Choosing your child’s first phone can be hard with so many different options out there. Not only are you dealing with the practicality of the mobile phone and all the connection it facilitates, but social pressures alongside it that are undoubtedly going to be more important for your child than its performance.
|Phone||RRP (from)||Battery size||Great because;||Rating for kids|
|Moto G5||£79.99||2800mAh||Cheap and durable||★★★☆☆|
|Moto E5||£99.99||4000mAh||Brillaint camera and battery||★★★★☆|
|Nokia 3310||£19.99||1200mAh||Safe, durable, cheap and super long battery life||★★★★★|
|Nokia 2.1||£99.99||4000mAh||Cheap, repairable, sleek Android||★★★★☆|
|iPhone SE||£239||1624mAh||Great Parental controls and stylish||★★★★☆|
|Alcatel 3V||£99||3000mAh||Advanced smartphone features and good battery||★★★☆☆|
|Monqui||£109.99||unknown||Full parental control and monitoring||★★★☆☆|
When is it appropriate to give a child their first phone?
Kids walk to school a lot less, can communicate with their friends on social networks and gaming consoles, and many kids would have had access to the web in one form or another, either with a household desktop computer, or tablet.
But a phone is more personal, is taken with them where they go, has some inherent responsibility regarding keeping it charged, switched on when it needs to be, switched off (or on silent) when appropriate. The behaviour of your child should signify what type of phone they are going to need.
Many experts and the parents 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 senior school.
What phone should you get as a first phone in 2019?
With all the choice in the world available, it can be a bit of a minefield. So, narrowing down the choice is a good place to start by answering these questions.
- 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 progeny?
- Do you want to have tight controls over how they use the device or to restrict 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?
We have answered these in the easiest way possible with the following first phone suitability matrix:
How much should you spend?
It completely depends on what you can afford, but we have focused this guide on phones that are around £100, which will be completely serviceable for the needs of a child.
We have included basic phones that cost less than £50. Basic phones are great if you want a long standby time and to limit the distraction of social media or mobile games. These are perfect for the journey to and from school, won’t attract thieves and you’re not left too out of pocket if the device does happen to get lost or stolen.
What to watch out for when buying a child’s first phone?
You know we are a strong advocate for the price of Chinese phones. But whilst there is a strong user case for buying a Chinese phone, they can prove confusing and bewildering for a child, and you may find that the odd Chinese language pop-up might leak through.
Avoid expensive flagship devices as a first phone, your child may have the coolest piece of tech on the playground, but they could also be a target for thieves. The flagships do tend to be less rugged and the constant appeal of the apps could ware the battery down or interfere with time that should be spent learning.
It's not just the price when avoiding the flagships because they often have social media apps pre-installed.
Day to day, you are going to have new things to watch out for; cyber-bullying, internet safety and awareness should be a priority when giving a first phone.
Best Kids Phones Reviews
For a budget phone, the Moto G5 is one of the best around, with a superior design in comparison to many other budget models. This is a smartphone that any young adult would find useful and stylish with many of the modern conveniences that the flagships are enjoying.
It doesn't carry the same brand name as Samsung or Apple, but with some of the gesture controls and fingerprint scanner, it certainly feels like a more expensive phone.
Like the G5, but cheaper, the E5 has a bit of a different offering. With a lower end camera, but a better screen, battery and a slightly mediocre performance compared to the G5. But this has NFC along with a fingerprint scanner.
As presentation goes, Motorola really know what they're doing. The E5 is again a very good looking phone, just a bit bigger and with slightly different specifications.
Nokia 3310 (2017)
The revisit of the classic 3310, Nokia released a revamped version of their classic cream of the crop mobile phone. This 3310 doesn't only invoke nostalgia. The updated 3310 hits all the buttons as a perfect phone for kids.
The low price, the giant battery life and the rugged design could make it the firm favourite as a first phone. It also has some - but not too much - internet connectivity, which means you can contact them through WhatsApp. The 3G internet is very slow, but this could be seen as a positive for the easily distracted.
As budget phones go, the Nokia 2.1 is one of the great ones so we even rated it the best phone under £100. With the stripped back Android Go software, this is the phone that will be the most "adult" of the lot, allowing lots of customisation.
The 2.1 is easily repaired and a replacement screen can cost as little as £10 on eBay. Four screws and one cable and the screen is detached, making it an inexpensive phone to repair if the inevitable does happen with careless fingers. The repairability is primarily reason it is included in the list.
The iPhone SE is the only Apple mobile on this list and that's because it still holds up, even in 2019. So much so that Apple have even started selling the model from their official stores again. We would recommend going refurbished with these ones as there are still great deals.
But if you are willing to spend a bit more and go for a first phone from the higher range of the budget offerings, then the iPhone also provides greater parental controls than an Android. There's no denying it is more aesthetically pleasing than the competitors.
Alcatel have built their name with the bargain bin and burner phones, but the French manufacturer's recent foray into the smartphone market leaves with some value to be had. For around £150, the screen is a decent FHD+ and the cameras are a little iffy. The phones are sturdy, with decent batteries and an easy to use software overlay. These features make it a firm favourite for a first "smartphone" for kids.
The bespoke software means that parents are going to have a crazy amount of control over what their children can see and do. Monitoring features that outperform anything by Apple or on networks come in handy.
It's slow and painful to use with a battery that completely lets it down to be used as a reliable device for someone that might forget to charge it over night. The price is about right and if they can improve the base features of the phone, the Monqui 2 could head this list comfortably.
How to set up parental controls on device
Depending on what type of device you buy, there are certain limitations you can put on the device, mainly to do with purchasing apps, because there is very little that can be done with today’s smart devices.
- Go to Settings and tap Screen time;
- Tap Continue, then select “This is My Child’s [Device]” . Follow the prompts until you get to Parent passcode and create a passcode. Re-enter it to confirm;
- Use a screen time passcode to create a passcode so that no one else can change the settings;
- Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions. If asked, enter your passcode, then turn on content & privacy.
- Open Google Play;
- Tap the three horizontal lines at the top left;
- Scroll down and tap Settings, then scroll until you see Parental controls.
- Tap it, and you’ll have to create a pin code. Enter it twice.
- You can now tap each category to set how restrictive you want it to be. Save at the bottom of each screen.
- Create a pin for app purchases.
In addition to this, different mobile network operators offer security controls that can be found on their website. To further ensure your child’s safety you can use parental controls.
How to set up Parental Controls on your Network
There is a really good resource out there created by Sky, that looks at all the networks and gives a rundown of how to limit internet time and content on the network level. InternetMatters.org looks at every broadband and mobile provider and has a step by step guide for each along with what can and can't be limited. A must visit site before choosing which network you are going to use for a kid's first.
The main concern of buying a child's first phone, is ensuring they are safe, whilst allowing them the independence, freedom and trust to act autonomously. These phones will only enable safety to a certain extent, and the best way to ensure safety is by teaching them to be responsible.