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One night my friends and I were talking about things we would do differently with our kids. I mentioned that I would have held waaaaay back on electronics. My friend disagreed with me. “I don’t know. Since I divorced my kids’ dad, giving them a phone was the only way I could talk to them when they were at their dad’s house. Their dad wasn’t always around, and it was hard to get his new wife to let my kids call me.” I’ve heard similar experiences from other single parents- but most of us need to reach our kids at one time or another. How do we navigate the risks and benefits that are associated with giving kids phones? In this post, I’m sharing alternatives to smartphones to help with navigating the phone question in your home.
Alternatives to Smartphones
If you want to avoid screens, RELAY is for you. This is a walkie-talkie of sorts for families. The user pushes the button to talk to you or another RELAY user. You answer them via an app on your phone. It also works nationwide, without having traditional walkie-talkie distance restrictions. Multiple channels are available for the ability to contact multiple people- but parents must grant access through the app first.
Features: GPS locator, music uploads possible
Purchase Price: $49.99
Monthly service price: $9.99
This durable Gizmo watch phone is a really cool option- especially if you don’t want to start a “phone habit” with your younger kids, but still need them to be able to communicate with you. (Am I the only one who has forgotten to pick up their kid from basketball practice?)
My sister-in-law uses a Gizmo for her kids and LOVES it. She especially loves the watch design, because that makes it harder for her kids to lose it. (Keeping it real!) This is used only with Verizon, so if that carrier is not in your location, this isn’t a good option for you.
Features: 10 contacts to call or text. GPS locator, clock, step tracker, alarm, to-do list,
Purchase price: $99, but watch for sales!
Monthly service price: $10
If your child is ready for a “real phone”, but not a typical smart phone, getting a GABB phone is a great option. It looks like a smart phone, but has no internet browser or app store. Traditional smartphones with parental controls or filters can be circumvented (if you want a good scare, google “how to get around parental controls”), but this one can’t be hacked- because the functionality is not there to begin with! My family owns two Gabb phones, and they work great.
Features: GPS location, an option to allow/not allow images to be texted, calculator, calendar, camera, clock, contacts, file manager, fm radio, gallery, texting, music, video and voice recorder
Product price: $99.99 (But save $30 with promo code: RAISETHEGOOD30)
Monthly price: $19.99/month for base plan, $24.99 for image and group texting
The Most important part
I always, always, always recommend having a family plan about how, where and when electronics are used. Better Screen Time has the best guidance I have seen on this, and I HIGHLY recommend that you take a look at what they offer. Seriously. It is so good, based on solid principles, and is totally customizable for your family. It stops fights about technology before they begin= priceless!
These are the best alternatives to smartphones that I have found when taking into account cost, durability and a proven track record. What solutions do you use for your family?