Kids use technology in different ways and for different reasons. Some simply want to stay in touch with their friends, while others would surf the internet in their room all day if they could. Choosing a phone that encourages responsible use is key.
What makes a great phone for kids is ultimately a question for parents. The phone must be modern enough that kids will want to use it, but not so cutting-edge that it becomes a distraction.
What’s the right balance of features? Safety, user-friendliness, and the “cool” factor are some of the essential things to consider when choosing a kid’s first phone.
Let’s dig in:
First and foremost, any phone that is used by kids needs to be safe. Whether it’s a kids phone designed specifically with children in mind, or a regular smartphone, safety features are essential.
The latest smartphones offer various parental control and monitoring apps that let parents block or allow certain features. The trouble is, many kids are tech-savvy enough to disable these features. Parents who go this route need to actively monitor their kids’ devices.
For parents who want to be a little less hands-on, a phone that doesn’t have access to the internet, app stores, or social media at all may be a better choice. With growing concerns over digital safety for kids and teens, phones limited to calling and texting are becoming more popular.
Ease of Use
Though adults want the latest tech with all the bells and whistles, that isn’t the best choice for kids. Instead, look for a streamlined phone that puts key features like SMS messaging right at kids’ fingertips. The primary reason most parents get their kid a phone in the first place is so everyone can stay in touch, after all.
Kids need to learn how to use technology effectively, but those lessons don’t need to be learned all on one device. Younger kids, in particular, should get familiar with procedures like emergency calling before they graduate to things like app downloading.
Looks aren’t everything, but they are important to consider when choosing a phone for kids. No kid, and definitely no pre-teen, will want a phone that looks like it’s straight out of the 1990s.
Again, it’s a balancing act. You don’t want to give your kid the latest iPhone, which is likely to be stolen or damaged. But if you buy them an old Nokia, they may not carry it around out of fear of being seen with it.
What’s the middle ground? A device that looks like a smartphone but isn’t too flashy. Find something that fits in a pocket and won’t make your kid a target for thieves.
A common reason parents invest in a phone for their kids is the ability to track their location. In fact, according to one study, 16% of parents track their teen’s location through their phone. Many apps have tracking features. Families that put a premium on location tracking may prefer a phone with this feature already built-in.
Tracking can be controversial, but there are good reasons parents want to keep tabs on their kids. Families with kids of driving age may use tracking to ensure their child arrived at a planned destination safely. With younger kids, fear of abduction is a reasonable reason to invest in tracking. And regardless of age, location tracking can make finding a lost phone a lot easier.
The truth is, kids aren’t always careful with their things. How many times have they ripped their backpack, left something on the bus, or lost their favorite pen?
When hunting for your kid’s first phone, look for something well-built that can take a few drops and scratches. Also, consider investing in a protective case. While older, pre-used phones are a popular choice for kids, there is a risk that accessories are no longer made for that design.
Let your kids personalize their device by choosing its case. Little touches of customization can lead to a greater sense of ownership over their phone, encouraging them to be more careful with it. Just be sure to set a budget for accessories.
Although a durable device makes a difference, even the most responsible kid can’t prevent every phone problem. Phones are only meant to last a couple of years, and some fail right after they roll out of the factory.
Head off any surprise replacement costs by choosing a phone with a solid warranty. Check both the term of the warranty and what, exactly, it covers. Is screen damage covered? What about dead batteries? And if so, is there a deductible or limit to how much the plan will payout?
Once you purchase a phone, retain the paperwork, receipt, and box that it comes in. Otherwise, the warranty may not be honored, even if the problem itself is covered.
These days, top-of-the-line phones can reach the four-figure territory. The good news is, it’s not necessary to buy your kid the latest and greatest smartphone. They don’t need a gaming smartphone, especially if their grades could be better.
Each family’s budget looks a little different. One study showed that 26.7% of parents would spend up to $100 on a kid’s phone, while 16.8% would rather just give them their old phone. Decide what you can afford, and ask whether your kid is ready to help pay for their device. They’ll need to learn to manage their own budget before leaving home, after all.
Something that matters to every phone owner, no matter their age, is battery life. There are few things more frustrating than a phone dying right when it’s needed. While some things can be done to extend phone battery life, the best bet is to choose a phone with built-in power-saving features.
A kid’s phone should last them through the day when used minimally. A phone that can make it through a couple of days on a single charge is even better, given that it may not always get plugged in daily. Choosing a kid’s phone can be complicated. Kids need phones that are functional, reliable, and just cool enough. For a flashy or fully-featured smartphone, they may just need to wait until they can buy it themselves.
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