Skip to main content

Giving Your Old Cell Phone to Your Kids? Here's How to Make it Their Dream Device

You've made the decision to give your kids your old cell phone. Make it even more impressive by letting them create their own phone case to go with their inherited phone. Plus, learn more about how to bring your old device to your carrier to be added to your plan.
kids using parents' old iphone
By: Lori Cunningham

Have an old phone you’d like to give to your child?  Whether it's the phone you just upgraded from or an older one sitting around the house, your child would likely love to use it. 

Perhaps your phone was used on a previous carrier.  Many mobile carriers now offer Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, for their customers.

More: Not Ready to Give Your Kid a Smartphone? Try a Flip Phone Instead

What is BYOD?  It just means that if your old phone works on the same mobile frequencies as your new carrier and it is unlocked (not programmed only for your old carrier), you can bring it to your new mobile carrier without additional cost.

Repurposed Phone Case Ideas for Kids

To make your old phone feel new (and fun), help your child customize the phone to his or her liking.  There are a number of ways to help your child create a unique phone case.  It's fun to do and you can help, making it a creative project to work on together. Plus, customizing a phone case is cheaper than buying a new one—it recycles your old phone case by adding color and materials to it. 

diy crafted cell phone cases

• Colored duct tape is a fast way to customize a phone case and phone accessories.  It comes in a variety of patterns and is relatively inexpensive.  Try cutting the duct tape in strips or place it on an angle for an interesting collage look.

• Puffy paint adds color to a phone case.  Place dots in a pattern, make colorful lines, or hand-draw a beautiful butterfly, dolphin, flower, or another object your child enjoys.  

• Let your child choose fun stickers to decorate the phone case with: butterflies, super heros, or whatever they’re most excited about. 

• Googly eyes. Yes, you heard it right, cover your old case with different sizes of googly eyes.  This way you can keep an "eye" on your old phone!

Before giving your child your old phone, ensure it will work on your current mobile carrier.  If the phone was previously on the same mobile carrier you currently use, you're probably good to go. If you have a phone from another carrier, make sure you have a bring-your-own-device mobile carrier.

What To Do To Your Old Phone Before Giving It To Your Child

mother giving old phone to daughter

Use this checklist to ensure your old phone will work before gifting it to your child.

STEP 1:  Will it Work on Your Mobile Network?

Ensure your old phone works with your current carrier.  if your carrier is a BYOD carrier, you can call them to verify.  Better yet, simply take your SIM card out of your phone and place it in your old phone to ensure you can make calls with it.  If you can, then the phone works on your current mobile network.

STEP 2: Is Your Phone Unlocked?

If your old phone has never been on your current carrier before, make sure the phone is unlocked.  Call your old carrier to unlock the phone for you.  Because different frequencies are used on different mobile carriers, a phone that works on one carrier, even if unlocked, might not work on another.

STEP 3: Update the Phone to the Latest Software

Be sure to update your old phone's software to the latest version, so you can take advantage of the latest features and parental controls.

STEP 4: Get a new SIM Card

You can request a free SIM card for your old phone, though sometimes there is a charge for them.  This will add another line to your account and increase your monthly bill.  Sometimes you can negotiate the costs with your mobile carrier.  

If you go to your mobile carrier's store, you can buy a SIM card there and they can install it for you.  Otherwise, you can order one online and have it sent to you.

STEP 5: Make A Contract

Before you give your child a phone, create a contract with rules to follow and direct accountability as to who owns the phone and who pays for it if it gets lost or broken.

Start off slow with how many apps can be downloaded (and which ones) as well as who your child can text in the beginning. As your child demonstrates responsibility, you can allow more apps.

Getting a first phone is a rite of passage for children and teens.  It is probably the gift they have most anticipated.  Do your homework first to ensure the phone works with your mobile carrier.  Then make it fun by working on a personalized case to protect the phone and help your child take extra pride in his or her phone.

Lori Cunningham is a contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile, as well as a family tech advocate and the founder of, where she explores her ravenous curiosity for technology.

Subscribe to Family Education

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.