Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Smartphones: Taking the Smart out of Smartphones

Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Smartphones: Taking the Smart out of Smartphones

By: Fiona Leikness

As parents, one of our biggest concerns is knowing where our kids are at any given time. We want to make sure they’re safe, and that we can reach them in case of emergency! We may think the solution lies in giving our child a phone, but then we’re left grappling with the idea of direct access to the internet and social media. How do we protect them from the dangers of online predators, exposure to graphic content, and pornography?

Thankfully, the solution is very simple. A few companies have heard the outcry from parents regarding screen-addiction, social media, pornography, and access to the internet, and have taken on the challenge of providing affordable, minimalistic alternatives to smartphones.

Think Smarter, Not Harder

Some of the biggest concerns over giving children their first phones revolve around games, social media, and access to the internet. Parents aren’t immune to the addictive qualities of smartphones either. How often have we found ourselves glued to a game or scrolling through our news feeds for hours? We hear that notification ding and immediately we want to check it! But we’re also aware of the salacious content that can and does lurk within social media and the internet. So what do we do? Here are a few ideas:

Gabb Wireless

Gabb Wireless offers a smartphone free of app stores, an internet browser, and social media. However, their phones still maintain that smartphone look so that your children don’t have to feel left out or “behind” amongst their peers.

  • Basic front/rear camera
  • GPS tracking
  • Bluetooth capable
  • Built-in music app
  • Radio functionality
  • Call/messaging capable
  • No web browser
  • No app store

The Light Phone

The Light Phone II takes smartphones back to the bare-bone basics. Light Phone caters to all crowds with the idea of helping users free themselves from the constant scrolling and usage that haunts most smartphone users. What’s unique about this phone is that it also advertises an E-Ink screen (made popular by e-readers like Kindle), eliminating problems that arise from blue light on standard smartphone screens.

  • Call/messaging capable
  • Alarms
  • E-Ink screen
  • No web browser
  • No app store
  • No camera
  • Does not support images
  • Optional calculator and podcast tools

Look Ma, No Hands!

Now, smartphone alternatives may seem handy and all, but what if your child is prone to losing items? Maybe you are reluctant to give your child a phone at all? Well, worry not! With smartwatch technology constantly improving, parents now have access to kid-friendly options for smartwatches that allow you to stay in touch and to know the location of your child at all times.


Currently my favorite option, Timex offers a variety of smartwatches for the whole family, including a child friendly version that’s perfect for even the youngest kids. Parents can even customize the watch’s functionality according to their desires.

  • GPS-tracking
  • Call/messaging capable (approved contacts only)
  • SOS alert button (alerts predesignated contact/s)
  • Durable
  • No internet access
  • Simple games (can be set or removed by parents)
  • Customizable task/reward option
  • Step tracker

Verizon Gizmo Watch

Verizon’s GizmoWatch is very similar to the Timex smartwatch when it comes to features, but would most likely be better suited to children 10 and up based on design. However, this watch does boast greater customization capabilities so that your child can really make this watch his/her own.

  • Long-life battery
  • GPS tracking
  • Call/messaging capable (approved contacts only)
  • Fitness counter
  • Can set scheduled reminders
  • Waterproof 
  • No internet access

Whether you decide to give your child a standard smartphone, a restricted phone, or a kid-friendly smartwatch, it is comforting to know that we, as parents, have so many options available to us when it comes to keeping our children safe. These smartphones and smartwatches allow us to offer our children a little more freedom in their lives while still protecting them from the dangers of the digital age.

For more information, be sure to check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age, available on Amazon! Still want more? Then be sure to read Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, also available on Amazon.

Fiona Leikness is an editor for Educate and Empower Kids and student at BYU-I. She is currently studying English with an emphasis on creative writing and editing.