In the market for a cell phone for your child? It’s a big decision.
A good kid’s phone gives parents the power to monitor and control their child’s digital experience. Here’s how to pick the best of the bunch.
The Pros and Cons of Getting a Kid’s Phone
Benefits of Getting a Kid’s Phone
It is super convenient if your children have their own cellphones. (First of all, they won’t have to borrow yours all the time!) Jokes aside, having a personal phone can be a great safety measure.
They can call you in emergencies, call when they need a ride, and use apps like Uber or Lyft. Having access to a phone is critical now since public phones are non-existent. So kids need a phone to contact their parents.
Paranoid parents will love knowing their kids can always reach them in uncomfortable situations. You can send your child reminders and notes throughout the day. Children can also text their parents when they arrive and leave school so parents can keep a better eye on them. As a bonus, as your children mature, they can run errands for you, and cell phones make it easier to coordinate that.
The Dangers of Cell Phones for Kids
Having a phone usually means having access to the internet. Unfortunately, many dangers are associated with kids and internet usage.
Too Much Screen Time
Cell phones can cause children to spend too much time glued to screens. Outdoor and physical play are crucial for children’s growth and health, as is spending time in person with their friends and family. Too much screen time can hamper both.
Online predators know that kids are vulnerable online. Unfortunately, kids do not always recognize the signs of an unsafe person- especially since hiding your identity online is a given.
Kids can chat with anyone online, on almost any platform. It is much harder to keep tabs on who your child is communicating with when they have their own device.
When misused, apps such as Tik-Tok and Instagram are disastrous for kids’ self-esteem and mental health. While many teens and pre-teens thrive in online settings, it is vital to be aware of the messages your teens receive from social media.
What To Look For When Buying A Cell Phone For Your Child
When you decide your child is ready or needs a phone, then there are a few factors you need to consider before buying a kid’s phone. Different handsets offer different features and functionality. You and your child need to have a conversation about what type of phone they need.
Kids don’t always look after their possessions. The younger the child, the more durable the phone needs to be. Some new phones are incredibly fragile and would not be a good option for young children – especially if they take the phone on the bus or to school.
Look for a phone that can be knocked around a bit and won’t shatter when dropped. It would be wise to invest in a sturdy phone case too.
Parental Control Options
When looking at kids’ phone options, know what parental control options are available. Parental control options vary from only allowing specific phone numbers on the phone to blocking spam and inappropriate websites.
Many phones have options where parents can control internet usage and apps used. For example, some of the best kid’s phones have parental control apps that allow parents to fully monitor and control all aspects of the phone’s usage. Of course, parents can do spot-checks on their child’s phone to ensure no predatory behavior, cyberbullying, or other dangerous behaviors are occurring.
Age-Appropriateness or Readiness
Determining when your child is ready for a phone will impact the type of phone you get them. For example, a 9-year-old who is getting a phone for safety reasons will need a different phone than a 13-year-old with a growing social media presence and (hopefully) proven trustworthiness with phone use.
Tips For Picking A Cell Phone For Kids
Before purchasing a kid’s phone, have a clear idea of what you want your child’s cellphone usage to be.
With older children, have a conversation about expectations and rules. You can discuss what type of phone you allow, what parental controls you will be implementing, and your internet and phone usage guidelines.
If your child pays for the phone, you can discuss budgeting and bill-paying too. Do your research and ensure the phone you buy has the features you want.
When researching, see which plans come with the kid’s handsets. For example, some phones allow you to add the child’s phone to your family plan (which can save you money), and some phones have their own phone plans (which can be expensive).
Some phones use pre-paid plans that better control the amount of time your child spends on them.
Some are expensive, so don’t forget to check eBay, Amazon, or Flippa to see if you can purchase a second-hand phone.
Remember that regular, unlocked phones may have parental controls disabled or other modifications that make the phone no longer suitable for your kid.
Best Kid’s Phones in 2022
Note: Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my affiliate link. Read my full disclosure policy here.
Jitterbug Flip 2
The makers of the Jitterbug Flip 2 market it to seniors. But for some of the same reasons, it’s excellent for your kids. The phone is extremely basic and has no internet access or social media apps. However, there are no parental controls and no GPS, and you can’t monitor its use.
KidsConnect Secure Phone
This phone is as simple as it can be. There is no internet, no games, and no apps. The parent can approve phone numbers to text and call, and it has an emergency button. This phone is an excellent option if you want just the basics.
This tiny phone can easily fit into a child’s hand. It has a long battery life (great for kids who may forget to charge it) and is durable. It’s also water-resistant so that it can survive spilled water bottles. It has access to the internet, games, and apps, but it also has pretty robust parental controls. For example, parents can monitor their child’s location with its GPS tracker.
Pinwheel Plus Kids Cell Phone
This kid’s cell phone is perfect for kids and teens alike. It’s fully customizable so parents can control everything that happens on the phone, including placing time limits and controlling the apps on the phone. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t have access to an app store, so parents must install all apps separately.
Gabb Phone Z2
The Gabb phone is a great first phone for young kids. This phone has only calling and texting capabilities, which means there is no internet access, no games, and other distractions. The Gabb Phone is an excellent phone for parents who want their kids to be able to keep in touch only. It is just a phone.
VTech KidiBuzz 3
This phone is a pretty basic smartphone. There is access to games, apps, and messaging. They have robust parental controls where you can limit access to specific websites and set time limits for internet use.
Nokia 3310 3G
Keep it old-school with this Nokia phone. This durable phone has limited features, which has its ups and downs. Limited features mean limited internet access for your child, which is a plus, but it is also harder to monitor and control, which isn’t great. Note: it has certain pre-loaded apps that can not be removed (such as Facebook and Twitter). It is very sturdy and durable.
This smartwatch is not a phone, although you can use it as one! It’s a wearable which means kids are less likely to lose it. It has GPS tracking for parents to keep track of their children. You can save up to 10 trusted contacts your child can call from the watch. They also have excellent parental controls.
This “phone” is great for very young children who may need to call a trusted adult and whose parents want to track them but don’t need a phone’s full functionality.
Picking a phone for your child can be daunting. You need to think about many factors to ensure you get the right one. Use these tips to help you navigate the process and identify the ideal choice for you.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Robyn is a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. She has her MBA and has been studying Personal Finance on her own for as long as she can remember. She has always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start her blog after a period of extended unemployment. She says that experience really changed the way she viewed her relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education. Read more at A Dime Saved.