Is There a Good Smartphone for Kids?

While our family continues to debate the Wait Until 8th pledge and the idea of a smartwatch, I find myself wondering, is there a good smartphone for kids? At this point I would consider getting my 10-year old a simple one in order to give her the ability to get in touch with her immediate family or babysitter as needed. I wouldn’t mind if she also used it to communicate with her best friend who lives in a different city. But I don’t want her using it for gaming, web use, or anything else along those lines.

The iPhone or new Pixel, while the ideal phone in my 10-year old eyes, just seems like too much for a child, even a teenager. The price point makes it an expensive investment at a time when phones can so easily be lost, stolen, or misplaced. Even though you can purchase insurance, it still is a lot of cash up front. Then, there is the task of monitoring the web and all the features of the phone, like app downloads, social media, and texting.

The good news is that there are a few options of more manageable phones for the younger set. Deciding if you want to explore the option at all is an individual family decision, but, if you do, here are some things to consider.

Price: Kids are not responsible enough to handle expensive tech. Consider $200 or less a good starting point for purchasing a phone, and stick to a low cost data plan.

Calling/Texting: Young children don’t need to be adding contacts to their phones all the time. Phones like the Sprint WeGo allow parents to control the contacts in the phone thus limiting phone and texting capabilities. For tweens, the Motorola G or E are excellent low cost phones that allow calling and texting but won’t break the bank. As they get older, you might want to consider a one generation older iPhone or Android with the Kajeet service, a service that limits phone use and allows parents to control smartphone functions, including calling and texting. Be careful not to get anything older than one generation because they often lack important security features and fixes for known vulnerabilities that might put your data at risk.

Features: The ability to download apps is a slippery slope. Many phones like the Kurio, or TracFone don’t have web access at all. Presuming the child has access to a computer at home or school or homework, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you purchase a more advance phone for a tween that comes with web access, research parental control programs and chose one you both feel comfortable installing on the phone.

GPS & SOS: GPS location and SOS are two features that are particularly useful for young children and their parents and are found on most phones. The GPS allows a parent to see where the phone is at any given time. This is especially useful when a child is walking somewhere alone. The SOS features can vary, but it is a panic button that will usually make a loud noise and alert the parents to an emergency.

There is a good chance you might lean toward a particular phone depending on the provider you already have. Before you purchase it discuss the features with your child so you are both aware of what your child wants and what you are comfortable with them having. Maybe you can set an arrangement that they will earn a more advanced phone once they demonstrate responsible handling of their first one. Either way, keep the lines of communication open so you get off on the right foot.

If you have purchased a phone for your young child or tween, which one have you chosen and why?