These days it takes more than simply ringing the steel triangle on your deck to round up the kids for supper. As generations have plodded along and technology has advanced, the need for a more efficient way to maintain contact with children from afar has only increased, bolstered by their growing thirst for independence and reliance on consumer technology. Despite the fact that cell phones have become the obvious solution for basic communication and contact in lieu of the landline — and to a lesser degree, the steel triangle — they still pose both a financial and safety risk.
Parents like to know where their children are, keep them safe from inappropriate websites or apps, and stop the wrong people from contacting them. Service plans like Kajeet allow parents to control the functions of their kids’ smartphones, limiting access to websites and contacts, controlling when the phone can and can’t be used, and apportioning the bill between parents and kids, if preferred.
Even though a phone is a great way for parents to maintain contact with their children, picking the right one isn’t always easy. Parents must address crucial factors, such as cost and control, while simultaneously appeasing their children with features such as games, apps, photos, and texting, among other features. Let’s be honest, kids don’t need it all. And pre-paid, no-contract devices offer more peace of mind than most things in life. That said, here are our top picks for the best smartphones and cell phones for kids, so you can keep in contact with your loved ones at all times (even if they don’t want you to).
Motorola G5 Plus ($200)
Taking the plunge and buying your kid a smartphone can be a bit scary, but it can also be worth the investment. Luckily, there are several great options that don’t break the bank — so you won’t be too upset if your kid’s trial run ends in a lost phone — but still have many of the features that merit springing for a smartphone in the first place. When it comes to smartphones that are a great value, but are modern and can take a beating, the Motorola G5 Plus is at the top of the list. This isn’t your typical, plastic smartphone, so your kids won’t be embarrassed to pull it out of their pockets. The aluminum exterior looks great and feels premium.
Moreover, the G5 Plus has all the latest bells and whistles, including a fingerprint sensor, fast charging, and a 12-megapixel camera. This phone is unlocked, too, which means you can pick the carrier of your choice without being tied to a contract. One caveat: If you purchase the device directly from Amazon, we advise you to avoid the Prime Exclusive version, which is chock-full of ads. For younger kids, you’ll also want to install a parental control app. Check out our full review for more information.
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iPhone SE ($350+)
As iPhones go, the iPhone SE is a bargain, but it doesn’t come cheap. Don’t let the pint-sized package fool you, however. The iPhone SE has a fast A9 processor, which is the same processor used in the iPhone 6S. It also comes with a crisp display, and runs the latest version of iOS. The iPhone SE is a great choice for a child, too, given it features built-in parental controls. You can prevent your child from accessing the internet and using specific apps, for instance, or prevent them from making purchases in the App Store.
If you’re a family that typically opts for Apple devices, you can share your iTunes content and easily keep track of your child’s location. It certainly isn’t the cheapest smartphone you could buy for your child, but it has great specs, terrific software, and it’s a manageable size for smaller hands. If mom and dad have iPhones already, it’s definitely the most convenient choice. Check out our full review for more information.
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LG K20 V ($168)
It’s not easy to find an affordable phone that is reliable, stylish, and has a high-quality screen, but you can always count on LG to deliver. The K20 V sports a nice, 5.3-inch display, and it’s powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 425. It only has 16GB of internal storage, but it does support MicroSD cards up to 256GB in size. At 13 and 5 megapixels, the front and rear cameras aren’t too shabby, either. The K20 V also has a 2,800mAh battery, which should provide up to 32 hours of usage time. The battery is also removable, meaning you can purchase a second if you want to have a spare on hand. At $169, this smartphone is priced just so that you don’t have to worry about your child mistreating it. There’s also a ton of parental control apps for Android, if you want some control over what your child can do on the phone.
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Honor 7X ($200)
Kids are a perceptive lot, and they won’t like it if they’re given a device that doesn’t look the part. Thankfully for them (and for your wallet), the Honor 7X looks the business, for a bargain price. It’s one of the first devices in the budget price range to come with a bezel-less design akin to the Galaxy S8 and iPhone X — at a fraction of the price.
The 5.93-inch screen is massive, the Kirin 659 processor is powerful, the 3,340mAh battery is long-lasting, and kids who like to take snaps on their travels will appreciate the really very good dual-sensor camera suite on the back of the phone. The metal unibody is strong and should be fairly durable, and since it’s running Android there are tons of great parental control apps out there. The only real downside is that Honor’s phones do not support Verizon or Sprint, so if you’re on a family plan with either of those two, this isn’t your best choice. Otherwise, the Honor 7X is a fantastic budget smartphone that kids will love.
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Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) ($300+)
There’s little chance you’d want to hand a Galaxy S8 to a child, but what about Samsung’s other offerings? Samsung’s A-range has been coming on in leaps-and-bounds the last few years, and the humble A5 makes a great choice as your kid’s phone. A 5.2-inch AMOLED screen is joined by good midrange specs that won’t let you down any time soon. It’s a metal-and glass-build, so you’re risking breakages (grabbing a case is advised), but it’s fully IP68-rated, so it’ll be able to survive a quick dip with no issues. The 3,000mAh is also impressive, so your kid shouldn’t be caught short. So what’s the catch? Like the Honor phone above, this phone will not work with either Verizon or Sprint, so think twice if you’re with either of those two — unless you’re looking to switch your plan soon.
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Update: Added the Honor 7X and Samsung Galaxy A5, and updated pricing.
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