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The Best Basic Cell Phones for Kids

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

The current crop of basic cell phones for kids are tailor-made for concerned parents. Many have geo-tracking and -fencing. Most have limitations on who your children can contact through approved lists by you. Some have panic buttons; few include browsers, social media, or other distractions. We can’t guarantee you kids will want to talk with you, but we’ll be they won’t have many other options.

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Think of Pinwheel's three devices as a throttled smartphone with full transparency. While children can stream music, make calls, and send texts, all is completely reviewable to you. There's also no games, no app store, no browser, and no streaming. We were impressed with its completely programmable schedule so your child can take part in moving through the day. There's a modest monthly fee in addition to the device's cost.

As others on this list, through its proprietary device, Gabb eliminates social media apps, the internet, and games to reduce screen time and boil its use down to function alone. It includes unlimited talk and text through its monthly service fee, as well as GPS tracking. Our one critique is its monthly service fee of up to $25 a month ($18/month with a two-year contract) is one of the steepest on this list.

Originally designed for seniors, Jitterbug's third-gen device is also great for kids. While it does include a web browser and maps, there are zero apps and other distractions. An 'urgent response' button connects your child with first responders should emergency arise.

This looks like a basic cell phone, and for most intents, it is. But thanks to 4G connectivity, your child, if pressed, can access some premium functions, including social media, a few games, and Facebook. But while one might think these are counterproductive, its old-school keypad will throttle any excessive usage.

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.