What to look for in your kid’s first phone

When it comes to smartphones, some features fit everyone. What’s the point of a phone that can’t call, text, or snap a photo?

But when it features like apps, kids and adults have different needs. These days, some kids in the single digits are getting smartphones. Getting them an adult smartphone is risky.

Most kids aren’t mature enough to use an adult device responsibly. They could run across inappropriate content online, or find themselves sucked into time-wasting games.

Don’t take the chance. Keep your kids safe by choosing the right device.

What a Kids Phone Needs

Use this feature checklist to select a smartphone that’s right for your kids:

  • Restricted Browsing

As helpful as the internet can be, it’s also full of dangerous and explicit content. For a kids phone, you’ll want a way to limit the content they’re able to access.

Here, you have a couple of choices. You can either choose a phone with a kid-safe browser, or get one that prevents internet access altogether.

If you go the first route, be warned: Kids will look for ways to lift restrictions. Browser settings should be secure enough that even the smartest of kids can’t undo them, but easy enough for parents to make adjustments as their kids mature.

  • Speed Dialing

The primary use of a smartphone is communication. Kids typically get their first phone so that they can contact their parents while at school or out with friends.

Even at school, emergencies happen. When they do, the faster your kids can reach out, the better.

Adult smartphones have so many features that simply making a phone call might mean navigating through multiple menus. Kids need a quick-dial option so their parents are never more than a tap away.

  • Good Battery Life

Kids spend all day at school, not to mention after-school activities. Make sure their smartphone has a battery that can make it through the day on a single charge.

Access to an outlet to charge your phone is not guaranteed. Plus, carrying around a charger is a hassle. Cords can easily become lost or damaged. External battery packs are expensive.

When comparing phones’ battery life, look at two categories: standby and active use. Because kids shouldn’t be on their phone all day anyway, standby is the more important one.

  • A Solid Camera

What’s a smartphone without a camera? Taking pictures and videos is a fun way for kids to capture memories.

A kid’s cell phone doesn’t need to have a state-of-the-art camera. With that said, the camera should be good enough for clear up-close and distance shots. Make sure the phone links to a cloud storage system to back up photos and make them viewable on different devices.

  • Slim Design

Face it: Your kid isn’t interested in the brick-sized phone you likely had back in the day. Today’s kids want a phone that’s fashionable as well as functional. Looking cool might not be high on your kids-phone priority list, but you can bet your children care about it.

A good place to start? Make sure any phone you’re considering will fit in your kid’s pockets. A slim design makes it easier to stow, reducing the risk of theft or loss.

  • Durability

The second your kid’s phone breaks, they’ll be asking for a new one. And since the average smartphone costs $582, keeping their phone safer helps them focus on other things in life while saving you money.

When looking at smartphones for kids, read reviews. Do users say it’s built to last? Does the carrier honor warranty claims? Don’t take the risk of something going wrong right off the bat.

  • GPS Tracking

The epitome of safety is GPS built into your kid’s phone. What some may consider “helicopter parenting” is really just looking out for your child. Knowing that your child is always where they should be is a huge relief.

If the smartphone you’re leaning toward doesn’t have built-in GPS, do some digging. If it has the right hardware, you might be able to solve this simply by downloading an app. If not, spend a little more for sake of safety.

  • Screen Time Monitoring

If you opt for a kids phone that has a few more bells and whistles than the rest, you’ll want to keep tabs on your kid’s screen time. Kids are easily sucked into their screens, and often spend over 7 hours on a phone a day. This can present problems for social and educational development.

Monitoring your kids screen time ensures they focus on real-world activities. Some screen time monitors tell you not just how frequently the phone is used, but also where the time is spent. Is your kid spending hours on social media? What about games or apps?

Excessive screen usage could signal device addiction. Set benchmarks and expectations, and talk to your kids about the dangers of overusing screens.

  • A Music Player

This one is left toward the end for a reason. Understandably, a lot of parents are leery about buying their kids a phone that comes with games and other entertainment apps. With that said, media access also helps your kids explore their creative interests.

With a music player and a pair of headphones, your kids can entertain themselves in boring waiting rooms. Plus, they can listen to podcasts and other educational content that complements what they’re learning in school.

  • Timers and Alarms

To grow into product adults, kids have to learn how to manage their time. That means getting up on time for school, time-boxing things like homework, and remembering to stay on top of their chores.

A clock isn’t enough. Timers and alarms allow your kid to manage their own schedule. Think about it: Do you really want to have to remind them every time they have an appointment coming up?

Shopping for your kid’s first phone isn’t easy. Some kids are more mature than others, and age doesn’t tell the full story. Decide what your kid is ready for, and think through your options. Making the right choice for your family is worth the time.