With five kids from 2 to 11, we’re in the process of getting our older kids cell phones. While some would choose to purchase their children the latest iPhone or Android phone, my wife and I are much more hesitant. Not only are the prices of these smartphones rather steep, I’m not sure I’m ready to let my kids have access to the world. Call me an overprotective parent if you’d like, but I’d prefer to have a few more years of teaching before I give them access to social media, texting, and a tiny computer they can take with them wherever they go. What’s more is that smartphones aren’t very rugged, and my kids seem to break just about everything.
That being said, I still want my kids to be able to communicate with me if there’s a problem or if they need me to pick them up. My oldest son is heavily involved in competitive basketball and soccer.
If you’re like me and in a similar situation, here’s the solution my wife and I have come up with. We use some good and cheap tablets for our kids so they don’t miss out on all their favorite apps and a flip phone or other more practical options for communicating.
Carrier and App Parental Controls
Alternatively, you could hand down your old smartphone to your child and use a parental control app. There are many apps to choose from, with some having a yearly or monthly fee and others offering fewer features for free. In addition, removing data and using your carrier’s built-in parental controls can allow GPS tracking or limit texting, picture texting, filter browsing, or other capabilities you might not want your children to have. The time of day they can use their phone can also be restricted.
If you want more information I’d recommend you go directly to your carrier’s website for additional details. A lot of the information for most carriers can also be found on this post by Teen Safe.
GSM vs CDMA
There are two types of networks that cell phone carriers use. Before purchasing a no-contract flip phone, be sure that it’s compatible with your carrier. For example, AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM networks, while Sprint and Verizon use CMDA. Even if a phone is unlocked it will still only work with the network it’s setup for.
10 Good Kids’ Flip Cell Phones and Watch Phone Locators
Depending on what phone service you use, you may or may not be able to use certain carriers on the market. So, here’s a look at some of the better flip phone options from each carrier.
T-Mobile LG 450 Flip Phone
The LG 450 is your basic flip phone with a few extras that work well with kids. First, it has a 1.3 Megapixel camera that is fun and allows them to share their photos and videos while they’re out and about. In addition, it has a calculator, alarm clock, and calendar. Our kids use this along with an Instant Polaroid Camera for all of their needs.
If you go with a T-mobile contract and want to order the LG 450 from their website, they’ll charge you $2.50 a month for 24 months for a total of $60. Amazon charges around $45 and offers the phone as a no contract option. As the phone includes a sim card, it’s easy to get set up on a pay as you go plan, which is probably the least expensive option for your kids.
Best Rugged Option – Samsung Convoy 3 Verizon Flip Phone
If you’re looking for a ruggedized phone from Verizon, look no further than the Samsung Convoy 3. This one would be good on a campout with your kids or as a family emergency option. If purchased through the Verizon store, the Convoy 3 will cost you around $6.24 for 24 months or a total of around $150. Alternatively, you can find this phone on Amazon for just $90.
While this phone is still fairly basic, it is good at receiving calls in a noisy area. That’s because it has dual microphones along with noise-cancelling technology so you can hear more clearly.
Built for durability, it stands up to dust, shock, and extreme heat, which makes it perfect for the outdoors or taking a photo or two.
If you’re looking for a simple flip phone, this might not be it. It does allow for text messaging, web browsing, or social media access. This access can be limited by Verizon if you set it up. Here’s a look at Verizon’s Family Safeguards and Controls.
Casio G’zONE Ravine 2 Verizon Flip Phone
Here’s another rugged option you can use with the Verizon network. The Casio G’zOne C781 is a no contract phone available for pay as you go plans. It’s easy-to-use with large button and navigation controls that any kid or senior could use and will stand up to a lot of abuse. It’s also waterproof.
For data, the G’zONE has 3G support. Like many other phones on this list, it has a few applications and a browser that’s readily available. However, this phone’s main purpose is as a rugged option.
Alcatel OneTouch Retro (Sprint Prepaid) Flip Phone
For just $7.25, Alcatel has their OneTouch option as a Sprint Prepaid phone. If you’re a Sprint user, this might be the perfect option for your kids, as it’s so cheap and easy-to-use. What’s more is that the signal on this phone has been found to be one of the better ones available.
It’s also a good phone for the visually impaired as it has a text to speech option.
Overall, this phone is cheap, easy-to-use and a good and safe option for kids.
A Cheap and Good AT&T / T-Mobile Option – ZTE Z222 Unlocked Flip Phone
This phone works with GSM phone carriers in the US and the rest of the world. It’s inexpensive and has text, picture, video, and voice messaging. It retails for around $25.
A Good Alternative to Flip Phones – Kid’s GPS Watch Tracking Phones
If you’re afraid your kids will lose their flip phones or want a simpler option, here are a few good alternatives. With all of these watches, you need to know what they’re capable of and do best, as many of them are still fairly limited in their support and functionality. My guess is that this will improve greatly over the next few years.
FiLiP 2 Smart Locator (AT&T)
If you’d prefer something with built-in parental controls and options, the FiLiP 2 Smart locator might be a good place to start. For AT&T users, it gives parents the option of setting five pre-programmed contacts as well as one-way text messaging.
The app for parents is available for both Android as well as iPhones and puts everything you need at the touch of a button.
For emergencies, the FiLiP 2 has a dedicated emergency button on the side. When pressed for four seconds, it’s activated and will automatically call the primary contact you’ve set. Another nice feature for the FiLip 2 is the safe zone designations. You can program these safe zones so that any time your child leaves them you are notified.
The FiLip 2 does require its own user plan.
Another good option for Verizon users is the GizmoPal 2. For the device itself, the design of it is a lot more minimalistic than many of the other options on this list. I consider that a plus. Like the FiLiP you can set GPS locations and be notified when your child exits them.
It’s waterproof, rugged, and has quick two-way voice calling.
If I had a choice across carriers and knew that everything was working correctly, the GizmoPal 2 or even the original GizmoPal is probably what I’d go with.
Gogo First GSM
The Gogo is a GSM supported GPS tracking watch that’s relatively inexpensive and comes in various colors for your kids. Like other options on this list, it has a built-in SOS alarm, real-time tracking, geo-fencing, and will track it. From what I’ve seen with it, there are still some issues with it. That being said, for around $65 it might fit your needs perfectly.
Orbo Kids Smartwatch – One Way Answer When Paired
Before I go further, this smartwatch is not a GPS locator or standalone phone. That being said, it can be programmed to hook up to a phone when paired by Bluetooth and answer certain calls. It’s fun for your kids around the house and has a lot of fun games and features.
If you’re looking for the knockoff version of the models above, the GBD-GPS is a GSM carrier option for kids that comes in at around $30. The functionality is below that of the other watches on this list, and it doesn’t include a Sim Card, so be sure to pick one up before you get going. The main issue that you’ll come across is with the GPS fencing, which I’ve had a bit of an issue with. For just calling, it does its job.
In today’s world it’s important to keep kids safe, but giving them a smartphone doesn’t always seem like the best solution. How do you keep in contact with your children?