The Best Cell Phones for Kids to Stay Connected Safely

The Gabb Phone is reliable, safe, and our top pick for kids to keep in touch

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Verywell Family / Danie Drankwalter

For reasons of safety and convenience, a cell phone for your kids might be on your list of must-haves as they become more independent. Consider how and when your child might use a cell phone or GPS device and how much digital control you prefer to have over what they use it for. You'll also want to take into account their age and readiness and look for a phone that's durable.

Reviewed & Approved

The Gabb Phone Z2 is a kids’ cell phone that lacks internet, social media, and games but makes up for it with 14 safe, pre-installed apps, Bluetooth capabilities, and more. We also recommend the GizmoWatch 2, which technically isn’t a phone but offers kids what they need to stay in touch.

No matter what type of phone you decide to purchase for your child, consider how you plan to teach them about technology and digital media. Child psychiatrist Helen Egger, MD, tells Verywell Family, “When we reflect about when children should have personal cell phones, we must think beyond the device and consider how we are going to teach our children to use technology and consume digital media responsibly." To create our list, we looked carefully at age appropriateness, parental controls, durability, and features of each device. 

Adding your child to your cell plan is easy, and with our list of best cell phones for kids, so is choosing the right phone for them.

Best Overall: Gabb Phone Z2

4.8
Gabb Phone Z2

Gabb

Pros
  • 14 kid-safe apps

  • GPS tracking

  • No internet/social media

Cons
  • No games

The Gabb Phone Z2 earns the top spot on our list because of its endless safety features and multiple plan options that won’t break the bank. This cell phone doesn’t have internet, social media, or games, but it does include 14 pre-installed, kid-safe apps, allowing them to call, send messages, take photos, play music, and more. When used minimally, the phone’s battery life lasts up to a few days without needing a recharge. A GPS feature on the phone also gives parents and caregivers peace of mind if your kiddo misplaces the device or you need to know your child’s whereabouts. 

Kids will love the cell phone’s fingerprint sensor for additional security and two cameras for selfies or taking pictures with friends. The phone also comes equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, so kids can jam to their favorite music on headphones or a speaker. Plus, Gabb Wireless offers families three options for cellular plans: no contract ($24.99/month), one-year contract ($19.99/month), or two-year contract ($17.99/month). 

Price at time of publish: $150

Battery life: Few days if used minimally | Storage: 32 GB (ROM), up to 128 GB with microSD card (sold separately) | Parental controls: Yes

Best for Young Kids: VTech KidiBuzz 3

Kidibuzz 3

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Parental controls

  • Comes with games and more

Cons
  • Messaging only works with Wi-Fi

  • Camera quality could use improvement

The VTech KidiBuzz 3 is our top pick for young kids because it's the perfect balance between tech toy and time spent away from a screen. This smart device is packed with 40+ educational games, music, photography, and messaging. The messaging only works when connected to Wi-Fi; however, the camera, music player, and games will work offline.

Parents and caregivers will love the phone's parental controls, which allow you to set time limits as well as permission to access-approved websites, so you can ensure your child is safe online. You can also download the KidiCom Chat app and securely control the contact list, texts, voice messages, and images.

Price at time of publish: $120

Battery life: Rechargeable (life amount not listed) | Storage: Up to 32 GB with microSD card (sold separately) | Parental controls: Yes

Best for Big Kids: Apple iPhone SE

4
THe iPhone SE is our pick for best value iOS.
Pros
  • 4.7 widescreen HD display

  • Water- and dust-resistant

  • Compatible with four phone providers/carriers

Cons
  • Older design

  • No night mode in camera

This iPhone is ideal for kids ready to transition to a “big kid” cell phone without being quite as expensive as other Apple models. The iPhone SE connects to 5G networks and is compatible to use through four cell phone providers: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T, so you can add it to your family plan without any problems. The cell phone features a 4.7-inch widescreen display with a traditional home button capable of Touch ID with a fingerprint sensor. We love how the phone is splash-, water-, and dust-resistant, keeping it safe from accidents at school or home. Plus, it has a front and a rear camera, perfect for Facetiming with friends, taking selfies and capturing the world around them. 

Don’t worry about parental controls—Apple takes care of that for you. With the iPhone SE, parents and caregivers can reap the benefits of services like Screen Time parental controls, family sharing, and “Find My,” which allows families to locate lost or stolen phones through location services.

Price at time of publish: Starts at $429

Battery: Up to 15 hours | Storage: 64 GB to 256 GB | Parental Controls: Yes (through Apple services)

Best for Watch: Gizmo Watch 2

4.9
Verizon GizmoWatch 2

Verizon

Pros
  • Water-resistant

  • GPS locator

Cons
  • Not a traditional phone

The GizmoWatch 2 is a smartwatch that helps foster independence while giving parents peace of mind and is a great option if you are not ready to jump into a smartphone just yet. The watch programs up to 10 trusted contacts that kids can send voice notes to, call, or text. 

The screen is colorful and bright with easy-to-use buttons, and we love that it's water-resistant and wearable, meaning it's less likely to be lost or damaged. It’s also very easy to set up by downloading the GizmoHub on the parent's phone, where every facet of the watch is controlled. 

The GPS locator is our favorite safety feature, but the watch also has some added benefits, like a step tracker to encourage being active and the option to set it to quiet mode. With the well-thought-out safety features and cost of around $5 a month through Verizon, the GizmoWatch 2 is quite affordable.

Price at time of publish: $100

Battery life: Up to 4 days with usage | Storage: 4 GB | Parental controls: Yes

Best for Safety: Pinwheel Smartphone

Pinwheel Smartphone

Pinwheel

Pros
  • Approved contacts only

  • View texts/calls from adult’s phone

  • GPS location

Cons
  • No coverage directly from Pinwheel

Pinwheel focuses on what most parents and caregivers want in a cell phone for kids: safety. The company's three service options have been customized just for kids. The Pinwheel Plus 2 is actually a Samsung Galaxy A13, but it comes with a lot more parental control than that phone would otherwise. There’s no internet browser or app store, and the cell phone contains apps pre-screened by therapists that adults can select from for approval, such as Yousician or Khan Academy. You can even disable certain apps before your child takes their phone to school. 

Adults can view text messages and calls from their own phones, with the option of blocking incoming pictures. GPS location allows you to know where your kiddo is at any time, showing their location on a map. Plus, you can add tasks from your phone to theirs, such as a reminder to finish homework.

Price at time of publish: from $199

Battery life: Up to 2 days | Storage: 64 GB | Parental controls: Yes

Best Durable: Palm Phone

Palm Cell Phone

Courtesy of Palm

Pros
  • Long battery life

  • Location tracking

Cons
  • Small size

  • May not be ideal for younger kids

Let’s face it: Kids are constantly on the move, so finding a cell phone that’s durable is a must. The Palm Phone, which is about the size of a credit card, is dust- and water-resistant, perfect for any accidents that may happen. 

Parents and caregivers can monitor their child’s location and activity via parental controls while children can enjoy the 13-hour battery life. It has an Android interface, so kids can browse through Google Play or stream music, too.

Price at time of publish: $349

Battery life: Up to 6 hours (screen time), full day on “Life Mode” | Storage: 32 GB | Parental Controls: Yes

Best Flip Phone: Lively Jitterbug Flip2 Cell Phone

Flip2 Cell Phone

Amazon

Pros
  • Emergency button

  • No internet/social media

  • Large buttons and screen

Cons
  • Not compatible with major wireless carriers (only Lively)

Although this cell phone was originally designed for older adults, it doubles as a great emergency phone for kids with its urgent response button and basic, easy-to-use features. The Jitterbug Flip 2 is an Android cell phone that features both a large screen and buttons to help kiddos navigate the device with ease. A powerful speaker allows children to hear you with no problem when you call, and the phone even includes Amazon Alexa should you (or your child) need assistance. 

While this cell phone doesn’t have parental controls or a GPS feature, you can feel at ease knowing it doesn’t have internet, social media, or other apps. There’s also an emergency response button that connects to immediate help from nurses and doctors 24/7. Once you receive the phone, you’ll have to select a plan with Lively.com to activate it, as it does not work with any other carriers.

Price at time of publish: $100

Battery life: Not listed | Storage: 16 GB | Parental controls: No

Best Battery: Motorola Moto G Power (2022)

Motorola Moto G Power

Amazon

Pros
  • 3-day battery life

  • Parental controls

  • Up to 128 GB storage

Cons
  • Bigger than previous models

For a cell phone with a long battery life, the 2022 Moto G Power is the best choice. Kids can rely on its three-day battery life without having to stop and recharge throughout the day. The Android cell phone features 128 GB of storage to hold hundreds of apps and precious files, like photos of friends taken on the phone’s triple camera system. 

A water-repellent design keeps the cell phone safe from spills and splashes, while fingerprint recognition provides additional security. The Moto G Power is compatible with most major carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, so you can add it to your current family plan. Parental controls allow you to access your child’s apps, daily usage limits, and more. 

 Price at time of publish: $250

Battery life: Up to 3 days (depending on usage) | Storage: 128 GB | Parental controls: Yes

How We Selected the Best Cell Phones for Kids 

We chose the best cell phones for kids by studying the design and features of more than 20 cell phones on the market and researching reviews from customers and competitors. We also monitored shopping trends to bring you the best and most up-to-date offerings on cell phones for kids. We considered ease of use, phone plans, battery life, storage, additional features, design, parental controls, and value when reviewing products. 

We also spoke with child psychiatrist Helen Egger, MD, to find out what to look for in cell phones for kids, as well as how to allow them screen time in a healthy way. We chose cell phones that are easy to use for the recommended age groups, giving parents and caregivers peace of mind, and allowing kids a little bit of safe (and fun) digital freedom. 

What to Look for in a Cell Phone for Your Child

Age-Appropriate Features and Access

Just like adults, every kid has their own unique needs when it comes to a cell phone, and a lot of it has to do with their age. For instance, if you’re purchasing your child’s first mobile phone to use in emergencies, then it doesn’t need to have any over-complicated features that they’re not able to utilize yet. “A child does not need to have an internet-enabled cell phone to be able to call you,” Dr. Egger tells VeryWell Family. “They can use a flip phone or other similar devices."

Keep your child’s age in mind when shopping for their phone. Consider things like storage space, capabilities, accessibility, and parental controls, as well as how easy it will be for your child to use on their own. If you’re purchasing the phone for an older child or teenager, they may need a device with more features, memory, and an up-to-date operating system, such as the Apple iPhone SE, so that there are no issues with installing and running apps for school.

Parental Control Options

Take a look at what kind of parental control options are available, and consider whether or not they are appropriate for your child (do you need a ton or just a few?). Some phones allow parents to track their kids’ calls and texts, others offer GPS tracking, and most are configured to gather usage data without any special app installation. “You can monitor your child’s time on the phone in the phone settings [for most devices],” says Dr. Egger. This is especially important for parents who not only want to monitor what their child is doing on the phone but also how much screen time they’re getting on a daily basis. 

You may also want to consider whether or not the phone is compatible with the technology you use at home. For example, if you both have an Android phone, then you may be able to access controls and features in their phone remotely through your own cell phone. You can usually sync up calendars, share accounts, and pair your devices in other ways that can be more difficult if you’re using different platforms. 

Durability

No matter their age, kids aren’t exactly notorious for taking extra care of their devices, so don’t get them a phone that’s fragile. You’ll likely get a protective case for the phone, but it still needs to be durable enough to survive being dropped, sat on, or stored under heavy textbooks. If the phone has buttons, look at how they’re designed and consider whether or not they will still work if lint and food crumbs get on them from being carried in pockets and backpacks. 

Dr. Egger encourages caregivers to hold their children partly responsible for taking care of the phone. “Before you buy a phone for your child, talk about the ground rules,” she says, “talk about the cost of the phone … What happens if the phone is lost or broken? Will it be replaced? Who will pay for it?” 

Compatibility 

One of the downsides to some kids' cell phones is that they aren’t compatible with your current phone provider. For example, if you purchase the Gabb Phone Z2, you’ll also have to purchase one of the company’s three phone plans. However, the company offers a no-contract cell phone plan, so you can cancel at any time. 

Some cell phones, like the Moto G Power 2022, can be added to your current family plan.  Whether your cell phone provider is Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, if you get a phone that’s compatible with it, you’ll only have to worry about one bill each month.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are cell phones good for kids?

    Parents will need to weigh the risks/rewards of giving their child a cell phone to determine whether or not it is good for them specifically. Generally speaking, though, as long as a kid is using the phone appropriately, there are some great benefits. According to Dr. Egger, some of those benefits include having a way to contact someone in an emergency situation, connection to friends and others with similar interests and hobbies, entertainment, and easy access to research and data information on the web.

    However, parents should also keep some of the potential risks in mind, such as cell phone addiction, cyberbullying, and possible interference with interpersonal skill development. 

  • What are signs that a child is ready for a cell phone?

    According to Dr. Egger, caregivers should consider their child’s actual age as well as their developmental age to determine whether or not they are ready for a cell phone. She explains that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not have a set age recommendation for cell phone use, so parents should use their best judgment. Dr. Egger tells Verywell Family that “some children are very conscientious and responsible at a young age, [while] others take longer to mature.” 

    The most important thing a parent should consider is whether or not they think their child can safely use a cell phone (with capabilities beyond simply calling for emergencies). Your child should have a firm understanding of the weight of what they post online and how it can affect others. They should also be willing to follow family rules and give you passwords to access their social media accounts.

    It’s unlikely your child will be able to regulate screen time usage on their own, so they need to be responsible enough to turn off the phone when they’re told they’ve reached their limit for the day. Basically, look for behaviors that indicate that your child is mature enough to use the phone responsibly.

  • How much do phones cost for kids?

    The price of cell phones for kids will vary greatly depending on the type of device and additional features, but in general, they can cost between $100 and $430. The bottom of the price range will get you simpler models, like the Lively Jitterbug Flip 2, which lets you communicate with your child but doesn't have internet access, parental controls, or GPS features. A more expensive device will have all the bells and whistles, like the iPhone SE, which can run upwards of $400.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Deanna McCormack is a freelance writer who focuses on family, lifestyle, and commerce. She regularly tests and researches products for young children and parenthood and stays up to date with the latest technology for the home.

Additional reporting to this story by Ashley Ziegler and Katrina Cossey.

Ashley Ziegler is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, home, parenting, and commerce content for a variety of platforms. She’s a wife to a public school administrator and mom to 1-year-old and 3-year-old daughters. In addition to regularly scouring the internet to find the best products for herself, Ashley spends multiple hours a week researching, comparing, and writing about products specifically for kids and families.

Katrina Cossey is a commerce writer who covers an array of topics, including parenting, pregnancy, lifestyle, and family. To determine which phones made the cut, Katrina studied the features of dozens of cell phones to narrow the down choices for parents and caregivers buying a cell phone for kids. She spoke with cell phone customer service representatives to determine the important details, such as phone plans, parental controls, battery life, storage, and more features.