iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Bark and Others: How to Choose Your Kid’s First Phone

Giving your child a phone for the first time is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Timing is important, as is the type of device. Dusting off your old iPhone or Samsung?,

Or do you buy one of the new kids phones with built-in monitoring?

I will explain everything you need to take into account, as well as the characteristics of the different options.

Determine your child’s readiness. There is no magic age when a child is ready for a phone. Often the decision is a practical one: When children enter middle school, for example, they are not necessarily as closely supervised as they are in elementary school. You may want to keep your own tabs on them and give them an easy way to communicate with you. By age 11, 53% of kids have their own smartphone, according to the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media.

Parents considering this modern rite of passage have to balance a variety of factors, from their child’s maturity level and desire for independence to fears of cyberbullying and too much screen time.

There are signs that the children could be ready. If they show responsibility by doing their homework, keeping track of their belongings, and taking care of their other electronic devices, they may be able to handle a phone.

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Define the purpose. Before deciding what type of phone to buy, discuss with your child the reasons for having one. “What do you need and want your child to be able to do with a phone?” says Jacqueline Nesi, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University who studies children’s use of technology. “What does your child need and want to do with a phone?”

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How did you decide what kind of phone to give your child? Join the conversation below.

If the main goal is to let your child know that they will be late for school, your child may not need the functionality of a smartphone. A more limited kid’s phone (or even a smartwatch) would suffice. But if your child needs a phone to submit homework or to communicate with school groups and sports teams through apps, the smartphone is the best option.

Decide on parental controls. The level of restrictions you want to place on your child’s access to the Internet, social networks and contacts may determine your choice. iPhone and Android devices have parental controls built into settings. Parents using Apple Family Sharing or Google Family Link can also limit screen time and set restrictions on app use from their own phones, though the tools require some initial setup.

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Phones designed for kids come with deeper controls and more monitoring, like the ability to read their texts. The developers of these phones say that children cannot circumvent the restrictions.

second hand phones

The main reasons to give away a phone are that you are already familiar with it and that your family members likely have similar devices, so you can share apps and content.

The other side of the coin is that these are usually full-featured devices, so you need to set limits. (If you’re not paying attention, your kids can take advantage of your mistakes to bypass parental controls.) Also, very old phones won’t be safe: It’s important to make sure any phone you give your child has the latest operating system. .

iPhones: With the iOS 16 update, Apple Family Sharing now contains suggestions for age-appropriate content restrictions, as well as a family checklist with tips on how to update settings as kids get older. Quick Start allows you to set up a new iPhone with parental controls already in place. Models dating back to iPhone 8 can run iOS 16. When you give your child an old iPhone, first remove his or her personal information.

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Android: This month, Google updated Family Link to make it easier to manage devices like Samsung Galaxy phones and its own Pixel phones. A new location tab shows all your kids on a map, and if a phone is lost, you can activate its ringtone. Parents can turn on notifications to be alerted when their child arrives or leaves a location. Parents can also set “today only” screen time limits when their child needs an exception. Before giving your child your old Android device, follow these steps.

kids phones

These don’t scream kids phone. They look just like any other fancy Android smartphone. They’re less embarrassing than, say, a flip phone. Think of phones as having training wheels. As kids get older, you can remove some restrictions and, in some cases, upgrade to a version with more features.

The biggest drawback in an Apple-filled social scene is that these phones display the “green bubble” texts feared by teens. Also, if your child already uses an iPad, it can be a hassle to make the switch.

Bark, the developer of a popular child-monitoring app, will release a new phone in November that contains the app’s features.


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Bark

Bark Phone (service and hardware rental starting at $49 per month): The developer of a popular child-monitoring app has integrated the app’s features into a new phone set to launch in mid-November.

In addition to having Bark’s content scanning and parental controls pre-installed, and not removable, this Samsung A13 phone is further personalized with additional features such as location tracking, call blocking, and the ability to manage contacts. Parents who rent a Bark phone can install the Bark Premium app on any of their child’s other devices at no additional charge.

The new Gabb Phone Plus, for kids 13 and older, will soon offer recommended third-party apps.


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chat

Gabb Wireless (phones start at $150; plans start at $18/month): This four-year-old company developed smartwatches for young children, as well as two smartphones: the original Gabb Phone is for kids ages 9 and up, while a higher-end Gabb Phone Plus is for kids ages 13 and up.

Gabb phones do not have an app store or internet browser. If the language of text messages between unknown contacts contains inappropriate content, they will not be delivered and photos of unknown contacts will be blocked. The texts cannot be deleted. Parents can track their children’s location and set “safe zones” such as school grounds or friends’ houses; they will receive notifications if their children’s phones leave those areas. Gabb also has a music service with the best hits without explicit lyrics. Gabb Phone Plus will soon offer recommended third-party apps.

The Troomi phone allows parents to remotely view their children’s text messages and monitor the phone’s location through a web portal.


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troomi

Troomi Wireless (phone starts at $180; plans start at $20/month): The company, launched last year by a Gabb co-founder, sells Samsung phones with a custom operating system. Parents can add features as their children grow.

Parents can remotely view their children’s text messages and control the phone’s location through a web portal. Parents can choose to let their children send and receive photos in the messaging app. The phone contains a content filtering browser and allows parents to add kid-safe apps.

The Pinwheel phone allows parents to monitor their children’s activity, including deleted texts.


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Grinder

Pinwheel (phone starts at $200; $15/mo service fee on top of wireless plan): This kids’ phone option is geared toward high school students, but is designed to grow with the child, possibly into high school.

Parents can monitor their children’s phone activity, including deleted text messages, through a web-based portal. Parents can create daily routines for their children to follow and allow certain apps or contacts during specific times. Phones may contain financial applications and select educational and music applications. There is no web browser and the phone is compatible with Bark’s monitoring software.

For more Family & Tech columns, tips, and answers to your most pressing family-related tech questions, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.

Email Julie Jargon at [email protected]

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