Middle school is the rule in our home. When you go to middle school, you can have a cell phone. Not a moment before, and we will have full and complete access to your phone at any moment. It’s a privilege, not a right.
Those are our rules for cell phones. Right now, we have a high school freshman and a sixth grader with cell phones. They both know that we can take their phone anytime, go through anything we want to go through, and no questions are asked. Both girls are fine with it, and we’ve had no issues from them (definitely issues from other kids saying and sending inappropriate things, but nothing we cannot handle).
Cell phones in middle school are something we believe in because our kids are athletes. They all play sports, and sports are regularly rescheduled, canceled, postponed, whatever. Our golfer has golf practice after school, but not on school grounds. It’s imperative we have the ability to track our kids and contact them – and them us – at this age.
They’re not always at school, and we want to be in touch with them. But rules are rules, and they are not permitted to abuse them. The privilege to use their phones is earned, we do have screen time rules, and we do have no-phone hours and zones. It works for us.
That said, our third-grade twins are dying to go to middle school and have phones. We won’t cave, even though they do have a few friends with phones. They’re too young, in our opinion. Every family, however, is different. If you don’t want your kids to have a cell phone, but you do want to contact them, there are alternatives to cell phones you can buy for any age child.
The Dangers of Cell Phones and Children
I remember when I was growing up, and I had some issues with friends. Fifth grade was a rough year for me. I was your typical mean girl before that. I don’t say that with pride, I assure you. But my group of ‘friends’ and I would pick on another girl who tried to hang out with us all the time.
We were mean to her. We three-way called her and made her talk bad about people who were listening in. There were times we deliberately left her out. We were mean, and I never thought twice about it…until fifth grade. In fifth grade, my ‘friends’ all turned on me, and I was suddenly the girl they picked on, left out, and were horrible to.
Let me share with you that being on the receiving end of mean-girl behavior sucks. I will do whatever it takes to ensure my own girls know that they can be powerful, beautiful, strong, intelligent, funny, and kind without making anyone else feel like less. There’s room for everyone to shine.
The one thing I say to my husband all the time is that I don’t know what I would have done if cell phones, social media, and the internet existed in the early 90. I remember going home from school everyday and feeling so free and happy because I had 18 hours until I had to deal with those mean a** b*****s again.
Weekends and holidays were a gift. My home was my safe place. Today? There’s no such thing as a safe place. Mean girls and bullies can reach you any time, any place, and anywhere. It’s why so many of us don’t want our kids to have phones too early.
The Anonymity Behind the Screen is Dangerous
Kids are often thoughtless, rude, and influenced by those around them – even the smartest and most capable ones. What people wouldn’t say to someone’s face is so much easier to say in a message or online. There is a certain feeling of anonymity and safety associated with sending a hateful message or comment online.
Think about the comment sections online – people are horrible. Absolute strangers are overwhelming compelled to say the most awful, horrible, shocking things online all because they feel safe and sound at home without anyone knowing who they are. That person on the internet almost 100 percent would not utter a word of what they say online to anyone in person. It’s easy to be brave when no one can see you.
Kids with phones are dangerous. Even older kids and adults are rude, hateful, and primed to bully, abuse, and treat others poorly online and through messaging. Like I tell my kids, though, hurt people hurt people. Not one happy person living their best life and enjoying themselves is worried in the least about making other people feel bad.
They don’t care about other people and how they’re living. Bullies are unhappy, ugly people who will do anything they can to find happiness, and that’s often through making other people miserable. Because misery loves company. I am full of fancy sayings.
For this reason alone, many of us are unwilling to give our children phones too early. If you are wary of the same, these are ten of the best alternatives. Try one, try two. Try them all. Find what works for you, and find what works for your child’s age. It’s going to help you feel better about reaching your child when you’re not together, but you also won’t worry about online harassment and bullying.
1. Gabb Phone
What is cool about this phone is that it’s like a regular phone, yet it’s so not like a regular phone. It has texting, messaging, calling, and those things. However, it also has access to the calendar, calculator, and the alarm, so kids have all the essentials. What it does not have is the internet – or games.
There’s no app store. You can take photos with it, so it’s good for that, too. It’s a great alternative to a regular phone for kids who aren’t quite old enough to handle having a cell.
2. Gabb Watch
Just like the phone, this is a safer alternative than a cell phone. The good news is that it’s got all the capabilities of a phone without the phone itself. Your child does not need the Gabb phone to use this watch. They can call and use GPS on this. You get to choose up to ten contacts to add to the phone.
Your kids cannot add their own contacts, and they cannot message or call anyone outside the pre-approved list you chose. The best thing about this watch, however, is that it automatically enters lock mode when your child is at school so there are no distractions – except the ability to message and receive messages from you.
There are also safe zones programmed in here (school, grandma’s house, home, etc.) that alert you anytime your child enters or exits a zone designated safe.
3. Gizmo Watch
This one has all of the features you need to keep your child safe. You can track this phone via GPS location services. Additionally, your children can have up to ten contacts in their phone.
You choose the contacts, and those are the only people they can reach. It’s a calling system and a messaging system – but only with the ten approved contacts. Furthermore, what’s neat about this one (did I just say neat…I’m turning into my mother, OMG) is that there are boundaries.
If your kids go outside the boundaries of the phone, you’re immediately notified. To make it even cooler, it’s a fitness app, a to-do list, and it is waterproof. Kids aren’t always thinking, so waterproof is smart.
4. Relay Phone
This is an item offered by Republic Wireless. It’s a phone, but it comes without a screen. Think of it as an old school Blackberry with its push to talk features. Essentially, it’s a walkie talkie with a GPS system, and Wi-Fi. You can track your children no matter where they are with this device, but they have on internet access. You are the sole controller of the contacts your children have in their ‘phone’ to contact.
5. Light Phone 2
This is the coolest looking phone of the bunch, and that works for some kids. While it looks like an upscale phone with cool features, it has no cool features. You can call your kids, and they can call you. there is no social media, email, or internet. There is music, though, so that’s a cool feature. Your kids can use functional tools, too. Calendars and calculators are included.
If you want to monitor your kids closely, this is the phone for you. It’s basic in terms of only allowing texting, calling, and GPS locations. It does have a calendar, too. However, what parents love about this one is the parent portal. From the parent portal, you don’t need your child’s phone to access every text message, call, and piece of information that comes through on the phone, which is excellent news.
It’s a phone without the distractions. No social media, no app store, no games. There is a list of apps you can choose to download onto the phone if you choose. Each of the available apps is therapist-approved, so your kids benefit from them. You can call your child, find out where they are, and to all the things that are normal phone functions, but they cannot use the internet or get into any trouble on here.
This is a grow with your kids kind of device. When you provide this one to a young child, they can only call and text you. When they get a little older, you have the power to go into the parent control portal and add features and functions to the phone. For example, if your child is getting a little more mature and capable, you can add other features. You have full control as well as full access to all of the information on this phone from the portal.
9. The Old-School Flip Phone
You don’t need to buy a fancy child-friendly phone. You can simply add a line to your existing cell plan and use an old flip phone. Many of them do not have access to the internet or much else other than calling and texting. Just check the model of your phone to be sure there is no internet options.
10. Non Smart Phones
What might seem amazing to most of us who grew up with smart phones handed to us from the moment we received our first Blackberry – and until the iPhone rendered those obsolete – was a non-smart phone. They’re still available. You can buy phones that are not smart. They are just phones. This phone calls people. They do exactly what phones were meant to do, and that’s a great option for an older child you still don’t want using a phone.
Make the Decision that Feels Right to You
Everyone is going to have an opinion about what you should do regarding a cell phone for your kids. The good thing is that I know you know what they say about everyone and their opinions, right? The best decision for your child is the decision you and your family are comfortable with together. No one else’s opinion matters – a lesson I learned later in life than I wish I’d learned, but am working diligently to teach my children from day one. To throw in another saying that everyone hates, you do you, boo.
You can also read:
- 20 Questions to Ask instead of “How Was Your Day?”
- 20 Awesome Ice Breaker Questions for Kids
- How to Get Your Children to Follow a Routine Without Reminders
- 20 Ways to Build Lifelong Confidence in Kids
- What is Parallel Parenting and Should You Try It?