The 13 Best Cell Phones For Checking In With Your Kiddos

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by Rachel Aschenbrand-Robinson
Originally Published: 
Nokia Cellphone For Kids

Giving your child a mobile phone is one of the great conundrums of modern parenthood. Is it really necessary? (Sort of.) When should they have one? (Debatable). What is the best phone for kids? (Depends on how old they are, and how neurotic you are). What should their first cell phone be? (There are way too many options.) And also, more screen time? Ugh.

The screen portion is actually optional in kids’ cell phones, as it turns out. There are plenty of cheap cell phones for kids in basic styles available that function mostly as emergency cell phones for kids, rather than as another expensive tech device that turns them into phone zombies (and affects their brain development). And being able to keep in touch with your child–and potentially locate him or her at any given moment with GPS–is pretty priceless, as far as peace of mind goes. Whether you purchase a smartphone, a prepaid phone, or a phone with no internet at all (like the classic Firefly cell phone), it’s all about what you’re comfortable with, what you want to spend, and the level of freedom and sophistication your kiddo is ready for.

RELATED: The Modern Parent’s Guide To Internet Safety For Kids

The options for 2022 range from durable, kid-proof cell phone/smart watch combos to ultra-basic, old-school models to more advanced smartphones. You can choose a cell phone with limited numbers to call, a prepaid phone, a screenless walkie talkie-style alternative, or one with ‘the works’ like video, internet, and more (like the infamous iPhone or iPod Touch). Perhaps best of all, most offer some sort of location tracking–because giving your kid freedom is important, but also terrifying.

Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best cell phones for kids in 2022. No matter your price range or parenting style, there’s a pick here that will keep everyone happy.

Best Emergency Phones

This gadget might be a bit more like a beeper than a cell phone, which could be a good first step. After all, sometimes, parents can have mixed emotions about handing a phone to their kid. The AngelSense personal GPS tracker is a great way to know where your kids may be. It also includes a speakerphone that’ll allow you to chat with your child. Even better, the iAlert will tell you in advance if your child isn’t following a typical pattern. Are they late to school? This device will let you know. A subscription plan is required, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind it brings.

Want to keep it simple? Luckily, there are still plenty of phones out there that won’t let kids get lost in apps. The Nokia 225 just has a basic camera, an FM radio, and a couple of games loaded on it — and, that’s about it. Great to give to a teen if you want to keep in touch with minor distractions, this phone is also quite reasonably priced. This phone might not be a great fit if you’re a Verizon family, as it’s equipped for GSM carriers. But if that’s not a hurdle, this will serve as a great emergency phone.

Limited Cell Phone For Kids

The Jethro SC490 is a great model for emergencies — and the big screen and buttons featured are perfect for young hands who might not be too experienced when it comes to handling a cell phone. This phone has an emergency SOS button that can connect with up to five contacts in case of emergency. It may be the safety net that you, as a parent, need. It also has nationwide coverage, so you don’t have to worry about losing connection.

The brand known for kids tech toys has finally created a (Wi-Fi only) cell phone that lets kids send texts, voice messages, photos, and drawings to an approved list of contacts. Being learning-toy makers, the folks at Vtech have naturally outfitted the phone with 40 educational games, as well as a kid-safe web browser. It’s also got bumpers and a shatter-safe screen, because the best cell phones for kids are designed to withstand being treated like, well, toys.

This phone is super teeny (seriously, it can fit in the coin pocket of your jeans) but don’t underestimate its capabilities. Equipped with a built-in gyroscope that determines its position and orientation, the Jelly Pro also has plenty of memory to store music, a pedometer to track steps, and Bluetooth support, all of which make it a contender for best first mobile phone for 11-year-olds and up.

Smart Phones For Preteens

The TCL 10 SE Unlocked Android phone may be the perfect choice for a teenager. This version is unlocked, meaning that you can choose your own carrier. With 64 GB, your child will appreciate how fast this phone is. This Android device also has a quick charge. It’s an ideal device for someone who’s more interested in taking pictures of their friends than scrolling the internet. You can buy this in two colors: Polar Night, and Icy Silver.

Your kids will love the fact that this TracFone comes with a 6.2" HD screen. And, parents will love the fact that they can score unlimited talk, text, and data plans at a low cost. This phone, which is carrier-locked, comes with its own SIM card and will be ready to activate once it arrives at your door. “I couldn’t believe how many features it had. I love how you can split the screen in half and have two apps visible but can only run one at a time, going back-and-forth between the two,” said one happy Amazon customer.

Smartwatch Cell Phone Combos

Smart watches that also function as emergency cell phones for kids? Yes, please. The MeritSoar Kids Smart Watch allows for 2-way calls, 2-way voice messages, and incoming texts, and features GPS and LBS (location-based services) to provide you with the precise location of your child at all times. It’s also got a camera, flashlight, math games, and more–so your kiddo might actually like it as much as you do.

Keep tabs on your kiddo, wherever and whenever. The TickTalk 4 is a watch that allows video calling, voice calling, texts, and a safe GPS tracker. Recommended for kids within the 5-12 age range, this watch is a great way to keep your kids safe without investing in a full-fledged cell phone. The watch also includes plenty of parental controls that’ll let you have more authority over what your child has access to. It comes in pink, black, and blue.

The Prograce Kids Smart Watch comes with built-in games, a flashlight, an earphone port, a touch screen, and a rotatable camera. Staying connected with your kiddo has never been easier.

Some of the best cell phones for kids are smart watches (the number one benefit being, of course, that it’s hard to misplace a device that’s worn on your wrist). This one has plenty of games built in. like Ultimate Racing, Basketball Shoot Master, and Bee War. But, this INIUPO watch can even make calls if you buy a sim card, which is not included. That means you have a way to easily connect with your child anytime you want. An alarm clock and calculator are also built in, and you can get it in black, pink, or blue.

Smart Phones For Young Kids

What was designed with senior citizens in mind is actually one of the best cell phones for kids, especially younger ones who need something easy to use. With basic (we’re talking flip phone) capabilities, including giant buttons, a strong speaker, and simple yes/no navigation options, the Jitterbug phone is for kids who don’t need all the extra bells and whistles.

It’s pretty much inevitable that kids will drop their phones on at least a semi-regular basis. The Cat S41 is meant to be ultra-durable: It’s certified as waterproof up to 6.5 feet for 60 minutes, drop-proof up to 6 feet, and has a scratch-resistant screen as well as a ton of battery power to keep it charged for days. It’s also designed to have readability even in direct sunlight. If you’re looking for a kid-proof cell phone, this is it. While this listing includes a memory card and adapter, Amazon also just sells the phone by itself.

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