Giving your child a mobile phone is one of the great conundrums of modern parenthood. Is it really necessary? (Sort of.) When should they have one? (Debatable). What is the best phone for kids? (Depends on how old they are, and how neurotic you are). What should their first cell phone be? (There are way too many options.) And also, more screen time? Ugh.

The screen portion is actually optional in kids’ cell phones, as it turns out. There are plenty of cheap cell phones for kids in basic styles available that function mostly as emergency cell phones for kids, rather than as another expensive tech device that turns them into phone zombies (and affect their brain development). And being able to keep in touch with your child–and potentially locate him or her at any given moment with GPS–is pretty priceless, as far as peace of mind goes. Whether you purchase a smartphone, a prepaid phone, or a phone with no internet at all (like the classic Firefly cell phone), it’s all about what you’re comfortable with, what you want to spend, and the level of freedom and sophistication your kiddo is ready for.

RELATED: The Modern Parent’s Guide To Internet Safety For Kids

The options for 2022 range from durable, kid-proof cell phone/smart watch combos to ultra-basic, old-school models to more advanced smartphones. You can choose a cell phone with limited numbers to call, a prepaid phone, a screenless walkie talkie-style alternative, or one with ‘the works’ like video, internet, and more (like the infamous iPhone or iPod Touch). Perhaps best of all, most offer some sort of location tracking–because giving your kid freedom is important, but also terrifying.

Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best cell phones for kids in 2022. No matter your price range or parenting style, there’s a pick here that will keep everyone happy.

Best Emergency Phones

AngelSense Personal GPS Tracker for Kids

 This gadget might be a bit more like a beeper than a cell phone, which could be a good first step. After all, sometimes, parents can have mixed emotions about handing a phone to their kid. The AngelSense personal GPS tracker is a great way to know where your kids may be. It also includes a speakerphone that’ll allow you to chat with your child. Even better, the iAlert will tell you in advance if your child isn’t following a typical pattern. Are they late to school? This device will let you know. A subscription plan is required, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind it brings. 

$59.00 AT AMAZON

Nokia 225 Unlocked 4G Cell Phone

Want to keep it simple? Luckily, there are still plenty of phones out there that won’t let kids get lost in apps. The Nokia 225 just has a basic camera, an FM radio, and a couple of games loaded on it — and, that’s about it. Great to give to a teen if you want to keep in touch with minor distractions, this phone is also quite reasonably priced. This phone might not be a great fit if you’re a Verizon family, as it’s equipped for GSM carriers. But if that’s not a hurdle, this will serve as a great emergency phone. 

$45.00 AT AMAZON

Limited Cell Phone For Kids

Jethro SC490 4G Unlocked Bar Style Phone

The Jethro SC490 is a great model for emergencies — and the big screen and buttons featured are perfect for young hands who might not be too experienced when it comes to handling a cell phone. This phone has an emergency SOS button that can connect with up to five contacts in case of emergency. It may be the safety net that you, as a parent, need. It also has nationwide coverage, so you don’t have to worry about losing connection.

$95.00 AT AMAZON

VTech KidiBuzz G2 Kids’ Electronics Smart Device with KidiConnect in Pink

The brand known for kids tech toys has finally created a (Wi-Fi only) cell phone that lets kids send texts, voice messages, photos, and drawings to an approved list of contacts. Being learning-toy makers, the folks at Vtech have naturally outfitted the phone with 40 educational games, as well as a kid-safe web browser. It’s also got bumpers and a shatter-safe screen, because the best cell phones for kids are designed to withstand being treated like, well, toys.

$200.00 AT AMAZON

Unihertz Jelly Pro

This phone is super teeny (seriously, it can fit in the coin pocket of your jeans) but don’t underestimate its capabilities. Equipped with a built-in gyroscope that determines its position and orientation, the Jelly Pro also has plenty of memory to store music, a pedometer to track steps, and bluetooth support, all of which make it a contender for best first mobile phone for 11 year olds and up.

$142.00 AT AMAZON

Smart Phones For Preteens

TCL 10 SE Unlocked Android Smartphone

The TCL 10 SE Unlocked Android phone may be the perfect choice for a teenager. This version is unlocked, meaning that you can choose your own carrier. With 64 GB, your child will appreciate how fast this phone is. This Android device also has a quick charge. It’s an ideal device for someone who’s more interested in taking pictures of their friends than scrolling the internet. You can buy this in two colors: Polar Night, and Icy Silver.

$160.00 AT AMAZON

Tracfone Carrier-Locked LG Rebel 4 4G LTE Prepaid Smartphone

Kids need limits and yes, that definitely applies to mobile phones. A great first option if you’re concerned about excessive use (and excessive bills) is a prepaid cell. With a 5″ HD Screen and a 1.4 GHz Quad-Core processor, this phone is excellent for teens. This phone is carrier locked, and comes with a Sim card that’s ready to activate. Right now, this phone will only work properly in the United States. Customers on Amazon mostly rave over the price and the fact that this phone is light and easy to carry. 

$69.00 AT AMAZON

Smartwatch Cell Phone Combos

MeritSoar Kids Smart Watch for Boys and Girls

Smart watches that also function as emergency cell phones for kids? Yes, please. The MeritSoar Kids Smart Watch allows for 2-way calls, 2-way voice messages, and incoming texts, and features GPS and LBS (location-based services) to provide you with the precise location of your child at all times. It’s also got a camera, flashlight, math games, and more–so your kiddo might actually like it as much as you do.

$36.00 AT AMAZON

TickTalk 4 Unlocked 4G LTE Kids Smart Watch Phone with GPS Tracker

Keep tabs on your kiddo, wherever and whenever. The TickTalk 4 is a watch that allows video calling, voice calling, texts, and a safe GPS tracker. Recommended for kids within the 5-12 age range, this watch is a great way to keep your kids safe without investing in a full-fledged cell phone. The watch also includes plenty of parental controls that’ll let you have more authority over what your child has access to. It comes in pink, black, and blue. 

$200.00 AT AMAZON

Prograce Kids Smart Watch with 90°Rotatable Camera

The Prograce Kids Smart Watch comes with built -in games, a flash light, earphone port, a touch screen, and a rotatable camera. Staying connected with your kiddo has never been easier.

$38.00 AT AMAZON

INIUPO Smart Watch For Kids

Some of the best cell phones for kids are smart watches (the number one benefit being, of course, that it’s hard to misplace a device that’s worn on your wrist). This one has plenty of games built in. like Ultimate Racing, Basketball Shoot Master, and Bee War. But, this INIUPO watch can even make calls if you buy a sim card, which is not included. That means you have a way to easily connect with your child anytime you want. An alarm clock and calculator are also built in, and you can get it in black, pink, or blue. 

$33.00 AT AMAZON

Smart Phones For Young Kids

Jitterbug Smart2 No-Contract Easy-To-Use Smartphone

What was designed with senior citizens in mind is actually one of the best cell phones for kids, especially younger ones who need something easy to use. With basic (we’re talking flip phone) capabilities, including giant buttons, a strong speaker, and simple yes/no navigation options, the Jitterbug phone is for kids who don’t need all the extra bells and whistles.

$128.00 AT AMAZON

CAT Phones S41

It’s pretty much inevitable that kids will drop their phones on at least a semi-regular basis. The Cat S41 is meant to be ultra-durable: It’s waterproof up to 6.5 feet for 60 minutes, drop-proof up to 6 feet, and has a scratch resistant screen as well as a ton of battery power to keep it charged for days. If you’re looking for a kid-proof cell phone, this is it.

$450.00 AT AMAZON

Found the best cell phone for your kid? Perfect. Now shop more safety kid gear here!

stroke red
Jethro SC490 4G Unlocked Bar Style Phone
VTech KidiBuzz G2 Kids’ Electronics Sm...
Unihertz Jelly Pro
Nokia 225 Unlocked 4G Cell Phone
Jitterbug Smart2 No-Contract Easy-To-Use...
AngelSense Personal GPS Tracker for Kids
MeritSoar Kids Smart Watch for Boys and ...
TickTalk 4 Unlocked 4G LTE Kids Smart Wa...
INIUPO Smart Watch For Kids
Tracfone Carrier-Locked LG Rebel 4 4G LT...
CAT Phones S41
TCL 10 SE Unlocked Android Smartphone
Prograce Kids Smart Watch with 90°Rotat...

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Source: Scary Mommy