The 7 Best Cell Phones for Kids of 2021

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Gizmo Watch 2 at verizon.com

"While not a phone in the traditional sense, it's a smartwatch that fosters independence while giving parents peace of mind."

Best for Young Kids: Vtech KidiBuzz G2 at Best Buy

"Parents download the KidiConnect app and securely control the contact list, texts, voice messages and images."

Best for Big Kids: iPhone 8 at Amazon

"This phone will be able to keep up with multitasking and the HD display is big and bright for taking photos."

Best Budget: Nokia 106 at Amazon

"It has a headphone jack to listen to music and a colour display, which is rare for a basic phone like this one."

Best Screenless: Relay at relaygo.com

"The screenless Relay is a GPS walkie-talkie way of communicating but with much more reliable service."

Best for Safety: KidsConnect KC2 Cell Phone for Children at Amazon

"As the parent or caregiver, you will be able to program the phone numbers your child can call or text."

Best Durable: Palm Phone at palm.com

"About the size of a credit card, this phone is perfect for any accidents that may happen since it’s dust- and water-resistant."

For reasons like safety and convenience, a cell phone for kids might be on your list of must-haves for next school year (or this summer). And there are plenty of options to choose from. Consider how and when your child might use a cell phone or GPS device, and how much control you prefer to have over what they use it for. 

For example, a watch might be perfect for a younger child with a complicated schedule or long walk home, whereas an older model iPhone might be a better fit for a middle schooler who likes to take photos and make video calls.

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 Dr. Helen Egger 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".

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: Gizmo Watch 2

Verizon GizmoWatch 2

Courtesy of Verizon

What We Like
  • Water-Resistant

  • GPS Locator

What We Don't Like
  • Not a Traditional Phone

While not a phone in the traditional sense, the Gizmo Watch 2 is a smartwatch that fosters 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 can be programmed with 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 less likely to lose or damage. It’s easy to use and set up by downloading the GizmoHub on the parent's phone where every facet of the watch can be 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 to quiet mode. With the well-thought-out safety features and costing around $5 a month through Verizon, the Gizmo Watch 2 is affordable and our best overall option.

Best for Young Kids: Vtech KidiBuzz G2

Vtech KidiBuzz G2

Courtesy of Best Buy

What We Like
  • Parental Controls

  • Comes with Games and More

What We Don't Like
  • Messaging Only Works with Wi-Fi

  • Reports of Battery Draining Quickly

Hoping to strike the balance between tech toys and time spent away from a screen, Vtech created the KidiBuzz G2. This smart device is packed with 40+ educational games, music, photography, and messaging. Parents can download the KidiConnect app and securely control the contact list, texts, voice messages, and images. 

The parental controls allow you to set time limits as well as permission to access approved websites. The messaging only works when connected to wifi, however, the camera, music player, and games will work offline.

Best for Big Kids: iPhone 8

What We Like
  • Wireless Charging Offered

  • Big Display

What We Don't Like
  • Costly

Apple still has a hold on the teenage market when it comes to electronics, and if not yet, your child will soon be asking for an iPhone. While not the latest version, it still has enough to be excited about. It's still one of the iPhones with a traditional home button and an easy-to-use Touch ID fingerprint sensor so it will be easy for your younger teens to navigate. Your teen will be excited that this phone will be able to keep up with multitasking and the 4.7-inch HD display is big and bright making taking photos fun. 

This is a legacy phone from Apple that has continued to stick around as they still consider it a budget entry-level option to iPhones, perfect for those who want the tech without paying a high-end phone price.

Best Budget: Nokia 106

Nokia 106

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-Friendly

  • Long-Lasting Battery

What We Don't Like
  • No Internet

  • No Camera

This is a basic budget-friendly option that allows users to handle calls, messages and the long time favourite game of Snake. At this price, you can’t expect out of this world features but it is easy to use and offers 4MB of storage. It has a headphone jack to listen to music and a color display, which is rare for a basic phone like this one. 

The 800mAh battery life is something to rave about as Nokia notes it will provide you with up to 35 days standby, but more likely will last a two-week period without needing a charge. While basic, this option is a perfect phone for your elementary-aged child who is venturing out on their own to walk to school, attend afterschool activities, or play around the neighborhood without you by their side. This will do everything you need it to do at an affordable price you can’t go wrong with. 

Best Screenless: Relay

Relay

Courtesy of Relay

What We Like
  • SOS Alert

  • Easy to Wear

What We Don't Like
  • No Texting Ability

The screenless Relay is a GPS walkie-talkie style way of communicating but with much more reliable service. The premium design combined with the 2.5-inch square size makes it easy to wear. For $10 per month, it connects over a cellular network just like a phone and you don’t have to be within a certain distance for it to work.

The perfect way to stay connected to your kids and ensure that they are safe is by creating geofences that will notify you when they roam outside of the designated area. The rapid press of the talk button 5 times will send an SOS alert that can quickly be escalated to a 911 call. Durable and water-resistant, with no screen means no risk of a smashed display screen.   

Best for Safety: KidsConnect KC2 Cell Phone for Children

What We Like
  • GPS Tracking

  • SOS Button

What We Don't Like
  • Must Purchase Cell Phone Plan from KidsConnect

If your child is starting to participate in activities without you, like going to a friend’s house or the movies, this cell phone has all the safety features you’ll need. As the parent or caregiver, you will be able to program the phone numbers your child can call or text. This phone keeps it simple, with no internet, apps, or games - a feature some children may dislike while many parents and caregivers will appreciate.

There’s also a 4G GPS tracker, and location history can always be looked at. If there’s an emergency, your child can easily press the SOS button and the phone even has voice monitoring.

Best Durable: Palm Phone

Palm Cell Phone

Courtesy of Palm

What We Like
  • Long Battery Life

  • Location Tracking

What We Don't Like
  • 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 perfect for any accidents that may happen since it’s dust- and water-resistant. 

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.

Final Verdict

For your little one that is just starting out in the cell phone world, the GizmoWatch 2 (view on Verizon) is a perfect starter option that allows them to connect with you via texts, calls, and voice notes. Your older elementary-aged child will appreciate the easy-to-use Relay Screenless Phone (view on Relay) and you'll love the geofencing feature that helps to foster independence.

What To Look For When Buying A Cell Phone For Your Child

Age-Appropriateness or Readiness

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 a phone for a younger child 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, and whether or not it is user-friendly. If you’re purchasing the phone for an older child or teenager, they will need more features and accessibility as well as a device with current/up-to-date software 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 kid’s 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 phones, 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

Kids, no matter the age, aren’t exactly notorious for taking extra care of their devices, so look for a phone that isn’t incredibly fragile. You’ll likely get a protective case for the phone, but it still needs to be durable enough not to break when it’s dropped and the screen should be strong enough not to crack if someone accidentally sits on it or sets something on top of it. If the phone has buttons, look at how they’re designed and consider whether or not they will still work once lint and food crumbs get on them from being carried in pockets and backpacks. 

Dr. Egger encourages caregivers to hold their child partly responsible for taking care of the phone, especially since so much thought goes into its durability. “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?” 


FAQs

Are cell phones good for kids?

Parents will need to weigh the risk/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 will 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.

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

Ashley Ziegler is a staff and 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 things for herself, Ashley spends multiple hours a week researching, comparing, and writing about products specifically for kids and families.

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