Best Non Smart Dumb Phones to Protect Your Kids
Buying a non-smart dumb phone for a child is a smart move. Unlike smartphones, they will let your kid grow up human without developing a smartphone addiction and being exposed to online dangers.
Why Do Parents Buy Phones?
When we decide to get our children their first phone, what we really want is:
- To be able to reach kids via calls and texts
- To give them the freedom to arrange their own social life
- To know where they are. To keep them safe.
How do we give our children the gift of connectivity – without the dangers of a smartphone?
Here is our overview of child-safe non-smart phones and their features.
I got these phones for my 2 older kids when they were 12 and 15 (never had smartphones before), and they were thrilled! Here is a detailed post documenting their experience.
What is unique about the GABB phone is that it is a “dumb” phone that looks like a smartphone so children can preserve their social standing. Kids, especially teenagers, are terrified of not blending in with their tribe – and all of their friends have smartphones. Teens are only rebellious when it comes to parents, with peers they want to conform. With GABB phone, they can look “cool” like their peers with smartphones.
GABB phone looks like a smartphone, but without all the dangers:
- No addictive video games
- No toxic social media
- No porn
- No manipulative advertising
- No distracting apps
- No Internet browsing
- Real time GPS tracking of your kid’s Gabb phone from a parent smartphone
- Parent-enabled 100+ apps
- Gabb Music (clean music streaming service – optional subscription)
- Gabb Phone: $149.99
- Gabb Phone 3 Pro: $199.99
- Monthly subscription: $19.99-$24.99
It’s much cheaper to replace than an expensive smartphone if the kid loses or breaks it. The drawback is that you cannot add it to your existing family plan, but the monthly fee of $19.99-$24.99 is comparable to most carriers. I pay it to protect my kids from smartphone addiction until they are old enough to be trusted with actual smartphones. Also, Gabb phones only work in the United States for now – I hope international connectivity will be added in the future.
Gabb watch is basically a wearable phone. The Gabb Watch triples as a cell phone, GPS device, and interactive watch. It is a stand-alone device with more affordable monthly service plans than the Gabb phone (from $9.99 to $16.99 depending on the length of the contract).
Ongoing discount with promo code TECHDETOX.
10% OFF Pinwheel Kids Phone with promo code TECHDETOX
Pinwheel is the child-safe smartphone designed for kids. My 17 year old uses it, here is our review of teen experience with a Pinwheel phone. The company’s mission is to put humans (particularly, parents!) back in charge of technology with the phone that is built to be a tool, not an entertainment center. The phone is specifically designed to resist the toxic dopamine reward loop of addictive technology:
- Has its own operating system to protect kids’ attention and wellbeing
- No Internet browser, no App store, no social media, no video games
- Parents can choose from the list of pre-approved apps vetted by child psychologists to be beneficial – not addictive. Apps emphasize learning, communication, creativity, and wellness
- Unlike Gabb, Pinwheel is dynamic and customizable: it can grow with your child as you add access to apps when you think your child is ready for them. Examples that caught my attention include Kindle reader, Khan academy, Spotify, Google Classroom, WhatsApp, or Uber – depending on what your family needs. You can find the current list of apps here. There are 500+ expert-approved apps, which makes Pinwheel the phone with the most options.
- Bark child safety software can monitor all activity on the phone and warn parents of any dangerous content (additional charge, with a discount provided by Pinwheel)
- Unlike app-free Gabb phone, every third party app on Pinwheel has a potential for loopholes. The team of engineers is on standby to fix any workarounds kids might find within the apps. If an app deteriorates into addiction, it risks being removed.
- If you want no apps, you can lock the phone down in the basic functions of calls and text, just like a Gabb phone
- Pinwheel currently comes in 3 models:
- Pinwheel Rugged $249 (Incompatible with AT&T and Verizon)
- Pinwheel Slim $159 (Incompatible with AT&T and Verizon)
- Pinwheel Plus $329 (Compatible with all major carriers)
- You can keep your current phone carrier, but a subscription to Pinwheel Parent Dashboard ($14.99 a month) is required to use the phone
- Pinwheel phone is more expensive than a Gabb phone, but in theory can be used longer without switching to the smartphone with all its harms
Get 10% OFF Pinwheel Kids Phone with promo code TECHDETOX
- Troomi is a Samsung phone with a proprietary child-safe Android-based operating system with built-in parental controls:
- Troomi Samsung A14 5G $199.95
- Troomi Samsung Xcover Pro $399.95
- Troomi Kids Smart Watch: no Internet access, no unwanted calls, no social media: $129.95
- No social media, video games, or unrestricted Internet access
- Built-in security to block pornography and predators
- GPS family location tracking
- Monitoring kids’ activity via a parent portal
- Like Gabb, Troomi has its own wireless network, so you have to switch from your existing carrier to their plan:
- Dare: $13.95/month (includes talk, text, GPS)
- Do: $19.95/month (includes talk, text, GPS, text monitoring)
- Dream: $24.95/month (adds picture and group texting)
- Discover: $29.95/month (adds Safe Browser and Safe Apps)
- Troomi has 9 basic apps (maps, calculator, music player, weather) available on all plans, and about 50 approved safe kids apps only available with a premium plan. The list of apps is likely to expand once safety experts approve apps for children.
- We partnered with Troomi to offer our readers $30 dollars off with exclusive promo code TECHDETOX.199.95
- Bark is the company with a proven record of protecting millions of children online. Their powerful AI monitoring software helps prevent self-harm, bullying, predators, and porn.
- Their founders are experts in online dangers, making a documentary and publishing a book about digital parenting.
- Bark phone has all this technology and expertise built in.
- The Bark Phone is a Samsung A13. It looks like a regular smartphone – there is no Bark branding visible, but it’s got powerful built-in parental controls.
- Parents with either Android or iPhones will be able to manage everything from the Bark Parent app.
Price: Free (with 2 year contract) or $199 (no contract)
Monthly Plans (All plans include a phone, Bark Premium, and wireless service):
$29/month for younger kids (talk, text, GPS – no apps)
$49/month for Wi-Fi only
$59/month for 4GB data
$69/month for 8GB data
$89/month for unlimited data
The phone comes with a monthly Bark Premium subscription for the Bark Phone – so the added benefit is that it can monitor all of the other devices and accounts in your family. If you’ve already got one, it will be rolled into your phone payment — you won’t be paying double.
- We partnered with Bark to offer a 20% off discount for the life of your account with our promo code TECHDETOX20 (the discount does not apply to the phone or monthly fees, only Bark parental controls).
- Wisephone is a kid-safe minimalist phone designed for adults
- Healthy boundaries: no games, social media, or Internet browser
- Family Portal to manage and monitor device usage
- Up to 3 Day practical battery life
- No reporting to Big Tech, ad free platform-wide
- No access to explicit/adult content
- Maps that don’t sell your location data
- Minimal color palette to reduce eye strain
- Curated list of essential apps: phone, messaging, maps, notes, music, photos
- MP3s and podcasts can be downloaded via USB cable
- Contacts can be imported from iCloud & Google
- $299 (with monthly subscription)
- $599 (lifetime, without monthly subscription)
- $7 Monthly subscription fee
- Keep your cell phone carrier: works with T-Mobile and AT&T and their partners, might not work with Verizon yet
$30 OFF with our promo code TECHDETOX
- CleanPhone is a phone that grows with the child: parents can limit it to just talk and text, or add apps they think the child is ready for.
- Made by the same company that created CleanRouter
- No browser, app store, or social media apps
- Parent portal app or via the web to add/delete apps, monitor text messages, turn Internet on and off, and set screen time limits. See this YouTube video for more
- Current phone is a Motorola, running on Android operating system, future models will vary
- Monthly subscription is required for the phone to work
- CleanPhone concept is similar to Pinwheel phone but less advertised
- Keep your cell phone carrier, works with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.
- Price – 3 options:
- Free Phone + $19.99 monthly fee (cellular+WiFi)
- $99 Phone + $9.99 monthly fee (cellular+WiFi)
- $49.99 Phone + $5.99 monthly fee (WiFi only, can’t connect to cellular)
The Light Phone II is a minimalist phone, designed to be used as little as possible
Black and white screen similar to e-readers
No social media, clickbait news, email, or internet browser
It’s a phone, it calls and texts
Customizable menu of simple tools: an alarm, a calculator, directions, a simple music player, and a podcasts tool.
Headphone jack, Bluetooth, and it can be used as a personal hotspot.
Price: $299, compatible U.S. Carriers:
Light, T-Mobile, Verizon (no prepaid, no numbershare), AT&T, Ting, Mint, US Mobile
- Swiss-made minimalist 4G phone designed to connect with people without distracting notifications
- Sold unlocked, works with all carriers
- Minimalist interface: phonebook button to make a call, text button to send a message, simple menu system for everything else. Monochrome display.
- Hotspot capability: Internet access can be tethered via Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/USB: broadcasting phone’s mobile signal as a Wi-Fi network to a laptop or any other device
- Designed for security: includes proprietary privacy protocol to provide encrypted Internet-based calls and texts worldwide
- No browser, apps, or group texts. It’s a quality feature phone.
- Price: $379-$399
- Calling and texting only 4G phone, only pre-programmed numbers are allowed
- 2 options:
- No Internet, No Apps
- GPS Tracker sending coordinates to parents’ phone app
- SOS Feature to send a text with a GPS location and auto-dial 3 numbers
- GeoFencing feature allows parents to set a predetermined area and receive an alert if the phone enters or leaves the area.
- The Voice Monitoring feature allows parents to monitor the child’s surroundings.
- Only works with KidsConnect plan, cannot connect to your existing carrier. 7 different monthly plans range from $15-$45.
Kids Smartwatch with a GPS Tracker
- A cell phone alternative
- The main appeal of these devices is that they allow parents to track kids’ location in real time.
- Insert a SIM card and add the device as a line with your cell phone provider (not all providers support them).
- Children can place and receive phone calls only from contacts programmed by parents.
- Pairs with the parent’s smartphone via an app.
- Some still come preloaded with distracting games, which kind of defeats the purpose.
- Gizmo by Verizon was the first to come up with the concept, now a number of options are available:
The problem with most basic phones is that they are really difficult for texting – you have to press the key several times to get to the letter you need. The phones with slide-out keyboard like LG Expression make texting easy, which is what kids want. And they are an earlier version of touch-screen.
Before Gabb phones, I bought these QWERTY keyboard dumb phones for 2 of my children and added them to our family plan – without data. Full disclosure: the 12-year old embraced the basic texting and calling and used the phone to communicate with friends, but the 15-year old refused to have anything to do with an “uncool” phone, and only used it when he needed to call us. The phones also had connectivity issues with our carrier, Tmobile.
LG Expression QWERTY phone
ZTE Altair 2
- An unlocked GSM phone, can be activated with a SIM card from your carrier
- Skip the data plan to use for only calling and texting
- Has a keyboard for easy texting
- Not a smartphone – no WiFi capability
Flip phones are making a comeback as more people realize the harmful effects of smartphone addiction. I was interviewed for the Washington Times article “Gen Z dumps smartphones for dumbphones to escape screen addiction”:
“But the trend is more than a marketing ploy, said Kate Harner, New Jersey-based founder of TechDetoxBox.com, a website that advises parents on reducing screen time.
Ms. Harner, whose 14- and 17-year-old children do not have smartphones, pointed to a growing movement of parents restricting their children’s access to digital devices and social media.
“The luddite movement among the kids voluntarily switching to flip phones is probably small, because kids addicted to smartphones are unlikely to give them up,” Ms. Harner said. “But the parents’ concerns about smartphone addiction are almost universal, and the movement to protect the kids and their mental health is huge.”
“My kids would rather have smartphones, and if you ask them, they will complain about me profusely,” Ms. Harner said. “However, today they have no depression or anxiety, get good grades, can look people in the eye and are voracious readers.”
Bottom line: a flip phone without Internet connection is a simple and affordable option for the first dumb phone for kids. Here are some feature phones without Internet capability to choose from:
What Can Happen When a Child Gets a Smartphone
The reason we buy our kids a phone is to protect them. To worry about them less. To make sure they are safe.
But what happens in reality is exactly the opposite of “safe”.
A smartphone comes preloaded with these features:
- Distraction and cheating at school
- Toxic social media
- Addictive video gaming
- Porn in their pocket
- Exposure to violence
- Open access for predators
- Depression and anxiety
- Behavior manipulation by Big Data
- Self-harming behaviors
- Sleep deprivation
- Degradation of social skills
- Compromised childhood development
The list goes on. Instead of making our kids safe, a fully-loaded smartphone destroys their humanity. It is the most dangerous object we hand to them.
In our family, we decided to give dumb phones to our kids to opt out from these negative consequences and signed the WaitUntil8th campaign pledge that encourages parents to wait at least until the 8th grade before giving children a smartphone. Considering the ever-growing Ledger of Harms, we might wait even longer. Our oldest is in high-school – without a smartphone.
A dumb phone will increase the chances that he would focus on his education and grow up independent from smartphone addiction.
What If My Child Already Has a Smartphone?
Even if you gave your child a smartphone, it does not automatically mean a life of 24/7 distractions. The problem is Internet access, not the phone itself. And Internet access on the smartphone can be limited in these ways:
- Opt out of – or limit – the data plan for your child when activating their phone with your cell phone carrier
- Limit WiFi at home to specific hours using router settings and parental controls
- Limit Internet access using cell phone carrier parental controls or screen time management apps
- Take the phone away when it’s not to be used according to family media rules. That’s what our product TechDetox Box is designed for:
- No tech in the bedroom, at the dinner table, or outside designated screen time hours
- No multitasking with the phone distractions during homework
- No unauthorized apps, games, or social media
- Content filters for both family WiFi network and cell phone data to keep out the bad stuff
We plan to keep these rules in place even when our kids are 18.
Dear son/daughter, once you launch as an adult and pay for your own phone, you can set your own screen time rules.
Hopefully, by then you’d be a mature human being able to resist addictive technology without our help.