Best Dumb Phones for Smart Kids
Buying a dumb phone for your kid is a smart move. Unlike smartphones, dumb phones will let your child 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 them via phone calls and texts
- To give them the freedom to arrange their social life (and free us from this time-consuming responsibility)
- To track their location to know they are safe
What Actually Happens
These are the reasons we buy our kids a phone: 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 heading into high-school – without a smartphone.
A dumb phone will ensure that he can focus on his education and actually grow up smart – and independent from smartphone addiction.
How do we give our children the gift of connectivity - without any of the dangers?
Below is our overview of safe dumb phones for kids and their features.
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
It’s much cheaper to replace than an expensive smartphone if the kid loses or breaks it. The only 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.
- A screenless push-to-talk smartphone alternative for kids
- Preprogrammed numbers for parents or caregivers
- Pairs with an app on a parent’s smartphone
- As simple to use as a walkie-talkie, but has the range of a cell phone with nationwide 4G LTE & WiFi coverage
- A way to keep in touch and track kids’ location without the distractions of screens
- SOS function for parents to call 911 and send help directly
- No concerns of exposure to inappropriate content and cyber bullying: parents control available channels of communication
- Current monthly plans range from $8.33 to $12.50 a month
- Much cheaper and more durable than a smartphone
LG Expression QWERTY phone
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.
I bought these QWERTY keyboard dumb phones for 2 of my children and added them to our family plan – without data. Full disclosure: the 11-year old embraced the basic texting and calling and uses the phone to communicate with friends, but the 14-year old refused to have anything to do with an “uncool” phone, and only takes it when he needs to call us.
Kids Smartwatch Phone with a GPS Tracker
- 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, such as this one:
- Calling and texting only 4G phone, only pre programmed numbers are allowed
- 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. Monthly plans range from $15-$45.
Light Phone 2
- Texting and calling, no images, no camera, no Internet
- A phone for kids or for adults who wish to unplug: designed to be used as little as possible
- No social media, ads, news or email
- Simple music player and a podcasts tool
- Will work with compatible carriers
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
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 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 three ways:
- Opt out of – or limit – the data plan for your child when activating their phone
- 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
When it’s time to finally introduce children to smartphones, a good place to start is outlining the rules of engagement with a cell phone contract. As long as mom and dad are paying for devices, family media rules apply:
- 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 the pull of addictive technology without your parents’ help.