If you're a parent in 2017 with kids in school, you've probably wondered about the best cell phones for kids.
Whether they're starting kindergarten, graduating college, or asking for their first cell phones, these key moments are easier to manage with the right level of preparation.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed when your kids are begging for their beginner phones, but you'll be ready to climb this mountain with the information below at your disposal.
In this buyer's guide to cell phones for children, we'll review the best kid-friendly phones on the market, discuss the benefits of family plans, and how you can use parental controls to keep your child safe on his or her new mobile device.
In This Guide
How Do I Pick the Right Beginner Cell Phone?
The first step when picking the right beginner cell phone is deciding on a make and model. Even if you're team iPhone or team Galaxy when it comes to your personal device, you'll want to choose the right type of phone for your little one.
Apple and Android cell phones are both great choices for kids, so take a look at each company's best products to start your search. Because many phones work well for people of all ages, we've included information on both Apple and Android devices alongside a few outliers for you to consider today.
If you already own an iPhone or you're interested in learning more about the Apple iPhone before you buy one, this device is a solid place to start your search for the best phone for your kids.
This mobile phone comes with a number of features you and young teens will benefit from. Whether you're inspired by the Find My iPhone App or you'd like to give your children limited internet access, a fast, functional phone with a large touchscreen can be the way to go.
The iPhone 7 in addition to older models are both viable options when upgrading your family's technology, so don't rule out a shiny new Apple product.
Related: To learn more about the specs and features across the entire iPhone line, go here.
If you're not in love with Apple or you're hoping to find out more about Android phones, these devices are also a great place to begin looking for phones for teenagers as well.
These mobile phones have features like the iPhone, such as front-facing and rear cameras, touchscreen capabilities, a large App Store, and more. You'll find that these easy-to-use cell phones make great beginner phones for older children and teens. However, they might be too complex for a younger child's first phone.
Related: You can learn more about the specs and features of the entire Samsung Galaxy line here.
I Don't Want Apple or Android: What Are My Options?
If you want to pass on investing in a smartphone, you have the option to find a simpler phone for your kids.
Here's the best solution to buying a functional cell phone without investing in a smartphone.
Your children will understand that having a device that makes calls and sends texts is better than no phone at all, so you and your kids can pick your battles when buying a flip phone. Because these phones are less expensive to buy and their plans are less costly over time, it's a great option when you're on a budget and your kids need phones.
If you can recall your first cell phone, you'll be more than happy to buy your kids their very own flip phones. These devices are perfect for making contact on occasion, and, because they don't have large screens, your kids can rely on a longer battery life.
Given that you won't have to worry about poor battery life or expensive data plans, you'll be able to rest easy knowing your kids can talk and text anytime and anywhere.
How Do I Choose the Right Family Plan?
The next step when choosing a basic phone for young family members is finding a cell phone plan that accommodates additional lines. Because these contracts come in many shapes and sizes, it's best to take into account the devices you already have in your household and then pick how many you want to add to your bill.
This part of the process will be much easier once you decide on a cell phone make and model, so you can do your research and find a cell phone plan that works for you and your family quickly and easily. You can also go to our family cell phone comparison tool, where we do the hard work for you.
Here's a breakdown of four family plans from the leading network carriers to help you find the right one for you and your loved ones.
AT&T Family Plans
If you're asking yourself who is the best cell phone carrier when adding additional lines, you'll find out soon enough that each one has different policies. The mobile share plans at AT&T, for example, comprise a number of family plans for enjoying multiple lines on a reliable network.
Because AT&T also includes a variety of perks, you and your kids will benefit from details like widespread LTE coverage. You can expect AT&T family plans to cost a little more than ones from the company's competitors although contracts with the unlimited family plan, for instance, is a great option.
Verizon Family Plans
If you're intrigued by AT&T family plans, yet you'd rather have LTE in more places across the country, you'll be happy to know that Verizon offers the best widespread wireless coverage.
The goal of obtaining the best coverage combined with an interest in family data plans guarantees you'll find the right one for your family at Verizon. Because this company offers components like data buckets and unlimited plans, you can make the most of perks like unlimited talk and shared data.
You should also be prepared to pay similar prices for family plans at Verizon compared to places like AT&T when joining the 146 million users who depend on this network.
Sprint Family Plans
If you're inspired by family plans from AT&T and Verizon, but you're also hoping to pay less for added lines, you'll be relieved to discover Sprint's wireless plans with unlimited talk and text.
This ability to access unlimited data with Sprint is a viable option even though you'll have to make a few sacrifices. Because Sprint is not a leading supplier of fast data speed and country-wide coverage, you and your kids will have to deal with slower internet and less reliable coverage.
You can work your way around these limitations, however, by taking advantage of other features like data allowance to avoid paying a small fortune for kids phones.
T-Mobile Family Plans
If you're in the market for a less expensive plan with similar features to the ones offered by AT&T and Verizon, you'll likely be interested in buying data access from T-Mobile.
The goal of having unlimited talk and text is easy to accomplish with help from any network carrier, so you can avoid overspending on your cell phone bill by cutting your losses when it comes to data.
Because T-Mobile's data coverage is known for being widespread in metropolitan areas and patchy otherwise, your children can learn to enjoy less impressive coverage while you refrain from draining your pockets. You can further look to the network's 71.6 million users as proof that Americans do continue to rely on family-friendly plans from T-Mobile.
The Best Cell Phones For Kids
BLU Dash JR Review
- Extremely affordable
- Simple and easy to understand
- Long battery life
- Doesn't work too well with Google Play services
- The onboard storage is small, you will need an SD card
The Blu Dash Jr is a valued Android phone and one of the best cell phones for kids. With room for a dual SIM card, micro SD card and phone camera on the body, this phone's specifications are geared toward younger mobile phone users and can store all the photos, videos, and songs your child loves.
It also comes with features like an MP3 player, 2G network, and WiFi capabilities, which make listening to music and surfing the web a breeze. Because the Blu Dash Jr allows up to 12 hours of talk time and 600 hours of standby time, it's an effective phone for keeping in touch with friends and family.
Be aware, however, that the BLU Dash Jr really should only be used as a beginner phone for young children. Older children and teenagers may not be satisfied and want a device with larger storage, more features, and better performance. The BLU Dash Jr is excellent for texting, calling, and light web browsing, but older children may want something more.
Kurio Phone Review
- Good parental controls
- Strong call quality
- Kids can see what limits their parents have set
- Small and hand-friendly
- Disappointing camera
- Underpowered specs
The Kurio Phone is known as the safest smart devices built for children and one of the best cell phones for kids overall.
With its Kurio Genius internet filtering system, app management capabilities and functions for setting limits on things like phone use, this phone is made with younger cell phone users in mind. It also includes emergency and anti-theft features alongside location monitoring, or its built-in kid tracker, which makes it easy to keep track of where the phone at all times.
For parents, you can go online to Kurio's web control center (or access it from your phone on an app) to see the plethora of control options you can set up for the Kurio phone. Because Kurio Phone is able to block certain numbers while recalling SMS and call history, it's a good phone to have on hand in the event of an emergency.
If there's any downside, is that the phone is not designed to be durable, which may be a problem with particularly young children or accident-prone kids. It should also be noted that many of the parental control apps and settings loaded onto the Kurio phone can be found through third-party apps on the Google Play store.
The Kurio has plenty of storage space for whatever your child might need to store on his or her device. You may have some difficulty with apps and games, however, as some customers report poor performance issues when playing the games preloaded onto the Kurio. Still, for the price and the top-notch parental control features, the Kurio is a solid choice.
Apple iPhone SE Review
- Good front and rear cameras
- Apple quality performance and service
- Small size and hand-friendly
- Great battery life and storage
- Most expensive option
- Tiny display
The Apple iPhone SE is a smaller smartphone in the iPhone family.
With its 4-inch retina display, A9 chip and 12MP camera, this phone is made with users who have an interest in social media. It also includes touch ID for advanced security and Apple Pay for financial freedom, which makes offsetting theft and paying for things easy while on the go.
Because the Apple iPhone SE can run on LTE or WiFi with help from its iOS 10 software, it's a handy device for kids who are getting older by the minute.
A step above in features but also complexity compared to the other phones we've discussed so far, the iPhone SE is perfect for older children who are ready for a smartphone. Your kids will love the camera quality, the ability to surf the web, play games, and more.
The obvious downside is that the cost is considerably higher than the other devices in this review. You do get what you pay for, however, and you certainly won't regret choosing the iPhone SE.
Samsung Galaxy J3 Review
- Affordable Android phone
- Decent camera
- Long lasting, removable battery
- Buttons feel nice and responsive
- Not that good looking
- Small size display
The Samsung Galaxy J3 has the essentials you need in a device you can trust, which makes it one of the best cell phones for teens.
It's most attractive feature is that it's likely the cheapest Android smartphone you'll find on the market. For teens ready for their first smartphone, you can't go wrong with the J3.
With its HD Super AMOLED display, VoLTE capabilities and expandable memory, your young adults will experience a big, bright screen every time they look at their phones. It also comes with HD and video calling, so your teenagers can chat with friends and family. Because the Samsung Galaxy J3 has increased storage to boot, students can keep track of important files while on the go.
This is more of a nuisance than a negative, but the J3 does not have an automatic light sensor like most phones of today. Normally, the brightness of your screen would adjust to the level of sunlight detected by the sensors, allowing for seamless viewing. The J3 does not have this, however, so you must manually adjust the brightness when you're on the move. Last but not least, the J3 is more fragile compared to other devices, lacking Gorilla Glass, so beware dropping this device.
Nokia Lumia 635 Review
- Affordable device
- Colorful, interchangeable cases
- Great for 4G LTE on a budget
- App selection is small
- Unimpressive battery life
- Poor screen resolution
The Nokia Lumia 635 is a source for free music and navigation in addition to being one of the best cell phones for parental controls. With its micro-SIM and microSD card slots, LCD capacitive touchscreen and Corning Gorilla Glass protection, your kids will have access to a functional smartphone capable of surviving everyday life.
What makes the Nokia Lumia 635 so unique is the changeable covers that come in a variety of colors. As a part of the fun and colorful design of the phone, your teen can get the Lumia in a bevy of different colors to match his or her preference. In addition, the phone is sturdy and scratch-resistant, so it's ready for anything.
It's also equipped with a versatile camera, internal memory and video and photo editor, so teenagers can capture and hold onto life's most memorable moments. Because the Nokia Lumia 635 comes with the option to implement parental controls, you can even keep an eye on what your teens are up to every day.
There are some downsides to be aware of, however. The Lumia runs on the Windows 8.1 operating system--which isn't bad--but means it has a significantly smaller pool of apps and games compared to an Apple or Android device. The screen resolution is also a little disappointing, so streaming TV, movies, or playing games won't be that visually pleasing.
How Do I Implement Security Measures?
The third and final step when discovering new phones for your kids is implementing security measures to protect them.
If you're one of the parents who still feels a little bit iffy about giving your kids a world of information in the palm of their tiny hands, you can take advantage of security resources like Norton Family Premier or Highster Mobile to ensure safe web browsing and more.
Our guide on cell phone safety tips for kids is also a great resource for parents who are concerned about internet safety because they help you enable features like parental controls to get some peace of mind. Whether you're looking to install protective software or control in-app purchases, you can promote safe cell phone usage with help from these resources.
I Don't Want a Contract: What Can I Do?
If you want phones for kids without paying for a contract or expensive monthly payment plan, you can consider prepay phones as a great alternative to binding talk, text and data plans.
With either a monthly plan or no contract at all, these companies provide reliable 4G and LTE coverage at a fraction of the cost. This ability to activate and refill the best phones without signing a contract also lets you give your children phones they can depend on while getting some peace of mind.
Related: The Best Cell Phone Plans for Kids
How Can I Protect Phones from Wear and Tear?
If you're worried that the cell phones you buy for your kids will end up dropped, smashed or scratched, you can invest in ones with Gorilla Glass cover glass. Select Gorilla Glass devices resist damage, maintain clarity and coordinate touch sensitivity, so you know you're investing in incredibly tough phones for the whole family.
As the strong glass cover protects against drops, scratches and other damage, it also enhances performance, so you can use your phone normally while achieving better results. In other words, the thin, light and flexible glass will keep these powerful phones safe even when they're in the palms of your little rascals.
Pro Tip: Use a phone with a Gorilla Glass glass cover to protect against damage from dropping a cell phone.
Cell Phones for Kids Under 10
When you're shopping for a child phone for someone ten years of age and under, take a look at the Firefly glowPhone for a good place to start. This child-friendly phone is a great first phone for kids, especially if your little ones are still too young for a smartphone.
Because you get to choose your network, store up to 20 numbers and enjoy up to 360 minutes of talking before every charge, you can rest easy know your kids will be able to reach you at any time. The Firefly glowPhone receives basic calls and texts, but it doesn't allow downloading, which makes it the best option on the market for younger children.
Pro Tip: The Firefly glowPhone includes parental controls for monitoring the mobile phone experiences of small children.
When it comes time to buy your kids their first cell phones, it's not out of the ordinary to feel completely baffled by the sheer number of mobile devices on the market.
We're here to help you find the right phone, choose the best plan and make the most of the latest safety features, so you're up to speed on the best cell phones out there.
If you're looking for a new cell phone for yourself, or perhaps your teen would like a more modern device, you can use our smartphone comparison tool to start.