For some parents, the absolute best phone for kids is no phone at all.
For others, it's the one you're comfortable with them having.
One they can use safely and responsibly while sticking to any rules you laid out for them.
So which to choose?
From simple phones ideal for children to affordable options for teens or young adults...this guide will show you what we think are the best options for 2022!
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2022
Phones with Basic Calling and GPS Tracking
The Alcatel Go Flip 4 is a great option for kids of any age. This is basic app support for useful features like navigation and YouTube but doesn't load the phone down with a bunch of social media or messaging apps.
Its clamshell design should help it withstand a few drops or allow it to bounce along in your kids' bag without too much worry as well.
Add in multiple days of battery life, an easy-to-use interface, and 4G network support and you have a phone that can keep up with kids while likely serving them well for a few years before technology leaves it behind.
Best of all, this is all available at an affordable price. If it goes for a swim or gets left at camp, you're not left spending hundreds of dollars to replace it.
Learn More: Full Review
If you’re looking for something a little more like a traditional mobile phone, the Nokia 225 4G offers similar features in a classic phone format.
The phone offers MP3 playback, a camera, and headphone support—through both Bluetooth and 3.5mm headphone jack. You can even put a microSD card in to add more storage if you'd like.
It's a modern take on the basic phone. And while it doesn't offer all of the bells and whistles of a smartphone, it still looks cool enough that the kids might not mind carrying it around.
Learn More: Full Review
Affordable, full-featured smartphones for accident-prone teens
While the original iPhone and early Android phones forever changed the way the world communicates, smartphones aren’t the revolutionary things they once were.
Today, you can find Android phones for under $100 that would run circles around these earlier devices. Jump into the mid-$100s and you have a full line of options that are more than enough for most teens.
Unless you'd prefer an Android device, the Apple iPhone SE (2022) offers everything a kid could really need in a phone. The camera is stellar, performance is only topped by other iPhones, and there is an endless array of accessories available to help them personalize it and make it their own.
It's also water-resistant to help avoid accidental damage. With AppleCare+, you can help to mitigate any pain should the phone meet an untimely end though.
The biggest issue is storage. Since you can't expand iPhone storage, it might be better to overestimate than buy the base model and find it's not quite enough for all of the photos, videos, music, and apps your kid wants.
Learn More: Full Review
The Moto G Power (2022) packs solid stats and a decent feeling design with a massive battery that will handle anything a teenager can throw at it.
Don't expect long-term support from Motorola for software updates though—they typically only offer a couple of years. It's also only going to perform so well with the latest games.
Don't get us wrong, it will play them okay. But be prepared to wait for a little while for things to load and don't expect maximum settings.
Otherwise, it has everything you need to check emails, message friends, get directions, install other apps, and generally make the most of a mobile phone—all for a fair price.
Learn More: Full Review
The Samsung Galaxy A13 5G is another excellent budget Android option with a respectable screen, decent enough performance, a camera perfect for selfies and quick snapshots for social media, and plenty of storage.
It won't top any performance charts, but it offers a lot for the price—including Samsung's reputation for reliable devices and support for the latest 5G networks.
Learn More: Full Review
What We Looked for In Our Picks
While the exact features you might need will differ based on the age of your child and what you want them to do (or not be able to do) with their phone, we felt these considerations offered benefits to any age group.
Affordability: Even as adults, accidents happen. Handing a kid a $600 phone sounds like a recipe for disaster to us.
Kid-Centric Features: While a kid can use almost any device out there—sometimes better than us—we wanted to find options that offered specific benefits to a range of ages and skill levels.
Good Battery Life: If the phone only lasts an hour before it dies, it’s not going to do much to keep the kids from coming after your phone to play games. If you’re using it for emergency calling or to keep tabs on their location, extended battery life also adds peace of mind.
Durability: While the rugged options out there are probably out of the price range of most kids phone budgets, we wanted to find options that will stand up to the occasional tumble and deal with being tossed in bag or sat on from time to time.
Keeping Your Kid's Phone Safe
Regardless of which phone you choose, have options to help encourage healthy phone habits and discourage your kids from using their phones in ways you wouldn't approve of.
Parental control apps and services let you track what your child does with their mobile device or place restrictions on features.
Options for Basic Phones
Most major carriers offer a form of parental control or allow you to limit the number of minutes, messages, or data your child or teen can use.
These carrier services are basic at best but can be effective in teaching healthy habits or keeping the kids from blowing through all of the data on your plan.
Options for Smartphones
The parental controls available increase greatly if your child has a smartphone.
In addition to the features offered by your carrier, there's also a range of apps available.
These apps help you restrict everything from the sites your child browses and apps they download to when and how they can use their phones.
Android phones (with Android 7.0 or newer) can download Google's Family Link. It has an easy-to-use set of controls and integrates directly into the phone's software.
To use the service you install two apps. One on your child's phone to add protection and the other, a parental version, on your phone to control features.
Apple offers a similar feature on all iPhones and iPads running iOS 12 or newer called Screen Time.
It allows you to set what content can be viewed based on ratings, control purchases, track usage, and more.
It's also built into the phone's software, so there's no need to install anything extra —and the kids can't uninstall the app either.
You can configure settings directly on your child's device or using your own iPhone or iPad. For a full list of features and instructions, consult Apple's Screen Time support page.
There is also a range of third-party options available including:
- Screentime (not to be confused with Apple's Screen Time settings)
- Kapersky Kids Safe
- Net Nanny
Each of these works a little differently and costs vary. However, most offer free trials or feature-limited versions so you can try before you buy to see which is best for you and your kids.
However, none of them can take the place of honest discussions with your kids about their mobile habits, the occasional check-in to ensure they're being healthy about their usage, and establishing clear rules surrounding mobile use so your kids know exactly where they stand with you.
Cell Phone Alternatives for Kids
Depending on your kids’ wants and needs, they might not need a full-time phone of their own. We’ve found a few options that might work for extremely light use or situations where calling or mobile data service isn’t required.
Own a Tablet? You can use apps to simulate many features of a smartphone. With regular access to Wi-Fi, you might get away without any monthly cost at all!
How do I do that?
There’s a good chance your kids already have Google or Facebook accounts. If so, both Messenger and Google Hangouts allow voice calling over Wi-Fi. If you’d prefer to keep your kids off social media, Viber and WhatsApp offer voice calling features as well—though their friends will need to have the app too.
And what if I want a more phone-like experience?
As long as the tablet has a microphone, you can use magicApp or Google Voice to add a phone number to it for a small yearly subscription fee. This number can send and receive text messages and place calls to other mobiles or landlines.
2. Kids' Smartwatches and Trackers
While not exactly a phone, some smartwatches will offer data connectivity, basic communications, GPS tracking and more in a design likely to withstand the abuse of tiny hands and an active life.
Just keep in mind that you'll likely need to add the watch to your mobile plan and pay for data every month. Some also require another mobile device to initialize or change settings. So reading reviews and instructions can help to avoid frustration after you've already spent your hard-earned money.
3. Upcycle an Old Phone
The old phone collecting dust in your office drawer might be a great fit for your teen. You've already bought it, so you don't have to worry about costs should they break it. Most carriers will also unlock phones for free in most cases as long as you've met their conditions to use them with a new carrier.
Related Guide: 9 Great Uses For Your Old Smartphone or Tablet
For even more savings, you can use the method listed above for tablets and iPod touches to use VoIP instead. However, if your teen is on the go, they might have trouble using features unless Wi-Fi access is nearby.
Although the number of younger kids with cell phones is increasing—and they might tell you all their friends have one—there was a time when we all made it through our day without one.
Just because they want it, doesn't mean they need it.
Concerns about privacy, online harassment, and exposure to content you don't want children seeing are very real.
Phones can also become addictive distractions for some children.
And once you open the floodgate, it can be hard to wrangle back control of their usage.
If these concerns or any other has you holding out and feeling that the best phone for your kids is none at all, you won't be alone.
There's nothing wrong with no phone at all.
Ultimately, it is up to you to know what features are best for your child and what you’re comfortable with. We hope this guide helped to highlight the best options out there and answer any questions you might have.
If you’re one of the many parents out there that think cell phones and kids shouldn’t mix, let us know why in the comments! On the other side, if this guide helped you find the perfect phone for your kid or we missed a question you might have, we’d love to hear from you too!
Disclosure: You should know that in some cases, we may receive a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) for products purchased through the links on our site. These links help support our work but they do not influence our content. Our editorial recommendations are always genuine and we try to feature only the best products and services. Why trust us?