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 basic phones for kids, including screen-free devices, come into play. Kids’ cell phones serve one purpose: to connect parents and kids quickly. Some might boast impressive displays and others less so, but all allow mom and dad to contact the kids when needed, and vice versa. In essence, the best phones for kids are a prepaid (and guaranteed) emergency line to your child and little else, 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 basic 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.
This tidy little device allows the user to call a list of pre-programmed numbers by you and only you, making it perfect for parents. Ditto for texts. It includes no browsers or apps, but does add an SOS button, GPS tracking, and geofencing, and location history, which we love. The only negative is that it requires a service plan exclusively through KidsConnect, which can range from $15 to $45 a month, depending on your predicted usage.
Somewhere between an iPhone and a dumb phone is the new Z2. Gabb's second-generation kid-specific device now includes music, a larger screen, and upgraded dual cameras, but it still lacks a browser and social media of the original. Also back: its GPS function, which allows you to find your kid almost instantly. Beyond the cost of the device, service starts at $20 a month.
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.
At first glance, no one is impressed with the Orbic Journey V—and that's the point. Nevertheless, it still boasts seven hours of continuous talk time and up to 10 days between charges. Your child can text and call, but he or she will struggle with its minuscule two-megapixel photos on a three-inch display. This is the antidote for excessive screen time.
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.
First things first: This device is not a cell phone. Children can send images, texts, and voice messages when connected to WiFi to an approved list of contacts through an app called KidiConnect, but he or she can't call. Still, there are a lot of communication options for a generation that may not prefer to speak over the phone, and its shatterproof screen makes it a solid option for children who play rough. While it doesn't have a browser or social media, it does include augmented reality and games to keep your kid entertained.
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