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The 4 best phones to get your kid in 2020

Think about battery life, durability and resilience.

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It seems like we see kids peering at the screen of their own smartphone at a younger and younger age, even though health experts say that kids under age five should only get one hour of screen time a day. On average, kids get their first phone at about 10 years old, according to findings from Influence Central's 2016 Digital Trends Study. This was the last available data, so the average age could've changed in the last few years.

Waiting even that long might not be the best course of action for every family, according to James Banta, home security and safety expert for home security consumer advocacy firm SecurityNerd.com. Knowing their child has a cellphone can mean peace of mind for parents when separated -- during the school day, while on vacation, or during an emergency. In addition, if there are a lot of electronics in the home, the child might show an interest in phones and technology sooner, Banta says. 

If you're thinking about purchasing your child their first phone, you should consider the cost, carrier, battery life, reliability, parental controls and kid-friendly design, Banta says. 

Read more: No more than one hour of screen time for kids under 5, says WHO

Phones typically get more expensive with each passing year. As a parent, it might feel like too big of a risk to put a $1,000 iPhone in the hands of a child (especially given how often we as adults drop our own phones -- or at least this adult does). Even if you've waited until your child became a teen to purchase their first phone you can still find one that's of quality without breaking the bank. 

These are a few devices, available with almost every carrier, that Banta recommended: 

The Nokia 3310

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Nokia

Remember "The Brick"? The Nokia 3310 obviously isn't the flashy iPhone 11 or Pixel 4, but it's a tough phone with great battery life (Read Andrew Hoyle's full review on CNET). The downside? There's no Wi-Fi and no apps -- but some parents might actually consider that an upside. The Nokia 3310 is available for $50 at Best Buy or $55 from Amazon or Adorama. Despite the lack of digital frills, you can still call or text to get in touch with your child, Banta says.

Read more: How to buy your child's first phone

GizmoWatch

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Verizon

The GizmoWatch -- available exclusively from Verizon -- is a $180 4G LTE-connected smartwatch geared toward kids age 3 to 11. Verizon offers a $5-a-month service plan, which allows the child to receive calls from up to 10 numbers preapproved by parents. Parents can also choose up to 20 prewritten text messages that the child can send (like "I'm home."). The device is set up through Verizon's GizmoHub app, which allows parents to view their child's location, and sends alerts if they leave a designated safety zone. The location tracking is also handy in the event that the phone goes missing, Banta said.

It's got some fun features for kids, too, like a fitness and hopscotch tracker and a voice-changing mechanism. The GizmoWatch is a great option if you're looking for options for a very young kid, Banta says.

Palm 

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Palm

In addition to the GizmoWatch, the Palm mini-phone is a good option for parents seeking a minimalist design without forgoing quality or service. The latest version of the Palm phone can handle calls, texts and access to apps on the Google Play store. The Palm retails at $350 for an unlocked device, but Verizon offers payment plans as well if you want to use it as your carrier. 

iPhone 7

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César Salza / CNET

The iPhone 7 -- released in 2016 -- is no longer the most advanced iPhone option, but is a solid starter smartphone for a kid.The device comes with features like water resistance, a durable solid-state home button, and a good camera with rear optical image stabilization. Even though it's last-gen, iOS 13 will run on it (Read Scott Stein's full review on CNET). Perhaps the best part is that the iPhone 7 now only costs about $185 at Walmart. If you do go this route, you should also invest in a durable phone case to protect the screen, Banta says.

Once you've purchased a phone, make sure you check out the best apps to put on it to help you monitor your child's internet browsing and screen time. 

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