Choosing the best phone for kids and teens

Updated Dec 14, 2023

Choosing a phone for your kid or teenager may be an intimidating prospect. You may want them to be able to communicate and use a mobile device as a helpful tool, but also ensure their safety and protect your own finances. To further complicate matters, there are myriad phones available, and the options can be overwhelming. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is decide what you do and do not want in a kid’s phone, and work from there. 

Characteristics of good phones and phone plans for kids

The following are some characteristics that may be useful in a phone for your kid or teen:

  • Unlimited text and talk: This can prevent unexpected expenses from fees, and also ensure you never lose the ability to communicate.

  • GPS tracking: This can help you verify the location of your child.

  • Fingerprint scans: This and other options for identity verification can help ensure the security of your child’s phone. 

  • Geofencing safe zones: This can prevent your child from accessing certain parts of the internet that you may not deem safe or appropriate.

While these are common features that parents look for when choosing a phone for their child, it depends on personal preferences. It is important to identify your priorities and goals before shopping for a phone.

Basic cell phones

There are many benefits of basic cell phones for kids. Notably, these phones are often cheap and simple to use. They also have limited features that can help parents restrict their children’s access to online content. Types of basic cell phones include:

  • Flip phones: Flip phones can be a good alternative to smartphones if you mainly want your child to use the phone for calls. 

  • Compact phones: Compact phones are smaller, and often more simplistic models that may be less unwieldy for children. 

  • Easy-to-use: Simplistic phones may limit apps and features to prevent confusion, and therefore may be useful for younger children. 

  • Limited storage: Simple phones with limited storage may be a good low-cost option for phones that are primarily meant for calls. 

You should thoroughly research reviews for these simpler options before making a choice. While some can be a good option for kids, there are many that are poor in quality. 

Phones with no internet

In some cases, parents may prefer their kids to have phones with no internet, especially in the case of younger children. Limiting access to kids’ internet may be for the purpose of safety or just to limit their exposure to various types of content that parents find unsuitable for them. 

Phones with no internet include:

For phones that do feature the ability to access the internet, it is possible to not include cellular data as part of the phone plan. However, the phone will still be able to access Wi-Fi. As such, virtually any phone may be appropriate if you are concerned about cost, while one of the phones listed above will be best if you do not want your child to access the internet on their phone at all. 

Budget cell phone options

Low-cost cell phones can be a great option for teens as they learn to be responsible with their phones. If a lower-cost phone is broken or misplaced, it is not as big of an issue. Additionally, it may just be financially burdensome in general to provide your teen with a phone, but it is something that is a typical tool in our culture. Therefore, low-cost options can be a huge boon for parents. 

To choose a low-cost cell phone, you should look for the following:

  • Sales and promotions: These may appear over time, and therefore it is important to do some research about planned or recurring promotions.

  • Carrier-specific promotions: Some carriers may offer promotions for new subscribers. However, it is important to note the details of the contract. 

  • Unlocked phones: Unlocked phones may offer savings in the long run due to the ability to move between carriers and resell.

  • Older models: Avoid the newest release to get a better price, but keep in mind that some older models (usually older than 3-5 years), stop receiving support and security updates from the manufacturer.

  • Refurbished phones: Refurbished phones can save you a lot of money while offering the same quality. Ensure that you buy refurbished phones from a reputable source.

  • Trade-in options: Trade-ins can help you avoid paying the full price of a new phone.

Furthermore, you should research to compare phone plans to find the best deal for your needs. 

Refurbished phones

Refurbished devices are an excellent option for kids, teens, and college students as long as they’re high quality. Premium refurbished electronics function perfectly and also have at least 85% battery capacity, which is just what you need to support everyday use.

Refurbished technology can also help the planet. This is a bonus for kids' phones since, as they say, there is no Planet B. Refurbishment of phones results in reduced emissions compared to the creation of new phones. It also uses significantly less water and raw materials than manufacturing a brand-new smartphone.

Comparing phone brands

There are many different phone brands that offer different benefits and drawbacks. Popular brands include iPhone, Android, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and LG. Consider the following when you are choosing a phone brand for your kid:

  • What is the typical price? For example, iPhone and Android phones are typically more expensive than other brands. 

  • What security features are available? Consider features such as those related to identity authentication and encryption.

  • What devices and features integrate with the device? Consider what devices your child already has or wants, as some may not integrate with certain phone brands.

  • What are the phone’s exclusive features? Many phone brands offer exclusive features, for example, iCloud support for iPhones and third-party app installation for Android.

  • What are your favorite apps? Not every phone supports every app, so you should consider which apps are a priority for you and your child.

Many people have strong opinions about phone brands. It is important to choose phone brands based on research, rather than solely relying on the impressions of others, especially if they do not have experience choosing a phone for a child or teen. 

Choosing a Phone Plan for Your Family

When you add a child or teenager to the mix, you may need to consider or reevaluate a family phone plan. Consider the following when choosing a phone plan for your family:

  • What carrier will work best for you? 

  • What is the cost of each plan?

  • Are there hidden costs?

  • Do you want a prepaid or postpaid plan?

  • What are the limits for talk, text, and data usage?

  • Are there contracts and cancellation fees?

  • Will you benefit from a shared data plan?

  • Will you benefit from a mix-and-match plan?

  • What does the network coverage look like?

Outline your priorities before doing your research to ensure you stay focused on these priorities.

Miguel G.

Written by Miguel G.Sr. Tech Copywriter (US)

Miguel is always looking for new ways to provide unique perspective on popular tech and has taken his writing to the refurbished industry to promote sustainability. Outside of creating content, you might find him travelling the globe, coaching a fitness class, or cheering on his favorite sports teams (Go Dolphins!)

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