If you’re shopping for a cellphone that’s suitable for children, there are many risks that you should consider in relation to your child’s level of maturity, the technology available on the smartphone, social media use, and more.
When you’re choosing your child’s first phone, parents should also pay attention to key features like parental controls, battery life, child safety apps, and ease of use.
While there are many useful features like text messages and educational games that can benefit young children, getting a phone without some of these features may be more age-appropriate for your child in terms of online safety.
Should Kids Have Mobile Phones?
For parents, making the decision to buy your child a mobile phone can be long and complicated. There are pros and cons when it comes to investing in this particular device.
Generally, cell phones are a fantastic way of reaching out to your child and vice versa. It can come in handy in case after school activities end early, or they need a ride home.
They’re also useful in case of a real emergency and your kid desperately needs to reach mom and dad. Furthermore, GPS can help you monitor your child’s location, which is useful when they’re learning how to drive.
It can also teach older children a sense of responsibility, as they learn to care for their phone, stick to the confines of their data plan, and avoid losing it.
On the other hand, cell phones can be expensive, which can be a financial burden if they lose their phone. In addition, some children may be too young to have unfiltered access to Wi-Fi and be exposed to online threats, while others may max out screen time if they’re glued to their device.
As a result, putting strict boundaries in place and talking with your children about their phone-related responsibilities can resolve some of these issues.
At What Age Should Kids Have a Cellphone?
Most experts agree that kids age four to six shouldn’t be using phones at all. Smartphones can be highly damaging for a child in this age range, so screenless devices should be used if necessary.
For those aged seven to nine, camera-enabled phones and social media use isn’t recommended either. Parental controls can disable these features, or buying a basic flip phone without 4G/LTE connectivity is a simple fix.
For kids between ten and twelve, getting a kids’ cell phone is a more common practice. Your child is a baby no longer, and they may be trying to convince you to get one like all their friends. However, screen time and social media should also be monitored.
Ultimately, sixteen is a better age for your child’s first phone, when they’re more capable of avoiding distractions and using their camera feature in a more mature way. The full smartphone experience would ideally be available to those in their mid-to-late teens.
The good news is that buying a basic cell phone for kids means that these gadgets are specifically designed to maximize parental control through their limited operating system.
Best Phones for Kids and Teens
The best phones for kids have long battery life, specialized content, and apps geared towards different ages. Here are some of the most popular smartphone brands to help parents get an overview.
Almost every family has heard of Apples’ line of iPhones, known for their vivid screen, ease of use, and vivid colors. The iOS system can be picked up in no time, making it a highly desired smartphone.
The newly-released iPhone SE is a compact device with an intuitive touchscreen. It also has a top-of-the-line camera, which can come in handy for a kid who’s interested in photography or shooting videos.
The battery life lasts around 13 hours with regular use, which is above average for a smartphone.
For parents, limiting access to the app store is a must to prevent your kid from downloading unsafe applications and visiting a risky site. With its host of advanced features and sophisticated technology, this phone is most suited to those who are older and more mature.
For younger children, this specially-designed device by KidsConnect is the one to watch. It allows calling and texting to up to 15 pre-programmed numbers in a parent-approved contact list, which can protect your kid from strangers. It also has real time location tracking, voice monitoring, and more.
During an emergency, the bright red button is easy to press for help. It also doesn’t come with a camera, making it a simple device with all the necessities. However, the small screen size may make it difficult to text, making it a better phone for calling.
Echoing the iPhone’s sleek design, the Light Phone II by Light has sleek lines and minimalist features. You can switch out the sim card between T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T.
Although it runs on 4G LTE connectivity, it doesn’t have internet access which is great for a younger kid. Another one of its major selling points is its lengthy battery life, which can last up to 1-3 days between charges.
One of the few cons is its high price tag at $299, which may have you longing for Apple’s iOS system accompanied by parental controls instead.
Best Cheap Cellphones for Kids
Understandably, you and your family may be on the lookout for an affordable alternative to these phones. The best cell phone for kids is one that is durable, has a shatter-proof screen (or no screen at all), is budget-friendly, and is limited in terms of content and apps.
For parents, the Z2 phone by Gabb supports calling and texting and limits internet access for your child. It comes with basic music playback on its 720p LCD screen, making it ideal for a child who isn’t ready to go online.
It’s also relatively affordable, priced at under $100 for the device, with an additional cost for a talk and text plan on Verizon’s network.
However, there is no way for parents to monitor calls and texts leaving your kid open to some risk.
Another budget-friendly option is the Jitterbug Flip, which is a flip phone that comes with a camera, flashlight app, and the essential call and text features.
It doesn’t come with any unnecessary apps that can be distracting for younger individuals. While it was originally created for older adults, its large display means that it’s easy to navigate and use for younger kids.
Its high-capacity battery is also another major perk for you and your family, lasting up to 25 days or 5 hours of talk time.
While it’s no iPhone, VTech’s KiddieBuzz comes packaged with 44 games related to science, mathematics, and spelling. Parents can also limit the call and text options and specify site access and app downloads.
Unlike most phones, it also has a tough and rugged exterior that’s built for the young customer who loves to play outdoors. Because of this, it’s easy on the wallet as you probably won’t need to get a costly replacement for your child.
Best Cell Phone Plans for Kids
Kids’ cell phone plans tend to be more affordable than their adult counterparts and can be purchased for a wide range of phones for your child. They’re typically managed with an online dashboard so that parents can keep an eye on things.
At T-Mobile, US Mobile and Mint Mobile have monthly plans between $10 and $15, with 75 minutes and 300 texts for the former and unlimited minutes and texting for the latter.
If you’re looking for a truly unlimited option for your kids, Visible works under Verizon with an all-inclusive rate of $40 per month, with taxes and fees taken into account.
This means that your child will have constant access to cellular data, which may be suitable for older children with more intensive needs.
The cheapest plan for phones is Sprint’s Tello, ringing in at only $7 per month. This includes 100 minutes of calling, unlimited texting, and 1GB of LTE data.
Tello also supports family plan options, which makes it easy to manage all your phones on one account.
Best Smartphone Alternatives for Kids
If you don’t think that your kids are quite ready for an iPhone yet, there are other products on the market that are great for you and your family.
Unlike some phones for kids, these may have all the basic features you really need to protect your child while giving you peace of mind.
Walkie-talkies are a fun and classic way for your children to keep in touch as you get them ready to use a mobile phone. They can give younger kids in your family a sense of freedom while letting them contact you at the same time.
An iPod Touch is a great music player if your child doesn’t need access to data but loves listening to music and wants to graduate from FM radio. This can help you gauge when your child is ready for their own device in the future. However, setting limits is still key, as it has access to all of Apple’s latest apps.
Many GPS trackers on the market don’t have a screen, so there’s no need to worry about screen time and gaming addictions. They can help your child stay safe at school and everywhere else, with options for two-way talk and one-way talk.
When it comes to choosing phones for kids, making sure that the whole family is on the same page will foster an environment of trust and safety all around.
If you have any tried and tested recommendations, feel free to leave a comment below!
Korey has been a security consultant for fortune 500 companies, focused on penetration testing (pen testing) and executive asset protection for over 15 years.
Based on Rhode Island, Korey believes everyone should be mindful of security — especially in these times where information is passed through everywhere we go and is passionate about sharing solutions no matter what your budget is.