Compare and Recycle

Back To School: Best Phone For Kids 2023

Child holding a phone

When it comes to choosing a mobile phone for your kids as they get ready to go back to school, it can be quite a difficult decision to make as there’s so much choice available. Not to mention, the market has changed a great deal over the past ten years with the modern child’s taste and expectations rapidly developing. Some handsets that were originally recommended for kids to do the basics, like calls and texts, are now from a bygone era, which could cause frustration and embarrassment.

These days, kids will be looking for something modern that suits their needs and aptitude at using the latest technology especially when they get back to school. The youngest generations spend the most time browsing the internet on their phones, so you’ll want to purchase a device that enables them to do this effectively and safely. With this in mind, you should try to find a device that will be the best option for your child, their age and ultimately what they want to use it for.

Check out our guide below to give you an idea of which mobile phones to consider for your child as they get back to school:

In This Article:

When Is It Appropriate To Give a Child Their First Phone?

Kids communicate with their friends on social networks, and many will have had access to the web in one form or another, either through a household desktop computer or a tablet. Nowadays, a phone is more personal. It's taken with them wherever they go, and children have some inherent responsibility in terms of keeping it charged, switched on when it needs to be and switched off (or on silent) when appropriate.

As many experts and the parents here at Compare and Recycle agree, your child might not need a phone until they start being more independent, travelling to school by themselves, visiting friends or staying at after school clubs, and this would usually be around secondary school.

What Should You Get As A First Phone for Your Child?

With all the choice in the world available, it can be a bit of a minefield. So, narrowing down your options is a good place to start. This will depend on your child’s age too:

  • Will your child be using the phone for socialising, or only for necessity?

  • How much are you willing to spend on a phone that has a high chance of being lost or broken by your child?

  • Do you want to have tight controls over how they use the device, or to restrict them by buying a basic handset?

  • Do you want them to have a rugged device that can endure being thrown about in a backpack or a stylish device that will earn them popularity points?

PhoneRRP (from)Battery sizeGreat becauseRating for kids
Google Pixel 6a£2204,410 mAhStylish, good battery life,
durable design
Refurbished iPhone SE 3 (2022)£380 or less2,018 mAhAffordable iPhone and
lengthy software support
Motorola Moto G13 NFCjust under £2005000 mAhLong-lasting battery, perfect blend
of reliability and performance
Xiaomi Redmi 10 (2022)Just over £2005000 mAhGood performance,
great battery life
Nokia C32around £1005,000 mAhIncredible value for money,
great battery life and decent specs

Best Back To School Phones For Kids

Preparing your child to go back to school can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to mobile phones. We would recommend avoiding expensive flagship devices as a back to school phone or first phone, because while your child may have the coolest tech in the playground, they could also be a target for thieves. Flagships also tend to be less rugged, and the constant appeal of the apps could wear the battery down or interfere with time that should be spent paying attention in the classroom. You’ll also have cyber-bullying, internet safety and awareness to consider (especially important if your child is young) which should be a priority when giving your kid a phone that will be taken to school.

Refurbished Google Pixel 6a

One of our top picks for children is the Google Pixel 6a. This phone not only has a good reputation amongst android users, but it also has a lot of attractive features. If we remove the fantastic price point of this smartphone and just focus on the features that it offers, there’s nothing budget about the Google Pixel 6a. It has software support up until 2027, good battery life and an excellent camera for kids who love snapping pictures on social media. It’s a great size for kids with it being 29g lighter than its predecessor and is made with plastic instead of glass which gives parents peace of mind when it comes to durability. It has a 6.1-inch screen, 8MP selfie camera and 12MP back camera which is more than enough for a child being introduced into the smartphone world.

While it’s this model we would recommend as one of the suitable Google phones for kids, more specifically we would say that you should opt for a refurbished one. For this option, it will cost much less for a very good condition, which is a good deal considering that the latest brand-new Google phones cost upwards of £1000 on the top end.

You could argue that anything above £100 for a first phone for a kid is simply throwing money away, but if you have them contribute to the cost of the iPhone or the SIM plan, maybe even both, you will teach them the value of money, developing their understanding around costs and they will be taking better care of the iPhone.

We would recommend buying a refurbished phone across the board for many reasons. Firstly, you’ll make some significant savings on the cost of the device (which could be useful if your child breaks their phone and you need to repair it later on). It’ll be in full working order like a new phone as it’ll be fully restored by the retailer, and it could even look brand-new to the untrained eye, if you opt for a phone that’s in pristine condition.

What’s also important to note is that you’ll be purchasing a device that’s already in circulation, which is a much better option for the environment than buying a brand-new phone.

Relevant reading

Refurbished iPhone SE 3 2022

Up next on our recommendations list is the iPhone SE 3 2022, which is a great option if you want to get your child one of the latest iPhones without breaking the bank.

In terms of specs, it’s a lightweight device with a powerful chipset that will work well for extended use. With an A15 processor which is the same one that is used in the iPhone 13 range, you can expect to have a high-end experience with this mobile phone. It comes in the classic compact iPhone design that we know and love, and it’s a phone that’s likely to get several years of use. This is because Apple will continue to add iOS and security updates over the next four years which will include further advancements to performance and parental controls. The iPhone SE 3 2022 also has a smaller screen at 4.7-inch which is a perfect size for a child wanting to play games and easily use the phone.

You can learn alla bout refurbished phones and find where to buy one here.

Motorola Moto G13

If you want a budget-friendly phone for under £200, that provides reliable performance, then the Motorola Moto G13 could be the one to go for.

The Motorola Moto G13 has a 5000 mAh battery that lasts up to two days, so children won't need to worry about charging it overnight. Additionally, it is a stylish phone with an excellent camera for children and a processing speed that can keep up with the demands of the modern child. With an LCD panel with a 90Hz refresh rate, you can be sure that this budget phone will produce vibrant on screen colours. Another fantastic feature is that it also offers expandable storage which is an important feature to consider. With the ever growing choices of apps that continue to be released and updated, having the option for expandable storage is key to ensuring a mobile phone serves its purpose the way you need.

While this phone isn’t as flashy and desirable among children as one of the iPhones, it does have some excellent design features that make it easy to grip and its water repellent properties make it a great option for kids who are prone to spilling things on their phones. Also, the Motorola Moto G13 is made of plastic, so it is resistant to bumps and falls. Your child can be worry-free about their phone getting damaged.

Xiaomi Redmi 10 (2022)

Our next pick of a phone for kids is the Xiaomi Redmi 10 (2022). If gaming is your child’s priorities, then this would be a great choice. It has an impressive performance when it comes to gaming and battery life, which makes it perfect for children who want to play all day long on their mobile devices. Its 6.5-inch 1080p LCD display offers high-quality graphics quality and power ensures that they will be able to enjoy their favourite games with ease, and the battery life is perfect for those long gaming sessions. It is a durable phone that is made of a protective plastic design which was created to look like glass, providing the durability needed to make it suitable for children. With a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, security is at your fingertips, ensuring quick and secure access to your device.

One thing that really makes it stand out for a budget phone is its screen – it's got a great 90Hz refresh rate that makes everything super smooth. And when you want to save battery, it's got a 60Hz battery saver mode that's perfect for any young person who uses their phone throughout the day. Not only will the Xiaomi Redmi 10 (2022) last you all day, but with a great screen, a stylish design, and a battery that will last, it really is a top pick if you want a phone that's reliable and packed with features. However, the camera on this phone is not as good as other options, so if you are looking for a high-quality camera for your kids, then you should probably get something different. Nonetheless, the Xiaomi Redmi 10 (2022) is a fantastic device with a competitive price tag (just over £100) that is the perfect alternative to the expensive Apple devices.

Nokia C32

Our last but definitely not least recommendation for a first phone for kids is the Nokia C32. With a 6.52 HD+ LCD display, it offers a vibrant and immersive viewing experience which is perfect for children who love to play games or watch videos. It has a 5,000mAh battery unit that can last up to 2 days on a single charge so parents can rest assured that the phone will last throughout the day. This is perfect for school kids who don't want to worry about their phone running out of battery during the day or while they're playing. It also has a durable metal border that ensures that it doesn't get scratched easily which is one of the most important things to consider when buying a phone for your child.

With an 8MP front-facing camera and a 50MP main camera, that ensures that your child can take pictures without having to worry about blurry pictures or low quality images. Additionally, the Nokia C32 offers an extra layer of peace of mind for parents with 2 years of security updates, meaning the device remains secure and up-to-date for safe usage. This is a device with outstanding value for money (around £100), which is excellent if you don’t want to pay a fortune when buying the first mobile phone for your child.

The Nokia C32 is an affordable Android phone that has decent specs and an attractive design. It comes with features like face unlock, a modern feature for smartphones, but also pin code or fingerprint options which means that children can choose what is best depending on their needs. It also offers an optimal performance which makes it perfect for gaming as well as other activities that children might enjoy.

Overall, we think that the Nokia C32 is a great choice for children because it is dependable, fairly quick, and has decent cameras.

How To Set up Parental Controls on Your Child’s Device

Depending on what software version the device you buy runs, there are certain limitations you can put on the device, mainly to do with purchasing apps, adding content restrictions and using app timers. Luckily with Android 10 and above as well as the latest iOS updates, there are various control options you can set up.


In order for you to be able to manage and observe what your child is up to on their phone, you will need to download Family Link app from Google Play Store on both your and kid's phones, set up accounts for yourself and your kid using your Google accounts (if your child does not have a Google account, the app will allow you to create one to complete the process). Once you've set up the Family Link, you will be able to connect your kid's phone to your own. Next you will want to proceed with parental controls on your child's device.

  • Open Settings on your kid's phone
  • In Settings scroll down and tap on Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls (or similar)
  • Tap Parental Controls
  • Follow the on screen instructions to add or create your kid's Google account
  • Once the Google account you want to supervise on this device has been chosen, you can proceed with choosing apps that this device can use and set filters
  • Confirm the settings with a PIN code of your choice
  • Lastly, from your own phone, choose other controls like setting up bedtime, app timers and further access restrictions for example permissions on Google Play Store for app downloads


For Apple devices, the steps to follow are a little different. You'll need to go to Screen Time on your child's iPhone as this is where you can control the usage of the phone.

  • Go to Settings and tap Screen time
  • Tap on Turn On Screen Time and tap Continue
  • Select that this device is your child's iPhone
  • Next, you can proceed with setting up the downtime schedule for your kid's iPhone, adding limits to app usage content restrictions
  • Create a passcode to protect your parent controls, which will be later used to access parental controls or grant permissions

You can find more detailed settings instructions on this Apple support page.


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