Best Cell Phones for Kids
Thinking about Getting Your Child a Cell Phone?
There are hundreds of millions of cell phones in the US. The vast majority of us own one, allowing us to stay in contact, providing a sense of security and immediacy, and giving us really cool features like watching TV and videos, sharing pictures, enjoying music, accessing the internet, and much more. Kids too are attracted to these small, useful, yet entertaining gadgets. However, before a parent jumps in to buy a kids cell phone, there are a few things they should consider.
Why Consider Cell Phones for Kids?
The right cell phone and the right cell phone plan does offer additional security for your child.
Here are a few examples:
- Cell phones provide easy 911 access.
- Cell phones can provide quick communication between parents and their children.
- Some phones or software provide a GPS locator function to help parents keep track of their children.
- Many kids just really, really want one and at some point, you may decide to give in.
What Are the Disadvantages and Dangers?
There are a number of concerns parents may have about giving a cell phone to kids.
- Kids aren't likely to track their talk time. Exceeding the plan limits and ending up with an exorbitant bill is certainly a possibility. Going beyond texting limits is particularly problematic with older kids.
- Providing a child with a cell phone that has video/photo capabilities and web access can expose them to content that parents might otherwise restrict.
- Spyware, predators, bullies, and spammers gain access to kids through cell phones. Younger children and less savvy kids may not be aware of such dangers. Kids need to be taught about communicating/interacting appropriately online and on their cell phone. "Don't talk to strangers" is still a valid rule.
- Kids may also download unwanted programs, apps, and so forth
- Some kids will get really absorbed by the phone and spend too much time on it, especially at the wrong time.
Parents Need to Be Aware
Finding a Kid-Safe Phone and Plan
First, before you panic, realize:
- There are some phones that allow parents to restrict who a child may call or be contacted by. This is the best defense against predators, spam, and bullies. In addition, most cellular providers have programs to help with this.
- Some kids cell phone plans allow parents to place limits on talk time, downloads, purchases, and text messaging; for instance AT&T's SmartLimits, T-Mobile's Family Allowances, and Verizon's Safeguards and Control. Many providers also assist in blocking messages, e-mails, and so forth.
- The various cellular providers offer prepaid cell plans which allow parents to put a limit on talk/texting time which helps control spending. Prepaid phones are often good for older kids/teenagers who can have fewer restrictions but need limits on spending.
- Increasingly, there is software available that can help parents monitor cell phone activity if necessary. They can restrict usage time, block callers, messages, track location, filter web content, notify parents of activity, and so forth.
What Software Can Help Parents Protect Kids with Cell Phones?
If cyber-bullying, predators, and inappropriate web content is your primary concern, then software like NetNannySocial and NetSanity can help. They can allow parents to monitor, filter, and block content.
If more supervision is required there are certainly plenty of other options. MMGuardian, for example, allows parents to set time limits, block apps, calls, messages, filter websites, locate and track their kids, set alerts, and monitor activity.
If parents have a teen who is driving there are options to assure that phone use doesn't occur at that time. Programs such as DriveSafeMode are available to block phone functions and can notify parents if they are disabled.
Choosing the Right Cell Phone for Kids
With all of this in mind, now comes the time to choose the phone you want. The right phone is the one that offers the features you feel are important and yet provides the limits that you as a responsible adult want for safety and budget reasons. As a parent, you know your kid the best and have to choose based on their level of maturity.
A Few Recommendations for the Youngest Kids
For the youngest kids, parents might be interested in low cost, basic phones. Something like the Nokia 3310 or Samsung Convoy 3.
If you have a preschooler that you just need to have contact with and perhaps geo-location, there are smartwatches that might suffice. LG has the GizmoGadget smartwatch through Verizon as an example.
Of course, another possibility with the youngest kids is to consider a non-phone option. Relay is a device that allows voice communication with friends and family without the connectivity of a modern cell phone. There's no browser and no screen but they can enjoy music and play a few games.
For school-age kids, smartphones start to be more appropriate. Kurio offers a number of parental controls built-in such as monitoring, filtering, emergency features, and GPS location. Plus it's not a bad looking smartphone.
Another affordable option for kids beyond 10 or 12 might be the MotoG4 Play. It's affordable, simple, has a nice display, a front and back camera, and of course has access to Android parental controls (like KidsMode).
Recommendations for Kids Who Are a Bit Older
Prepaid cell phones put a cap on usage and bills and are often a great choice for teens. They offer basic phones and affordable smartphones with plenty of good texting options and entertainment features for kids that are more mature and tech savvy. Major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile have them, but Boost Mobile, Straight Talk, Tracfone, and others do as well.
If you have a tight budget the LG Tribute HD is affordable, as is the Samsung Galaxy J3 Emerge. If you're willing to spend more the MotoG4 Plus is fast, has a great display, and captures great images. Yes, of course, you can use those parental controls too.
Questions & Answers
© 2008 Ruth Coffee