For many parents, child safety is a top priority, even with regard to kids cell phone options. While more parents than ever are buying cell phones to keep their kids safe, cell phones and smartwatches can place children in harm's way if they aren't designed with kids in mind. This list provides several great kids cell phones that include features like parental controls and limited features.
1. Nokia 3310 3G
Who knows what effect being connected online every waking hour has on the developing mind? Smartphones tend to have too many features, and with the Nokia 3310 3G, you can keep things old-school for your child.
Pros of Nokia 3310 3G
- Long battery life
- Customizable UI
- Decent camera
- Sturdy build
Cons of Nokia 3310 3G
- Facebook and Twitter baked in
- No water resistance
About the Nokia 3310 3G
For all intents and purposes, children really don't need a smartphone. In terms of raw functionality (and a few simple but addictive games that parents who were kids in the early 2000s will want to play), the Nokia 3310 3G is great for kids. There's something much more innocent about your kids playing Snake than some free-to-play mobile MMO.
It has a cute solid design, four color choices (yellow, red, blue, black) and a standby battery life that may add several smartphones combined (about one month, according to Nokia).
One of the downsides is that the Internet is only 3G. On the one hand, that may make online calls and chat a bit choppy, but on the other hand, it's the kind of internet speed that should ensure your child doesn't spend endless hours online.
2. VTech KidiBuzz 3
Although this looks more like a toy than a smartphone, the VTech KidiBuzz 3 is the perfect mix of control and freedom for young children.
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Pros of VTech KidiBuzz 3
- 40+ preinstalled educational games
- Allows text and voice messages
- Includes camera, music, and video apps
- Parental controls built into device
Cons of VTech KidiBuzz 3
- Does not allow phone calls
- Messaging only works on Wi-Fi
- No GPS capabilities
About the VTech KidiBuzz 3
If you're looking for a simple tech toy that also allows you to stay connected with your kids on the go, the VTech KidiBuzz 3 is a decent kids cell phone option. The device comes with more than 40 preinstalled applications and games, with nearly 2000 more available in the Learning Lodge. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts approximately four to five hours while in constant use, and the 5MP built-in camera lets kids take pictures to their heart's content.
The KidiBuzz 3 includes 8GB of internal memory, which is more than enough to store the contacts you enter for your child and games. While the memory isn't expandable, the device really isn't intended for kids who plan to download music and other items. Also, since no phone calls can be made, this device doesn't require a traditional cell phone plan – your kids simply need Wi-Fi connectivity to send and receive messages.
This device is best suited for young children between the ages of 4 and 9 and is not ideal for parents who want to track their child's location. The KidiBuzz 3 retails for just over $100 and is available through most major retailers.
3. Gabb Phone Z2
This functional phone is stripped of most of the features that will get kids into trouble, setting parents' minds at ease.
Pros of Gabb Phone Z2
- No Internet access or social media apps
- Unlimited talk and text
- Built-in camera
- GPS tracking
- Low cost
Cons of Gabb Phone Z2
- No parental controls built in
- No feature for parents to monitor calls or texts
About the Gabb Phone Z2
The Gabb Z2 was created to help parents keep their children safe without adding to the screen time dilemma playing out everywhere around the world. The phone comes with a limited number of preinstalled apps, but Internet access is not included in the $19.99/month basic cell phone plan. As long as your child doesn't need Internet access or specific apps, this is a great option for basic calling and texting.
Like many other cell phones, the Gabb Z2 offers a 16-hour battery life while in use (or 450 hours in standby mode). It also includes 32GB of built-in storage plus an SD card slot to allow for an additional 128GB of storage. The phone also includes Bluetooth connectivity, LTE data, and a nano SIM card slot.
The Gabb Z2 runs a modified version of Android 10 while offering limited app installation as a way to cut down on kids' screen time. However, the phone includes a headphone jack, built-in speakers, and dual cameras.
Overall, the Gabb Z2 is a great value phone for parents who want to limit what apps and features are available for their children. This device costs $99.99 with options to spread payments into the monthly contract and is exclusively available through Gabb Wireless.
4. Pinwheel Plus Kids Cell Phone
If you want a kids cell phone specifically designed to "grow with your child," look no further than the Pinwheel Kids Cell Phone.
Pros of Pinwheel Plus
- Customizable modes
- Parental controls through app
- GPS locator
- No app store available
- Compatible with multiple carriers
Cons of Pinwheel Plus
- Fairly expensive device
- Parents must install any apps or games separately
About the Pinwheel Plus Kids Cell Phone
Pinwheel offers a kids cell phone that "grows up with your child" (assuming they don't break it). The device runs a custom version of Android 11 alongside the Pinwheel Caregiver app. Parents can completely customize their child's experience down to the hour and completely control what apps or features are available at any given time.
The device includes 64GB of storage, with the option to expand. It also comes with a headphone jack, Bluetooth capabilities, 5G/LTE support, an impressive 48MP main camera and a 13MP selfie camera. Since the phone takes a physical SIM card, Pinwheel works with most major carriers.
The Pinwheel Plus retails for $329 but comes fully unlocked and ready to go with any cellular provider.
5. Relay Screenless Phone
The Relay Screenless Phone offers all the GPS benefits of a modern cell phone with a walkie-talkie design, making it a great option for parents with younger children.
Pros of Relay Screenless Phone
- GPS tracking (with geofencing)
- 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Parent app available
- Water resistant
- Not a smartphone
Cons of Relay Screenless Phone
- Can only contact people as programmed
- Proprietary charger
- Short idle battery life
- Limited availability
About Relay Screenless Phone
The Relay Screenless Phone isn't your average kids cell phone but rather a programmable walkie-talkie with 4G LTE capabilities. With the help of the Relay smartphone app, parents can go through the activation steps and connect their child's Relay device to one or more chat networks. If you have multiple children, you can create channels for the whole family and each individual child.
Additionally, parents can use the Relay app to track their child's location and even set up geofencing. This lets parents set safe zones for their child and receive notifications if the child takes the Relay device to an area outside the zone. Children can also download music and use the headphone jack to listen to tunes anywhere, anytime.
Unfortunately, that's where the Relay Screenless Phone's capabilities end. It doesn't offer much in terms of settings and features. Furthermore, the battery lasts just two days – even when not in use – and requires a proprietary charger instead of the USB-style chargers most phones use.
At just two inches all around, the Relay Screenless Phone is small and easy for young children to carry. It also has accessories to clip it to a backpack. Unfortunately, the phone has limited availability and uses its own cell phone service, meaning you can't add it to your existing cell phone plan. Plans cost just $10 per month, making it one of the least expensive kids cell phone options.
6. Palm Phone
This tiny phone packs plenty of power and offers many customization options, making it a great kids cell phone, regardless of your child's age.
Pros of Palm Phone
- Fully-functional Android device
- Built-in location tracking
- Long battery life
- Small, lightweight design
- Can be used with nearly any major cell carrier
- Can limit screen time, app downloads and more through Google Family Link
Cons of Palm Phone
- Allows access to the Internet and Google Play Store
- Small size makes it easier for children to lose
- Fairly expensive device
About the Palm Phone
The Palm Phone is a great option for slightly older kids who want a smartphone, as it offers many customization options while still providing outstanding parental controls. Furthermore, this unlocked device includes a SIM pin and removable SIM tray, not to mention it's compatible with nearly any cell carrier, including the major brands: AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
This device runs Android as its operating system and includes 32GB of internal storage but doesn't have the option to expand the storage with an SD card. With a small, 3.3-inch screen, the Palm Phone boasts an impressive 13-hour battery life. It also has a 12MP rear camera plus an 8MP selfie camera.
Most importantly, this tiny device is also highly durable. You can drop it from a height of 5 feet without much worry, plus the phone is water resistant. This, along with its functionality, makes it ideal for older children and teens who need a useful and durable cell phone.
The fully unlocked version costs around $250 and is available through most major retailers.
7. Apple iPhone SE
Of course, no kids cell phone list (or any cell phone list for that matter) is complete without at least one iPhone option.
Pros of iPhone SE
- 4.7" widescreen HD display
- Water resistant
- Compatible with most major carriers
- Easy-to-set parental controls
- Least expensive iPhone
Cons of iPhone SE
- More expensive than many smartphones
- Not 5G compatible
- Relatively short battery life
About Apple iPhone SE
The Apple iPhone SE offers all of the benefits of an iPhone without the extra cost attached. This makes it a great cell phone for kids if your family is already using Apple devices, as it will allow you to take advantage of iMessage, FaceTime, and Find My. Furthermore, since it's available through most major carriers, chances are you can add it to your family's current cell phone plan.
One great thing about Apple devices is all of the security features that make it easy for parents to protect their children. With Apple's built-in parental control system, Screen Time, parents can limit app downloads, set time parameters on phone use, and lock down who a child can communicate with on their device.
Although the phone offers just 13 hours of battery life, it is fairly durable: water resistant, dust resistant, and splash resistant. You can also easily find protective cases to keep the phone even more safe.
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8. Jitterbug Flip 2
The Jitterbug's limited features and ease of use don't just make it great for grandma - they also make it a great kids cell phone.
Pros of Jitterbug Flip 2
- No Internet access or social media
- Large buttons
- Built-in camera
- List-based layout
Cons of Jitterbug Flip 2
- No parental controls
- Can't monitor calls and texts
- No GPS tracking
About the Jitterbug Flip 2
While the Jitterbug Flip 2 doesn't offer much in the way of features, it is a relatively easy-to-use, highly durable device. The lack of Internet access and apps makes it a great option for families who just need a simple talk and text phone for a young child.
The phone gets approximately 12 hours of talk time, but given that the phone doesn't have a touch screen or any other smartphone features, the battery can go days between charges. The device allows GPS tracking, Bluetooth connectivity, and includes a standard headphone jack.
Furthermore, the Flip 2 does include SIM and SD card slots, with the ability to expand the phone's total storage to 32GB. Unfortunately, you are limited to a single carrier, and it's far from the cheapest phone. The phone retails for approximately $100, but there are always deals through online retailers like Amazon.
Also read: 8 of the Best Smartphones for Seniors
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I buy a kids cell phone?
Every family situation and every child is different, so there isn't a recommended age to buy your child a cell phone. Instead, think about your child's maturity level, their activities, and what benefits a cell phone would offer.
How can I lock down a regular smartphone for my child?
Most of the phones on this list make it easy for parents to lock down features or enable parental controls. However, parents can also use apps like Screen Time and Google Family Link to enable parental controls on any device.
3. What features should I look for in a cell phone for kids?
Shopping for a kids cell phone isn't at all the same as buying a phone for yourself. When comparing cell phones for kids, you will want to find a phone that is easy to use and includes safety features that can help you protect your child. Also, you will likely want a device that is durable and has great battery life.
Image credit: Katerina Holmes via Pexels
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