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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

How to Choose Your Kid’s First Smartphone

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

How to know which is better for Parental Controls: Andriod or Apple?

Today I wanted to share with you some things to consider when it comes time to buy your child their first smartphone. This is the second most asked question that I get next to what firearm is best for home defense. So we’re going to look at some tech specs and some general guidelines for parents and kids.

Flippin’ Phones

Before we even get to smartphones, know that they still make flip phones. While these are not cool at all, they are a good solution for simple communication. They can be tracked on most family monitoring apps and they’re cheap.

You may want to get a pay-as-you-go flip phone for the family as a backup if someone loses a phone. Plus, you’ll look like you’re on an episode of Burn Notice, and who doesn’t want that?

Apple vs Andriod for Kids

So the first question that most parents think about is with a smartphone is Apple vs Android. Maybe you have an old phone that you want to pass down to your kid to save some money. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to these makers, there are pros and cons.

Evaluating Apple

When it comes to Apple I feel like they excel at ease of use, popularity in the US, and privacy and security. That’s why chances are you’re listening to this show on an Apple device. Apple is great about pushing updates and keeping its phones safe from malware and hackers. Though they’re not bulletproof by any means.

Apple is also known for its public commitment to privacy which is good for us as adults who don’t want people looking at our texts, phone calls, and browser history. But where this is bad for parents is that it makes it harder for us to monitor our kid's texts, phone calls, and browsing history. So privacy and security cut both ways for Apple.

It’s great for responsible adults, but it’s harder for parents to monitor their kid's activities because Apple is so restrictive with third-party monitoring apps. So let’s take a look at Android.

Evaluating Andriod

I’m going to cut straight to the chase, Android beats Apple when it comes to parental controls and third-party monitoring apps. It does hands down.

Parental control apps like Bark and Canopy work on Apple and Andriod, but there is much more control on the Android platform.

Simply put, Android is much more open to developers when it comes to privacy. That’s why many tech experts recommend Andriod for kids and teens. If you remember Sarah Kimmel of Family Tech who has been on the show is an ardent supporter of Android phones for kids.

However, Android has more vulnerabilities overall than Apple does. And depending on what carrier you have, it can be worse. Some carriers can’t support all versions of Android’s operating system on their phones.

If you have Verizon or AT&T chances are you’ll be okay. If you use a pay-as-you-go service like Mint or Boost then you may run into this problem. Also if you stick with major manufacturers like Samsung or Google, you should be better off.

The cheaper the brand of phone and the carrier, the chances are that your teen will have issues with functionality and be excluded from new games. So keep that in mind.

I’ll say when I had an Android device a long time ago, I always felt like it was buggy and could crash at any point. Now things are better since then, but that is something you need to know.

Again, there are pros and cons to each, it just depends on how you want to monitor our kid's devices. By no means is this an exhaustive comparison, I just cut to the chase.

Green vs. Blue Text Bubbles

And you do need to be aware that kids do tend to pick on each other in group texts because of the color of a text message bubble. In Apple’s iMessage app, Android messages are green and don’t let you see features like if a message has been read.

I know I’ve done this with my friends, but that can be a social issue for teens. A solution is to move group messages to another app, but you still need to make sure you can monitor that app.

You don’t want your kids using Signal or Telegram where monitoring apps can’t go.

Just be aware, that your teenager may be picked on for the green color of an Android message bubble on an Apple phone.

SmartKID Phone?

You are probably wishing that there was a smartphone for kids and teens. Well, companies like Troomi and Pinwheel make phones for parents to give to their kids. With these phones, parents can control what contacts kids put on their phones, app download approval, and time management just to name a few features.

And just so you know these are Andriod devices, not iPhones. If you’d like to go this route, then you can start with Troomi and Pinwheel to see which is better for your family.

I mentioned Bark earlier in the show, they are an internet safety and parental control app. They will soon be launching their own phone. What I know so far is that it will be a top-of-the-line Android device with Bark preinstalled. Kid safety will be a top priority of the operating system.

It won’t look like a child’s phone with buttons and all of that, so kids won’t be embarrassed to have it. I’ll keep an eye on this as it develops and let you know if I can find out anything more about it. I did reach out to Bark for some details, but they’re not ready to share just yet, which I respect.

Parental Controls and Third Party Apps

As a parent in the digital world of 2022, I do highly recommend setting up native parental controls as well as getting a third-party monitoring app like Bark and Canopy.

Do not hand your kid a device that’s just wide open to the internet.

Harmful content and predators are out there and they know how to manipulate young minds. Remember Chris Hadnagy of the Innocent Lives Foundation said that anywhere our kids want to go online, predators are already there.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that your tenacious 12-year-old stands a chance against a seasoned child predator without help. The predators are the lions and your children are the lambs. That’s how this works. It’s an age-old story that’s playing out in a digital world.

Before you hand your kid a phone, you do need to talk about the responsibility that comes with it. Make sure that your kid or teen is mature enough to use the phone correctly. The best way to keep your kids safe on a smartphone is to educate them as users.

That’s why I’ve come up with my presentation, 5 Family Rules for Phones. This is a free video I’ve created that goes over 5 rules you want to know before you hand a smartphone or any data device over to a young person. The whole thing is less than 15 minutes, so think of it as a bonus to this episode.

I hope that I’ve been able to help you sort out many of the details in this parental decision. It’s up to each family to make the decision that’s best for us. What works for us may not work for our neighbors, and that’s fine.

But whatever we do, we can’t just hand a kid or teen a phone with no education, no monitoring, and hope they’ll make good decisions. That’s not safe for our kids and we need to step up to protect them in the digital world, too.

Watch The Podcast on Smartphones for Kids


Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.


Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

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