You've held out for as long as you could, but if you're reading this article, that means it's time to get a phone for your kid. We're definitely not recommending you get your kid the most expensive smartphone, so we're focusing on affordable devices that will still make your kid feel like they're getting a top-of-the-line phone. The 2022-edition of the iPhone SE is a godsend for parents who promised an iPhone for their kids, but don't want to break the bank to buy something they will inevitably break or lose.
Best Smartphones for Kids 2023
*Price subject to change
Interested in cheap smartphone deals happening right now? Most major Apple and Android devices come with parental controls and you can see all the latest deals for smartphones here.
iPhone SE (2022): Best iPhone for Kids
The 2022-edition of the iPhone SE gives your kid the user-experience of an iPhone 13 without costing nearly as much as an iPhone 13. The iPhone SE comes with the new A15 Bionic processor, which means your kid can easily play games like Diablo: Immortal or *shudders* Fortnite with their friends.
Along with the vastly improved processor, the 2022 iPhone SE also has better battery life and 5G connectivity compared to the 2020 iPhone SE. Expect the phone to last around 12-hours on a full charge, which means your kid can easily get through a whole school day without running out of battery.
Built-in parental controls
The iPhone comes with built-in parental controls that allow you to set boundaries for how long your kid can be on their phone and what apps they can download and how often they can use them. In other words, you might lose the battle of letting your teenager download Instagram, but you can set limits on how long they can use it at a time.
To set up the parental controls, you'll just need to go to Settings, then Screen Time, and Turn On Screen Time. This is what the set up will look like from there:
Make sure to establish it's your child's iPhone at the beginning.
On this screen you can limit how long your child uses certain apps. You should set YouTube to one minute a day and see if your kid gets mad.
This is where you can decide what apps your child can access.
What we don't like
With only a 4.7-inch display, the iPhone SE 2022 is a small phone compared to other new iPhones. Since the iPhone SE uses Touch ID instead of Face ID, a good chunk of display real estate goes to putting the Home button on the bottom of the device. Your kid may complain about the screen size, but try to reiterate the fact that the insides of the iPhone SE are probably better than their friends phones. Maybe tie that into a lesson about being a good person is better than looking like a cool kid? I don't know.
What cell phone plans can I get with an iPhone SE (2022)?
The iPhone SE works with any wireless network you can imagine, so you've got tons of options for cell phone plans. Here are some low-cost, low-data cell phone plans that we would recommend.
Samsung Galaxy J3 Orbit: Best Android for kids
What we like
The Samsung Galaxy J3 Orbit is a real-deal smartphone from a major brand that somehow manages to be $50 or less to purchase, depending upon the provider you use. It doesn't look like a $50 phone, and you can download popular apps like Instagram and TikTok, so you could honestly tell your kid that it cost $500 and they would probably believe you. Yes, it doesn't have the same impressive specs you would find on a Galaxy S20, but it will definitely get the job done for most kids.
Because you're on an Android device, you can use Google's Family Link app which lets you enable parental controls. You can control contacts on your kid's phone, see how much time they're spending on their phone, and you can lock them out of their phone whenever you want!
You can either download the app from the Play Store or set it up from your computer. It's super easy to set up as well, just follow the prompts when you download the app.
If you use Gmail for your email, you'll have no problem setting parental controls up on your kid's phone.
What we don't like
The main place that you feel the budget-ness of the Galaxy J3 Orbit is with its storage space. You can't get more than 16 GB of storage on a Galaxy J3 Orbit, which can quickly fill up. For example, my iPad has a 16 GB storage capacity and I had to delete half of my photos on there to make room for an app update.
Your kid won't be able to download tons of apps with that 16 GB limit, which might actually be a good thing when you think about it that way.
What cell phone plans can I get with the Samsung Galaxy J3 Orbit?
Opting for a smartwatch instead of a smartphone means that your kid won't be tempted by Instagram, YouTube, or Clash Royale (or whatever the kids play these days) all the time. You get all the perks of knowing where your kid is at all times, and they got none of the perks of having a smartphone. That's a parenting win right there.
What we don't like
This is kind of a cop-out answer, but believe it or not, this watch is not a phone. If you have an older teen, or maybe even a preteen, a smartwatch over a smartphone could be a tough sell. The smartwatch makes more sense for younger kids who are in that sweet age of innocence before adolescence comes and ruins everything.
How much does it cost a month for wireless service on the smartwatch?
Alcatel GO FLIP: Best flip phone for kids
What we like
For those of us who think life was great back in the early-to-mid-2000s, we can relive the glory days through our kids with a good ol' fashion flip phone. Yes, they still do make flip phones, it turns out. Flip phones are amazingly inexpensive--you can expect to pay around $10 for the device itself, which certainly beats paying $700 for an iPhone 11. If memory serves, I paid like $300 for a Razr flip phone in high school.
If you're worried about introducing social media to your child, this smartphone doesn't even allow social media apps to download. It's always great when you can tell your kids something's impossible and you don't have to lie about it.
Is the phone good though?
The Alcatel GO FLIP is certainly the best flip phone out there for the price. It has a fairly new operating system with a basic internet browser, a decent camera, and a long battery life. You can spend over seven hours of talk time before draining the battery.
What we don't like
Similar to the smartwatch situation, not everyone kid will get jazzed over a flip phone like we did in 2003. If your child expects a phone that can download popular apps and be able to FaceTime with friends, then purchasing this phone will likely lead to a meltdown. Just speaking from personal experience.
What cell phone plans can I get with the Alcatel GO FLIP?
Recap: What are the best phones for kids
Whether you want to get your kid a new, but surprisingly budget-friendly iPhone, or take it back to the days of prime Coldplay and get a flip phone, you've got some options to choose from.
What are the best phones for kids?
- Best iPhone for kids: The iPhone SE (2022) is the best iPhone for the price right now. It comes with built-in parental controls that are easy to use. You will be considered a "cool parent" if you get this phone for your kid.
- Best Android for kids: The Samsung Galaxy J3 Orbit is one of the most inexpensive smartphones we've seen. It comes with access to the Play Store, which has lots of parental controls apps, but we'd recommend Google Family Link for most folks.
- Best smartwatch: The Gizmowatch Disney Edition smartwatch makes perfect sense for parents who want to keep track of their kids, but aren't ready to give them a phone. It costs $5 a month for unlimited text, talk, and unlimited data for the GPS.
- Best flip phone: The Alcatel GO FLIP will literally cost you less than you probably spent on your lunch today. Your kid can call, text, and have access to a rudimentary internet browser, but won't be able to download social media apps.
Do you have any thoughts about giving your kid a phone? In your opinion, when is the right age to give a kid a phone, and what phone should you give them?
Kids are typically data hogs
If your kid has access to a smartphone, then they are probably streaming something on YouTube as you read this. Streaming, in particular, takes up a lot of internet power, which is why we recommend getting a reliable Wi-Fi signal to make sure the whole family can access the internet at the same time. The last thing you want is for your Zoom call to crap out because your kid is streaming Paw Patrol in 4K.
Out of the best internet providers available, we'd recommend one of the options below.
|Xfinity Internet||$19.99-$120*||75-2000 Mbps||1200 Mbps||View Plans|
|Verizon Fios Home Internet||$49.99-$89.99†||300-2300 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|AT&T Fiber||$55-$250‡||300-5000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Internet||$50-$75^||100-940 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|Viasat Internet||$69.99-$299.99°||12-100 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|