**This article was co-written with www.TechResetProject.com, an organization dedicated to resetting the way we think about our relationship with technology and each other.
So you decided to get your kid a communication device. You’ve crossed the bridge into the unknown, into the technological abyss of communication...and along with it into an abyss of parental worry. Are you prepared? You probably have a lot of questions about which phones are the best to get: Do I get a basic phone? A flip phone? What about those cool smart watches? Is my kid too young for a smartphone?
When you make an important decision like this (and we believe getting your kids a communication device is one of the most important parenting decisions you’ll ever make), there needs to be an element of planning and research involved.
As a parent, you should be extremely concerned about your kid’s privacy and security (personal and data). You should be extremely concerned about their access to the internet and social media. You should be even more concerned about the habits they will create once they get their hands on their own devices and how those habits affect their relationships with the people and the world around them.
When It Comes To Technology...What Are Your Goals?
When it comes to the best phones and communication devices for kids, you’ve got to keep this goal in mind: Effective communication with the right people with limited distractions. We don’t want our kids glued to their devices. We don’t want apps, phones, and social media to control their behavior either. And it’s really easy for kids (and adults for that matter too) to fall into those bad habits. It’s vital that we continually ask ourselves, ‘What are our family goals with technology?’
You’ll also notice we make no mention about how old your child should be before getting a cell phone. The Tech Reset Project has an entire chapter in their upcoming eBook dedicated solely to just Cell Phones. They answer the hard questions and offer incredible advice and training when it comes to kids and cellphones. What we’ve outlined below, takes into account all the things you should be concerned with when it comes to making that big step in getting your kid a phone.
Basic Phones and Flip Phones
What To Look For In A Basic Phone Or Flip Phone Designed For Kids?
When choosing a basic phone or flip phone, these two features must be front and center: Calling and Texting. Most basic phones or flip phones will not have the capability of having access to an app store and some of the more flashy features you’d likely see with a smartphone. But...there are risks and potential threats with data, security, and who (or what) has access to your kids.
LG B470 Basic Flip Phone
The LG B470 flip phone is the perfect option for parents who are looking for a low cost model from a reputable brand in the mobile industry. The LG B470 is a fraction of the price-tag of other cell phones and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
- Takes a regular Sim Card (3G Unlocked)
- Enhanced audio mode
- Bluetooth 2.1 and supports WMA, AAC, Midi, and MP3 audio formats
- 1.3 MP camera
- Super durable and reliable
This phone is incredibly affordable. This LG phone was most likely designed for Seniors, so the speaker functionality is plenty loud and clear. The OS is easy to use (even for younger children). Kids as young as 8 could easily operate this phone.
As of right now, this phone will work with ATT. If you use Verizon or TMobile, you’re out of luck. It works with most Pay as you go sim cards, with the exception of Verizon and TMobile. Because it is a flip phone with basic capability, there is going to be no way to monitor the use of this phone through an app or other software.
This phone is reliable, easy to set up, easy to use, and kid-friendly. Remember the goal is effective communication with limited distractions. When you decide on a flip phone (or another basic phone), you are essentially opting in for voice and text only. The LG B470 does just that. With that said, you won’t be able to have unlimited access to the internet. In fact, the 3G speeds are just too slow for any webpage in this era of the web to load properly. You can block access in security settings as well.
Where To Buy:
Sonim XP3 Flip Phone
The Sonim XP3 flip phone is packed with some features that align well when it comes to criteria for a kid’s phone. The Sonim XP3 is going to cost you around $180 and the clip (highly suggested that you get this) is around $19, but comes in multiple colors, which is kind of fun for the kiddos. Sonim is not the most popular mobile hardware brand, but this thing is solid.
- The Sonim XP3 comes with a protective snap-on cover and custom belt clip. Kids beat up phones so that extra cover comes in nice with durability concerns.
- The cover is built so that the phone screen (outside screen) faces towards the protective cover to prevent scratching and damage. Again...another nice feature because kids aren’t as aware when it comes to protecting devices.
- There is a rubberized coating with ribbed grid design which makes this phone nice to handle for those with small hands.
- The phone is super slim (for a flip phone) and lightweight.
For a kid’s flip phone, the Sonim XP3 is a great option. It’s reliable, durable, and does what it needs to when it comes to communication between parents and their children. It does have a camera and films in 720p for video and has a 5 MP camera. The battery life is almost 24 hours. The nicest thing about this phone is the durability factor. Kids are going to beat up devices, especially small ones. This flip phone with the protective case can take a beating.
As of right now, it’s only available with ATT. You might be able to find an unlocked version on ebay or another auction site,
If getting your kid a reliable, durable flip phone is your main goal...this isn’t a bad option. There are better flip phones on the market that deliver on similar features as the Sonim XP3 that are much more affordable.
Where To Buy:
Jitterbug Flip Cell Phone
Don’t laugh, but one of the best flip phones for kids happens to be something that was designed for seniors. It makes sense though once you begin to dive into the things you want a phone for your kids to have. Durability? Check. Reliable? Check. Simple to use? Check. Heck...the name “JitterBug” even sounds kidsy. This flip phone is truly an easy-to-use cell phone.
- Big buttons. Big screen. Yes...this matters. It adds to simplicity ease of use.
- Easy navigation with simple “Yes” or “No” menu buttons.
- Powerful speaker so your kids are going to be able to hear you clearly.
Here’s one of the best things about the Jitterbug Flip Phone: no contracts and no cancellation fees. Another great benefit is the customer service is all based in the U.S. and the coverage through GreatCall is reliable. Perhaps one of the best things about Jitterbug is you can get a plan as low as $14.99 a month.
You’re limited to one network. This phone does not work with T-Mobile, Verizon, ATT, Sprint, etc. You are locked in with using one network provider: GreatCall. On the flipside, no contracts and no cancellation fees is an added bonus for using this service.
If you’re looking for simplicity, ease of use, and reliability, the Jitterbug is a great choice. The verdict is still out on durability and reliability in terms of the hardware. But...we love that it does what it’s supposed to and aligns with the goal of proper communication devices for kids.
Where To Buy:
Relay Kids Phone
The Relay Kids Phone is such a unique concept. There are some who consider it a “Smartphone”, but comparing the features and design of this product to other smartphones on the market would have one belive that it isn’t even close to being a “Smartphone.” To be accurate, the Relay Kids Phone should be classified as a “smartphone alternative.” Here’s why...
- Simple push to talk technology with ONE button. The voice assistant helps your kid choose which contact to connect with.
- Add up to 10 “relays” and multiple users on the app side.
- Create conversations 1 on 1 or create group chats (which is kind of fun).
- 1 Year product warranty.
- The Relay is not water-resistant BUT it is splash proof.
- The Relay App for parents works on both iOS and Android systems.
Your kids aren’t going to be glued to the speaker waiting for the next app notification or mindlessly swiping on their screen playing a game because...well...there’s no screen. The BEST part about this device is its simplicity and structure. There’s no texting, no internet browsing, no social media posting, no tweeting, no...well...you get the point. Want to know another incredible benefit of the Relay? The service is only $9 a month. And it comes in a few different colors, which is a nice-to-have feature for the kids.
It’s hard to imagine a teenager taking a Relay device to school with them. For starters, they’re less likely to pull this device out in front of friends (teens care about their image) and the design, look and feel of the product is geared toward young kids. The initial setup can also be somewhat difficult for less tech-savvy parents.
Here’s why we love Relay: it’s durable, reliable, water-resistant, screen-free and super easy to use (probably the easiest communication device on the market to use). Simply put, Relay Kids Screenless phone is probably the best option for communication between parents and children. It does one thing and one thing only: direct voice calling through the app.
Where To Buy:
Light Phone 2
The Light Phone 2 is such an interesting “idea”. Notice I didn’t say “product”. The goal of this company is inspired by their mission that these communication devices are tools and should be used like tools instead of feeds, which creates bad habits, reinforces a lack of efficient use of time, and can potentially damage relationships. It aligns perfectly with the Tech Reset Project’s initiative of using technology at the right times, in the right places, for the right reasons. Light Phone explicitly says on the website “designed to be used as little as possible.” We love that!
- The design and functionality is simple.
- The screen features matte E-ink display
- Messaging, alarm clock, and talk. That’s about it.
- There are no apps, games, etc.
- Uses 4G LTE service powered by AT&T, Verizon, and T Mobile.
The Light Phone 2 will never have social media, advertisements, re-targeting methods, news, feeds, or email. Heck...there isn’t even a camera. The Light Phone 2 does not display images either, so when someone does try to send you an image, you’ll just see an icon indicating it. However...you won’t be able to view that image from the phone. They’re goal of using this device as a tool is planted everywhere in it’s design and function. They really believe in their mission. And that’s noble and when you can find a company with noble intentions standing for good...you get behind it.
The matte E-ink display might be a shift some users aren’t comfortable with, but that isn’t a deal breaker and these cons listed above pale in comparison to all the features you want when it comes to the best phone for your kids.
Quite possibly the best option for a phone if you have a teenager or a younger child. No...you cannot track text messages. No...you cannot monitor who they talk to. But...this device will help teach your kids healthy digital habits to prepare them for life. They will not develop bad habits that are most likely to carry-on with them into adulthood. They’ll learn that devices are tools and they’re there for communication. That’s awesome. We can get behind that. And after raising over $3.5 million with over 10,000 backers on Indiegogo, there are a lot of believers buying into Light Phone’s initiative.
Where To Buy:
Best Phone Watches for Kids:
What To Look For In A Smartphone Watch For Kids?
What you want to look for in a smartphone watch for kids falls right in line with your overall goals with the relationship you want your kids to have with technology. Does the device create bad digital habits? Are there features which would create FOMO? Are there features which feed news or content where the user has to scroll to look at the “next big thing.” Be warned: There are a lot of smartphone watches you can find on Amazon which are really just cheap knock-off versions of some nice models. Plainly put, there are super-generic models manufactured (low grade and low quality) in China that don’t have the customer’s (you...the parent) needs at the forefront of design and innovation. The products below are some of the most reliable.
TickTalk 3 Unlocked 4G Universal Kids Smart Watch
As a parent if you’re interested in a smart watch, the TickTalk 3 smartwatch should be at the top of your list. If there were a list of the top features to look for in a kids smart watch, the TickTalk 3 would check the box on just about every one.
- Two-way video calling up to 800x400 dpi resolution.
- Connect to wifi networks for calling which cuts down on data usage
- GPS tracking capabilities so you know where your kids are at all times.
- Fastest locator in the kids smartwatch industry because it leverages 4G/LTE technology
- Two-way text messaging, voice messaging, photos, and emojis.
- Pre-set messaging so it’s one push to send a message
- IP67 water resistant technology.
This smart watch can do a lot for a small device. The TickTalk3 has voice calling, GPS tracking, video display and texting (it can use emojis, send GIF stickers). It operates using optimized 4G/LTE US frequency technology (many flip phones and other smart watches use 3G) and it also has the ability to do group messaging. The FaceTalk feature provides clear video calls because it leverages the technology by TickTalk global servers. You can have up to 50+ pre-set contacts which are controlled through their own parental control app. Oh...and it’s super durable with it’s front-facing protection design. Did we also mention it is completely waterproof? Major bonus.
The TickTalk3 is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. This isn’t a deal-breaker. It is nice to have all devices on one network and you can save money by bundling more accounts under one network umbrella. If you are a Verizon customer, the option below would be a better choice.
TickTalk claims the TickTalk3 is the most advanced 4G/LTE kids smart watch phone and we’d have to agree. It has all the appropriate bells and whistles you’d want and expect from a kids smart watch phone. There aren’t features in it that would create poor digital habits down the road when they get older. At the very core of the TickTalk3’s purpose is healthy communication which can be controlled by parents by properly teaching kids how to use technology in a healthy way. And we love that about the TickTalk3 smartwatch.
Where To Buy:
Verizon GizmoWatch Kids Phone Watch
As of this moment of this article being published, the only other kids smart watch worth being mentioned as a viable option would be the Verizon Gizmo Watch. It has all the features of the TickTalk3, but a couple of basic apps which are really the only things separating the two (plus the fact that this is a Verizon network only device). If you have AT&T or T-Mobile, go with the TickTalk3. Verizon has really built this thing with your child’s digital safety in mind.
- Fast, reliable GPS locator so you can locate your children at the press of an app
- Step Counter Fitness Tracking so your kids can get excited about exercise
- Set on-screen notifications
- Program up to 10 trusted contacts for 2-way voice calls and messaging
- Super durable. Waterproof tested to be IPX7 compliant (max of 1 meter deep for 30 minutes)
- Comes with 4 GB of storage space (not that it matters)
- Simple to set up. Simple to use.
- Is monitored and tracked through the GizmoHub app.
This is a high quality smart watch for kids by one of the most reputable brands for mobile technology on the planet. This is the Mercedez of kids smart watches. It’s going to take a pounding. If your kid loses it, you can track it. The battery life is phenomenal: up to 7 days of stand-by time and up to 4 days of usage time. Perhaps one of the coolest things about the Gizmo is the ability to set GPS boundaries. If your child approaches a location that is off limits (think of that house or area they’re not allowed to venture by), you’ll get an automated (and reliable) alert.
The only drawback is this is a Verizon only device. Once again...not a deal-breaker, but most customers like to keep the entire family on one network because you do get better discounts by having more lines and devices with one provider. The Gizmo is going to cost you just under $200 AND you’re going to need a Verizon plan. Other than that, GizmoWatch is solid.
Overall, this is a perfect choice for a kids smart phone watch. They’re not going to be glued to their device for hours upon hours. And there’s nothing about the GizmoWatch, which would create poor digital habits later on in life for your kid. And we love the emphasis on fitness because it falls in line with the Tech Reset Initiative of using technology as a tool PLUS fitness trackers can lead to kids wanting to exercise more. That’s a good thing.
Where To Buy:
What About SmartPhones And Other Communication Devices?
When it comes to finding the best smartphone for kids, this bears repeating: are the features and purpose of the smartphone aligned with the digital goals you’ve created for you and your family? If you haven’t had these conversations, visit The Tech Reset Project where we help families create healthy relationships with their devices. But when it comes to getting a device for your kid, especially a smart device that opens up a completely new world (dangerous and exciting at the same time), ask yourself: What relationship do I want my kid to have with his or her device? Does the device create bad digital habits? Are there features and apps that would create FOMO? Are there features that feed news or content where the user has to scroll to look at the “next big thing.”
A smartphone that can block trackers and apps that listen in on our private conversations? A smartphone that also blocks ads and improves processing speeds saving you money on data usage? Yup. Meet the ClearPHONE. Safe. Secure. Fast. And Private. ClearPHONE provides all the features and benefits a parent is looking for when it comes to choosing a smartphone for your kid. It’s like what Apple and Android devices SHOULD be.
- Blocks Ads. ClearPHONE blocks every tracker and cookie, malware, and any phishing attempts.
- Runs on ClearOS operating system which provides a high level of security and privacy.
- ClearOS protects your digital identity through a disruptive ClearID de-centralized process.
- 16 MP camera and a battery life that outperforms major smartphone brands
What’s not to like about the ClearPHONE and the company’s vision? Their number one concern is privacy. Privacy of your personal information and privacy of your personal data. And if your kid is using this smartphone, those are of the utmost importance. When it comes to ticking the boxes on our checklist of best smartphones for kids, ClearPHONE hits on almost every one. Security. Privacy. And Blocking Content. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
ClearPHONE is a KickStarter product (although its vision began long before KickStarter). And with that, there are some unknowns about the service. The one thing we don’t know is how the ClearPHONE hardware and software will respond to parenting control apps or hardware like Bark and Circle. On the flipside, ClearPHONE allows you to give your kids access to apps and websites you approve AND if you opt-in for their own cellular service, you get an incredible additional layer of security. Which leads us to the other downside: which networks it’ll work with. At the time of this post being published, ClearPHONE will only work with T-Mobile and AT&T (major networks); it also works with Clear Cellular as we mentioned earlier and considering what you get with that...this might be a better option than AT&T or T-Mobile.
The ClearPHONE is definitely a smartphone for kids you’ll want to keep your eye on. The estimated delivery on its current Kickstarter campaign is June 2020, but you can pre-order now from their site. Another added bonus is the option to choose Clear’s own network for your service. This is security and privacy on steroids. No seriously...there probably isn’t a better one-two tandem of mobile hardware PLUS software that delivers near bulletproof security for a mobile device setup. Yes...Apple and Android devices have biometrics so people can’t access your smartphone. But that’s not the biggest risk when it comes to having a smartphone. There’s not a lot of people trying to break into my phone with FaceID hacks. The real risks with smartphone security and privacy involve trackers, cookies, hackers, malware, spyware, phishing, etc. There aren’t a lot of biometric features that are going to stop most of those threats. Needless to say, we’re excited for the launch of the ClearPHONE.
Where To Buy:
Another great smartphone for kids (and probably not as much for teenagers) is the Gabb from Gabb Wireless. Gabb claims this is the “perfect first phone” for your kids and we kind of have to agree. It’s the best basic level smartphone for kids on the market right now. Protects them from social media, creating bad habits with technology, protects them from unwanted messages, the internet, pointless games and useless apps. It’s not a “set it and forget it” smartphone option for kids (we’d never endorse that), but it’s the next best thing.
- Unlimited talk and text
- 5 inch display screen
- 2 MP front camera and 5 MP back camera (but it can’t send picture messages)
- 2 GB RAM and 16 GB ROM so you’ll have plenty of processing power to make this easy for kids to use
- Battery lasts up to 3 days
- Basic plan is a nationwide network utilizing a 4G LTE network.
There are a lot of nice things about the Gabb smartphone for kids. There are also some AMAZING things about this device. We love that its plan (through Gabb Wireless) is more than half of what you’d pay from major network providers. Currently, you can get the smartphone for $99 and the service is $19.99 a month, which gives your kid unlimited talk and text. And no long term contracts (Hooray!). We also love the kid safe features. No internet. No social media. No app store. No picture messages. No internet. Bam...that’s awesome! We also love that it features some apps, but they are “essential” apps: calendar, FM radio (debatable if radio is “essential”), camera, photo gallery, voice recorder, alarm clock, and a calculator. These are what we would deem as tools as opposed to a meaningless app.
Group text would be nice, but it’s not an important enough feature for us to really be disappointed with Gabb. Being able to text a group of people is a nice-to-have. All the other features you’d want in a smartphone for kids counterbalances out not having group text as an option. A potential negative could also be users are wrapped into only using Gabb Wireless as a network provider. There are some who would prefer their entire family underneath one network umbrella. Again...not a deal breaker for everyone, but we can understand how this could be annoying for some.
We’ll make it easy for you: If you have a child and communication through a device is a must and you’re thinking about a smartphone option, the Gabb smartphone from Gabb Wireless is a solid choice. Truly one of the best smartphones for kids. The product features and benefits of this smartphone align really well with what your goals should be when it comes to your family’s relationship with digital devices. Bad habits aren’t going to be created or reinforced by the Gabb smartphone’s ecosystem we’re so used to seeing with regular smartphone operating systems. They’ll learn a smartphone should be used for getting things done instead of entertaining us.
Where To Buy:
Gabb Wireless (use discount code: techreset for $5 off)
Which Option Is Best For Me?
There is no one right answer when it comes to matching a specific device for a specific kind of kid. But to really know which options are best for you and your family, you MUST have a clear understanding on what goals you have established for your family in regards to digital devices. If you don’t have any goals and guidelines in place for your family when it comes to technology, you have some soul searching to do. One of the goals should be this: Use technology at the right times, in the right places, for the right reasons. But there’s more to it than that.
Actually...a whole lot more. Let me introduce you to the Tech Reset Project. This is an organization dedicated to individuals not only interested in resetting tech habits but also to reset the way we think about our relationship with technology and each other. Without a change in mindset, our habits inevitably return to default. Tech Reset Project teaches parents about important issues such as: appropriate ages for cell phones, parenting through the social media age, screen time usage, and creating environments in the home which in turn create healthy digital habits for your family. Their services are packed with trainings, resources, guides, technology plans and more to help individuals navigate their way through the issues and problems we face when it comes to technology and families. To learn more, visit www.TechResetProject.com.
**Each product reviewed on Today’s Mama is selected by our team of incredible people who live the lives and experience all the things of most parents. We wanted to disclose that some of the products above that you may click on through a link on our site, may earn us a little bit of an affiliate commission.