When it comes to smart phone alternatives for kids, parents have a lot more options today than they did even a few years ago. The main criteria most parents cite for giving their kids a personal device is overwhelmingly being able to get in touch with the child. The reality is, smart phones do so much more than that, but parents often don’t have the know-how to turn “off” everything that is not needed. Unfortunately, smart phones open kids up to a whole host of Internet dangers and mental health challenges, which is exactly why smart parents started inventing alternative solutions. Rest assured, you absolutely DON’T have to purchase an iPhone for your second grader in order to keep tabs on them. When it comes to putting technology in a kid’s hands to be able to reach them easily, we favor devices that were designed with kids in mind.
Here are a few options to consider:
RELAY (pictured above) — These cute and clever devices function similarly to a walkie-talkie system. However, they work on a cellular network, so there’s not the normal limit to geographic distance that a two-way radio system would have. We found Relays to be a great option for our pre-teen to have when riding his bike to the library around the corner. We simply wanted a way for him to be able to check in with us so we knew he made it safe and sound… and he also used it to let us know it was raining one time, to ask if we would be able to come get him or if he should wait for weather to pass. Relay is only $50 for each device and $5/month. Fabulous ideas for use: Splitting up family members for a short time at an amusement park, exploring during a camping trip, and general neighborhood play. These devices wouldn’t be ideal for sending to school, because the button is easily pushed if in a backpack or something, and there’s no “silencing” option, which most schools require. They are great for recreational use, however!
Gabb Wireless — Yes, we are more than excited about this NON-smart phone in a smart phone body. The product is brand-spanking new, just hitting its first wave of customers in Fall of 2019. Created by a dad who “gets it,” these phones don’t have any internet capabilities other than talk/text. No apps, no browser, no app store. The device itself costs under $100, and service will be $20/month. There will be two options for features by Christmas 2019, one that makes MMS available (sending photos, also allowing group texts) and one that does not. Pick whichever suits your family’s needs!
Gizmo Watch — This one’s been around for awhile, and it’s great for young users. By middle school, your kid might think it’s a bit “babyish” but it’s perfect for the elementary years when all a parent wants to know is if the kid made it on the right school bus route home. It’s $180 and only available on Verizon. It’s important to note that only the newest models will work into 2020… previous 2G versions are being discontinued.
You might find other off-brand options as well, but these are three of the most popular alternatives to giving a pre-teen a smart phone. You can always go the flip phone route, which we did for 8th grade as training unto earning a locked down smart phone. We emphatically support the Wait Until 8th movement, and firmly believe that making kids wait is a really important and worthy endeavor. There are so many trials that come with smart phone life (we know, our high schooler has just begun this journey!)… so we would encourage every parent to cross that line very deliberately and cautiously when their family is ready!