Brainy Parenting

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 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.

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.

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.

Call this the nuclear option: a dummy phone-shaped piece of inert plastic. Does it have a great camera? It is literally a piece of plastic. App store? It's solid plastic. Charger? Accessories? Earbuds?! DEAD, COLD PLASTIC. Think of this as a solution for the smartphone-obsessed child who says he or she feels physical pain without the phantom limb of a device. At least you'll finally get attention at the dinner table.

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