of your phone. Yes – that gentleman sipping his americano sat at the table over there with his laptop open in front of him could be logged into your social media account, seing everything that you are posting, sharing and liking. Really it’s very easy to do.

Can I use a data only SIM on my smartphone?

Using a data only SIM on your smartphone is certainly a step-up on wifi surfing and if you’re hell-bent on providing a mobile-data-only solution for your child’s mobile phone then this is a far superior solution to encouraging wifi surfing.

Tell me the best way to use a data only SIM in a smartphone?

If you have to use this sort of solution – get a mobile contract that also provides a lower amount of calls and texts as well, and a regular UK phone number that’s not an expensive 070 personal number. ParentShield’s Safe Stage 4 is a higher data SIM contract that we feel is far superior to a WiFi-Only solution.

Using a SIM in the child’s phone to provide mobile data doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t stil use selected and trusted WiFi hotspots – but it removes the keenness to connect to the wrong hotspot. As well as using mobile data we’d encourage the use of a VPN and, in the case of children, a strong parental control layer. Lots of these are available and probably the subject of another blog post for another day.

What kind of devices use data only SIMs?

All ‘smartphones’, Android and Apple will use mobile data. But this rules out using a simpler ‘brick phone’. The trusty Nokia 105 or swanky new 3310 has a bucket-load of good things to be said for it. It plays Snake, so that’s the first but a battery life that’s measured in days rather than hours is probably be most notable plus-side. They’re rock solid, work every time, don’t break when dropped 8 inches, and cheap to buy and replace. A Data-only SIM would of course be totally useless in this device.

Does data only SIM offer good value for money?

Given all the points above, we don’t think it’s what you really want for a child’s first mobile phone, so it’s not something that ParentShield offers. While it’s true that mobile data is getting cheaper all the time, and the advent of 4G and 5G means it’s getting faster and more usable, the unrestricted amount of data connection away from the home makes it unsuitable for a child’s first or second phone. The majority of ParentShield subscribers initially opt for a no-data SIMcard solution, such as Safe Stage 1 with, potentially the addition of a small amount of PAYG data for location and emergency purposes.

Does ParentShield offer preloaded or PAYG data SIM deals?

Yes – there are two ways of working Data allowances on a ParentShield account. You can have a Stage 2 or above plan that has a monthly ( or daily – see daily data budgeting) data allowance, that decreases as data is used. of you can opt for PAYG data by pre-paying for a certain amount of data. This PAYG amount sits on the SIM card until used, and never expires, so there is still no way of over spending. Unlike other networks that shall remain nameless, we won’t text your child’s phone and ask, helpfully, whether they’d like to upgrade to the next data bundle!

How does data work on Pay As You Go?

You simply log into your ParentShield Portal, and in the green task bar at the top you’ll see a button that says ‘Top up by card’ – make a payment there of your choice, any amount is accepted, and the cash balance is added immediately. Data is then provided on a PAYG basis at £1.60 per 100MB. When it’s gone the data will stop and no more cost of course. As data is used you’ll see the cash balance shown in the portal decrease in real time so you can see exactly how much is left. Don’t forget of course, to head to the Data tab and turn data on, and make sure the mobile phone is configured for data. All the information you need to do this is available from the data guide. We’ll also email this to you as you turn data on for the first time.

How can I tell if my phone is unlocked and will it accept a ParentShield network SIM?

The easiest way is simply to insert a ParentShield SIM into the phone. If it works straight away, the phone is unlocked. If there is a message along the lines of ‘SIM not supported’ or ‘Enter Network SIM PIN’, or simply no message and no network connection, then the phone is locked. This will also coincide with the recollection that the phone was originally provided on a contract, once upon a time ago. If you want a ParentShield SIM but are unsure. Let us know the phone is locked and you need a few days to get it unlocked and we’ll happily delay the first bill until you’re sorted so you get a full first month. It happens a lot. Now Phone Locking has actually been outlawed, there will come a time when this ceases to be an issue but for now there are hundreds of millions of locked mobile phones in circulation. Look out for it.

ParentShield has a handy unlocking information page that we update with contact Information for other mobile networks should you need to contact them. The SIM will need to be unlocked by the provider that provided it. Obviously!

How do I keep my number when I get a new SIM?

This is a process called Porting. As adults we’re all pretty familiar with it as a process. You contact the network that you’re leaving and ask them to supply you a ‘PAC’ and then pass this and the mobile number to the new provider. Is is, on the face of it, a simple process, and in the eyes of most networks, actually essential as until you port out ( or request the little known STAC “service termination access code”) you’ve not left, and will still be billed. In a Child’s phone scenario the likelihood is that you are providing a first number, so there will be nothing to port, and if you are moving to a secure child-safe network like ParentShield the chances are you will want a clean slate anyway. Most children don’t have extensive contact lists.

As ParentShield is a recorded mobile network, we actually strongly advise against inbound porting as this generates a possibility that someone might be being moved over to ParentShield without their knowledge and it’s important that all parties on out calls are aware of the features that it provides. We have many controls around this.

Can I trust smaller, less well known networks? Is the service as good?

Great question. We make a point of updating feedback on the site here and use an independent and trusted reviews platform reviews.io. This means that Reviews.io contacts every customer of ours and asks them to leave feedback. We don’t do this immediately, and give all customers the chance to get SIM cards in their child’s first phone, try out the features and sample the network reliability and possibly contact us for some reason. This allows feadback to be based on a real-world use scenario. Customers aren’t just rating the Post Office’s service! We are intensely proud of our 5* feedbacks and we hope that you take the time to read the testimonials that other customers have left. Please be assured that this is ‘ALL’ the feedback and Reviews.io publishes every feedback they get instantly without us getting the chance to moderate it first. If there were a lot of unhappy customers you would know.

How much data should I look for in a SIM only deal?

This is a question and a half. The Safe Stage 2 SIM card has half a gigabyte of data which, in the absence of video applications of very heavy web surfing, does suit a ‘normal’ level of use. It’s several hours of google maps usage, hundreds of emails, and reasonable levels of instant messaging. Me, writing this, I have just checked my phone and I’ve used 267MB of mobile data in the last 30 days. Obviously it’s going to be possible to use this amount quickly if the phone is used unwisely and in an unsafe manner, but the same would be the case, but with greater danger if it was a 3GB, 5GB, 30GB limit.

Pay As You Go Data Only – Charged For Each Megabyte of Usage

With ParentShield PAYG this is exactly the case – £1.60 per 100MB if the data is not used, then there is no cost, and the cash PAYG amount will sit there untouched.

What SIM card do I need?

All the ParentShield SIM cards are identical. So you simply place an order for a ParentShield SIM, and choose a tariff at the time of purchasing. If you want to upgrade a tariff or downgrade, then you can do this at any time online from the ParentShield Portal and the new plan becomes active immediately. All of the provisioning for extra networks or extra data or allowances happens ‘OTA’ Over the Air and there is nothing to do your end. In cases where a new number is desired we can also do this over the air quickly and easily. In this case just restarting the mobile phone is all that’s required. Restarting the phone forces the networks that it’s attached to to re-associate the IMSI ( that’s the SIM Card’s identity ) with the new number.

Example of ParentShield pre-loaded SIMs Offering Good Value For Money

We occasionally have people call us and say that they think ParentShield is expensive. We do offer many, many features that other networks don’t offer so it’s very difficult and we’d argue unfair, to directly compare the two. But the fact that ParentShield SIM cards guarantee no extra spending in ANY circumstance, the cost has to bear this in mind. A SIM contract that appears to be cheaper but allows a user to rack up 10’s and 100’s of pounds of excess charges, isn’t actually cheaper.

Tell me the best mobile network?

ParentShield is the only mobile network that is suitable for children. If you need a SIM card for a child then ParentShield is definitely the best mobile network. Only ParentShield has the procedures in place that are required to keep children safe.

Will there be a credit check? What happens if I fail?

We check identity but we don’t credit check. Child Protection is far more important to us than a missed 9.99 payment so we don’t do any checks that will be recorded as a credit check and no customer has ever been turned down as a result of a credit check. It’s important to us that we have correct and up-to-date contact details so if there are any issues or emergency calls we can properly update the police quickly and accurately.

We also need to ensure the ParentShield SIM is for a child’s use and having the correct account holder information is vital. When you are placing an order – please ensure that the account holder detail matches the normal living address of the child so we can complete our checks as easily as possible. Using a business address or a different address can cause delays or the SIM may be placed in Non-Recording modes to ensure legal compliance.