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 screen-free basic phones for kids come into play. Kids’ cell phones 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. In essence, it’s an emergency phone for your child, which is pretty much all you need.
If you’re not ready to get your children pricey iPhones that will send them down the social media rabbit hole, these screen-free kids’ phones are a solid stopgap solution. The phones on our list allow parents to communicate with their kids, set an approved list of contacts, and in many cases, see exactly where their kids are at any given time. Make sure that whatever option you choose works with the network your have, otherwise you’re out of luck.
A brilliant watch that lets parents know where their kids are, call or text them, and set GPS boundaries. If your child has a tendency to wander off, you can check their location using the GizmoHub app and set GPS limits. If your kid crosses one, you'll get an automated alert. Bonus: Parents can establish goals and reminders, and count kids' steps to try and keep them somewhat active. The watch works on the Verizon network so you'll need to enroll in a plan. Depending on use, you get four days' worth of battery life.
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. It also has video, calling, and GPS tracking capabilities. The big screen is great for little hands, and the battery lasts a day, so you do need to charge it every night. Note that it's only compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T networks.
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, with a one-day battery life. With this phone, there are no screen-time issues and no internet browsing. You can attach this to their backpack, or jacket. You do need to sign up for Relay service, which is $10 per month.
It's like a phone, without the phone part. You can run iOS apps, connect via Bluetooth, and even make FaceTime calls over WiFi; you need to set up parental controls to disable or delete whatever apps you don't want your kids using, and stop them from downloading anything from the app store. It has an 8MP camera, 1080p HD video recording, and a battery that can last up to 40 hours.
Like the watch above, but in more understated colors, should your kid prefer something quieter. The user interface is really friendly and easy to use, and it keeps track of your kid's steps to boot. The battery lasts up to four days. However, this watch only works on the Verizon network.
Perhaps the most cool-looking minimalist smartphone you can buy, this one lets you call or text your kids, and they can create a contact list from imported contacts, use a calculator, set alarms, and use it as a hotspot. If you have T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T service, you can switch the SIM card; the phone runs on 4G LTE connectivity. The phone has no access to the internet or social media. The battery lasts between 1-3 days, based on usage levels.
See those three bright red buttons? Those are the VIP numbers your kid calls the most. Parents can also add 15 pre-programmed numbers so kids can chat with grandma or grandpa. We particularly love the bright-red SOS button to use in case of emergency. And kids can't turn off the phone; only parents can, by using the app. You choose a plan based on your needs, so the costs per month vary.
A kid-friendly watch, this one from Timex sends your child's location to the secure app and notifies you when they leave a designated area. Your kid gets two-way calling within a private contact group. Plus, the watch lets kid send recorded voice messages, instant messages, and preset messages. There's also an SOS emergency alert button. It works on the Metro and T-Mobile networks.
Gabb's phone works with the nationwide network, which runs you $20 per month for unlimited talk and text. The phone itself has a front and rear camera for taking selfies, photos, and videos, a headphone port, and 12 pre-installed apps including calculator, calendar, and messaging. But the phone has no browser, no app store, no games, and no social media. It runs on the 4G LTE network. The battery lasts about 48 hours.
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