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The Best Basic Phones for Kids to Call, Text…and That’s It

We found the best screen-free phones for kids, so they can connect with mom and dad, without the distractions.

As they get older, kids need and crave more freedom, but that doesn’t mean parents don’t want to keep tabs on their whereabouts. That’s where a screen-free basic phone for kids is a must. Cell phones for kids serve one purpose: To keep parents and kids connected. Some might have more bells and whistles than others, but all of them allow mom and dad to contact the kids when needed, and vice versa.

But let’s get real for a minute. Kids are crafty, and they’re relentless when they want something. A smartphone usually tops the list. But a 2016 report released by Common Sense Media found that 50 percent of teens “feel addicted” to mobile devices, and 59 percent of their parents agree that the kids are hooked. Hence, the longer you wait to give them a phone, the better.

Kids’ phones should be screen-free, for the reasons stated above. They should allow parents to set an approved list of contacts, and should be easy enough for younger kids to use, otherwise what’s the point? Make sure that whatever option you choose works with the network your have, otherwise you’re out of luck.

This screen-free, water-resistant, one-touch phone alternative makes it easy to talk to your kids from the free app on your smartphone. It's a simple, user-friendly communication device, which is all kids need.

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Pros: With this phone, there are no screen-time issues and no internet browsing. It’s a simple, solid way to keep tabs on your kids and allow them to reach you when needed. You can attach this to their backpack, or jacket.

Cons: Setup can be unwieldy and unduly complicated. Once it’s up and running, there’s not much to speak of in terms of bells and whistles, which is a pro and a con.

This kids' smart watch slash phone uses the 4G network, and lets kids send text messages, voice messages, photos and emojis. Plus, it works with group chat.

Pros: The TickTalk3 smart watch phone has texting, video, calling, and GPS tracking capabilities. Plus it’s waterproof. Note that it’s only compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T networks.

ConsThe TickTalk 3 is not compatible with Verizon or Sprint’s network, so if you use those, skip this one.

VTech, the maker of kids toys and cameras, has finally entered the phone game. This phone lets kids send texts, voice messages, photos and drawings to people on their approved contact list, via WiFi only.

Pros: By connecting to a WiFi network, kids can stay connected to their parents. The phone also has a kid-safe web browser that blocks access to inappropriate content.

Cons: It works only with WiFi, so its use is rather limited.

This is billed as the world's first 4G GPS tracker and phone, which gives parents full control. Your kid can only call or text numbers that are pre-programmed by mom and dad, and we particularly love the bright-red SOS button to use in case of emergency. Press it and it will text your kid's current location to and dial up to three assigned numbers.

Pros: You can track where your kid is via the app and view their location history. The GeoFencing feature lets parents set a predetermined area and receive an alert if the phone (and presumably the child carrying it) enters or leaves the area. You can program 15 numbers into the phone, and these are the only numbers junior can call or text.

Cons: This is not what we’d call a thing of beauty, but it’s functional and practical, though some parents complain that it’s not sturdy enough for careless kids.

An absolutely genius phone that lets you send your kid text messages that they can respond to. You can also program numbers they can call, and they can send you sweet and funny voice messages.

Pros: If your child has a tendency to wander off, you can check their location using the GizmoHub app and set GPS boundaries. If your kid crosses one, you’ll get an automated alert. The user interface is really friendly and easy to use, and it keeps track of your kid’s steps to boot.

Cons: The price. Plus, you need to sign up for a Verizon plan, or add this to your existing plan.

It's a cute, customizable, affordable phone that does everything you need, without any pesky internet surfing or games. It works on any prepaid carrier on the AT&T network., which means nationwide coverage.

Pros: Comes loaded with a 2MP camera, bluetooth, radio, space for a MicroSD Card, and a headphone jack. It’s a basic phone that does what it’s supposed to do: let you keep tabs on your kids.

Cons: The battery life isn’t stellar, so when your kid isn’t using it, make sure they’re diligent about charging it.

Designed primarily for seniors (which is also why it’s great for children), the Jitterbug is a basic flip phone with oversize numbers, a hefty screen, and that's about it. The simple menu is easy to navigate with giant buttons, the battery is long-lasting, and there’s even a camera.

Pros: This is a stellar gateway phone. It’s easy to use, the buttons are foolproof, and the sound is clear. Just the basics, but it works.

Cons: You have to use the GreatCall service, so you cannot choose your own phone carrier. However, there are no contracts or cancellation fees.

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