- Cell phone range
- Simple design
- Built-in GPS
- Built-in GPS
- Up to 10 contacts
- Basic features
- Sturdy and durable
Nokia 3310 3G
- Basic smartphone
- Good performance
Moto E5 Play
- Parental controls
- Powerful processor
Data effective 8/21/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.
Getting a phone for your kids involves a lot of decisions: When is the right time to give your kids a phone? How old should they be? What rules and guidelines will you set? Should you add a line to your family cell phone plan or use a prepaid service? What about parental controls? We’ve got info to help you make those decisions below, plus our recommendations for the best phones for kids at all different stages—read on to find out more.
Here are our favorite cell phones for kids in 2019
Compare the best phones for kids
|Recommendation||Best Screen-Free Phone||Best for Young Kids||Best Phone on a Budget||Best Smartphone for Kids||Best Parental Controls|
|Product name||Relay||Verizon GizmoWatch||Nokia 3310 3G||Moto E5 Play||iPhone 6S|
|Price*||$49.99; $9.99 per month||$179.99; $5 per month (with Verizon phone plan)||$59.00||$129.99||$129.99|
|What to expect||Square handheld||Smart watch||Touchpad cell phone||Touchscreen cell phone||Touchscreen cell phone|
|Learn more||View Website||View Website||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon|
|Best Screen-Free Phone||Best for Young Kids||Best Phone on a Budget||Best Smartphone for Kids||Best Parental Controls|
|Relay||Verizon GizmoWatch||Nokia 3310 3G||Moto E5 Play||iPhone 6S|
|$49.99; $9.99 per month||$179.99; $5 per month (with Verizon phone plan)||$59.00||$129.99||$129.99|
|Square handheld||Smart watch||Touchpad cell phone||Touchscreen cell phone||Touchscreen cell phone|
|View Website||View Website||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon|
Data effective 8/21/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.
Relay review: Best screen-free phone
Image sourced from RelayGo.com and is property of Republic Wireless, Inc.
Pros and cons of Relay Go
- Same range as a cell phone
- Screen-free design
- Simple design and straightforward use
- Sturdy, durable, and water-resistant construction
- Affordable price
- Closed 4G LTE service plan (no cell phone carriers)
- Slight time delay between sending and receiving messages
- No geofencing or location alert features
Why we recommend Relay
The Relay acts like a walkie-talkie but has the range of a cell phone. Its simple design makes it easy to use, even for little kids. By holding down the talk button, kids can send voice messages to other Relay devices or to a smartphone with the Relay app installed. A push notification alerts parents to a missed message when the app is closed.
The Relay app uses GPS to track the location of the Relay device—but it doesn’t use the GPS to add features like geofencing or location alerts. The built-in GPS is pretty accurate, though it does better outdoors than in an enclosed area like a mall. The sound quality is generally good, but make sure your kids know how to hold down the button securely so the message isn’t broken up.
Just for fun, the Relay offers channels with extra features like a music player and a voice changer with goofy sound effects. While the latter may not be exciting to a teenager, younger kids would love playing around with them. The device itself is sturdy and durable so there’s no stress about your kiddos destroying it.
The Relay costs around $50, which is comparable to some basic cell phones, but you don’t need to worry about too much screen time or adding parental controls. The service fee is a $9.99 per month, which is much better than most cell phone plans.
ASecureLife’s recommendation: For parents who are worried about too much screen time or don’t want their kids getting distracted by a phone, the affordable, screen-free Relay is the perfect solution.
Verizon GizmoWatch review: Best for young kids
Image sourced from VerizonWireless.com and is property of Verizon.
Pros and cons of GizmoWatch
- GPS tracking features
- Space for up to 10 contact numbers
- Durable and water-resistant design
- Long-lasting battery life
- Customizable on/off hours
- Only for Verizon Network
- High up-front cost
Why we recommend Verizon GizmoWatch
The Verizon GizmoWatch is a smart wristwatch that gives you a way to reach your little ones any time. (This is an updated version of the LG GizmoPal, which Verizon no longer offers.) The watch holds up to 10 contacts and has up to 20 programmed text messages. As the parent, you can monitor when your child uses the watch by turning it off during specific hours (like school, for example).
You can also track your kid’s location and get an alert if the watch strays outside of the boundaries you set. The built-in GPS uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network, so the coverage is expansive. Especially for little ones, a tracking device is one great way to keep your kids safe in crowds.
A tracking device is one great way to keep your kids safe in crowds.
A few bonus features make the watch more fun for kids too. A step counter encourages kids to be more active, and there are silly audio filters. The GizmoWatch fits standard 20mm watch straps, so your little one can customize the look.
Other than the high cost, the main downside to the GizmoWatch—and it’s a big one—is that it’s available only through Verizon. If you have a Verizon phone plan, you can add the GizmoWatch to your account for a small monthly fee. If you don’t already have Verizon, this probably isn’t the device for you.
ASecureLife’s recommendation: With call and messaging capabilities, as well as GPS location tracking, the Verizon GizmoWatch is our top phone choice for young children if you can swing the high cost.
>>Learn more: Read more about the Verizon GizmoWatch and more of the best GPS tracking devices for kids.
Nokia 3310 3G review: Best phone on a budget
Image sourced from Nokia.com and is property of Nokia Corporation.
Pros and cons of Nokia 3310 3G
- Low price
- Long-lasting battery life
- No need for additional covers
- Outdated 3G network
- Low-quality camera
- No Wi-Fi calling
Why we recommend Nokia 3310
The Verizon GizmoWatch is a smart wristwatch that gives you a way to reach your little ones any time. (This is an updated version of the LG GizmoPal, which Verizon no A great option for older kids who are ready to feel like one of the adults, the Nokia 3310 gives your child the important cell phone features—calling and texting—plus a handful of simple apps (calendar, music, web browser). It covers the basics and that’s it, keeping the price of the phone way down and reducing the amount of time your kid will spend on their phone.
The Nokia is small but sturdy, so there’s no stress about your kid dropping it and shattering the screen. You don’t even need to purchase an additional case for it. The battery lasts longer than your average smartphone’s too.
The Nokia 3310 comes unlocked but doesn’t work with all cell phone carriers. Also, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi calling, so you’re truly dependent on cell service—keep that in mind if you live somewhere with spotty cell coverage. At around $60, though, it’s hard to beat the price for such a solid phone.
ASecureLife’s recommendation: The Nokia 3310 keeps things simple—no frills or extra features—to provide you with a budget-friendly, basic phone to give older kids.
Moto E5 Play review: Best smartphone for kids
Image sourced from Motorola.com and is property of Motorola.
Pros and cons of Moto E5 Play
- Solid performance
- All basic phone features
- Affordable price
- Compatibility with most phone carriers
- Screen too dim to see outdoors
- Low-res camera
- Not ideal for gaming apps
Why we recommend Moto E5 Play
The Moto E5 Play smartphone has all the basics and not much else, making it a perfect first Android phone for your teen. It’s budget-friendly and practical, and overall it runs well for basic calling, texting, and internet needs. Though not terribly hardy or waterproof, it is solid and durable. In other words, it has all the features of a smartphone without the high cost.
It has all the features of a smartphone without the high cost.
This phone isn’t meant to run gaming or other memory-taxing apps, which can be a plus if you don’t want your kid playing games all day. The camera is on the low end of acceptable (5-megapixel in front, 8-megapixel in back), but it should be sufficient for your child’s needs. One consistent complaint users have is that the screen isn’t bright enough to see clearly outdoors.
The Moto E5 is available through most Android phone service providers, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, so it should be an easy add-on to your own current phone plan. You can also buy an unlocked version sans SIM card if needed.
ASecureLife’s recommendation: The Moto E5 Play won’t win any awards for performance or features, but with all the basic smartphone capabilities, it’s a great introduction smartphone that won’t break the bank.
iPhone 6S review: Best parental controls
Pros and cons of iPhone 6S
- Rigorous built-in parental controls
- Lower cost than new iPhones
- Powerful processor and speedy performance
- Long-lasting battery
- More expensive to replace
- Very breakable screen
Why we recommend iPhone 6S
The iPhone comes with built-in parental controls and restrictions, so it’s a top choice for parents looking for an easy way to monitor and manage how their kids use their phones. The iPhone 6S is less expensive than newer models without sacrificing much speed or performance.
Some other reasons we like this option: The iPhone 6S has a decently long battery life and a high screen resolution. Since it’s an iPhone, the screen is pretty easily broken, so you’ll want to get a sturdy case. But because the 6S is not the newest iPhone model, it’s much less expensive to replace if it does break.
There’s no need to find a monitoring app—the built-in controls are some of the best you’ll find.
As for parental controls, iPhones with iOS 12 have the Screen Time feature, which tracks your phone usage, sets time limits on specific apps, filters content, and restricts access to apps generally or at specific times. (Phones with older systems use the Restrictions and Guided Access features to do many of the same things.) You may still want to download a kid-safe browser, but there’s no need to find a monitoring app—the built-in controls are some of the best you’ll find.
ASecureLife’s recommendation: Buying the newest iPhone for your teen is probably not a practical option, so the iPhone 6S is a great compromise, especially with the robust parental controls at your fingertips.
What to consider: What age should a child get a cell phone?
Know your child
According to Common Sense Media, “the right age to give kids their first cell phone is really up to you”—and we agree. It’s a personal decision, but not one to take lightly. What are your reasons for giving your kid a phone? If adults have a hard time stepping away from their phones, it will be that much harder for kids and teens who don’t have the emotional maturity and self-discipline to do so.
A lot depends on each individual kid. While one child might be ready for a phone at age 12, another might not be mature enough until age 15 or 16. Don’t be afraid to make your kid wait, even if it isn’t the “cool” thing to do.
Check out the Wait Until 8th campaign for more information about why you should wait until your kids are 13 to give them a phone.
Consider your family situation
On the other hand, your family situation might make a phone a necessity. If your young child travels to school alone or is regularly home alone after school, you need a way to communicate easily. Using a screen-free or basic phone might be your best option in that scenario.
Think about breakability
On a purely practical level, consider how responsible your child is. Will they take care of the phone, or is it going to get lost/broken/scratched within a week? Finding a sturdy phone that won’t shatter at first drop and won’t break the bank to replace is essential. Don’t forget about the monthly charges and data overage fees that come with a cell phone plan.
Teach internet safety
Phones that give children access to the internet and social media present a particular problem. With the increase in cyberbullying and presence of adult content and online predators, parents have a huge responsibility to teach their children online safety, just as you would teach about strangers and child safety.
Don’t forget about parental controls
We also strongly suggest using parental controls and monitoring apps, as well as setting firm guidelines with your children as to when phones go off (for example, during dinner or after a certain time at night). The goal is not simply to control what your kids can or can’t do on their devices, but to build trust and teach responsibility in a safe online environment.
Best cell phones for kids: Our recommendation
The bottom line? Make sure your child is ready before handing over a cell phone.
Pick out a phone that meets your actual needs and doesn’t just cater to what your kid wants based on what everyone else has. Don’t hesitate to set limits and use parental controls as you guide your child toward taking responsibility and creating a healthy relationship with screens.
Getting a cell phone is a big step in a child’s life, and as a parent, you get to carefully consider at what age your kids will get their own phones. But no matter what age or level they’re at, you can rest assured there’s a device that will work for your family situation.
>> For a screen-free phone, check out the Relay. It combines simple walkie-talkie functionality with cell phone coverage.
>> For young kids, try the Verizon GizmoWatch. You can call, send messages, and track your child’s location.
>> For a budget-friendly phone, the Nokia 3310 sticks to phone basics for an inexpensive yet durable option.
>> For a first smartphone, the Moto E5 Play performs well but doesn’t have the oomph to run too many time-consuming games and apps.
>> For excellent built-in parental controls, you can’t go wrong with the iPhone 6S. It gives you complete control over which apps get used and for how long.