Why I Decided My Pre-Teen Shouldn't Have a SmartPhone (And What I Learned)

I gave my pre-teen child an old cellphone (no internet, no calls or texts), and it was a huge mistake.

7 min read

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The idea seemed simple enough.

I wanted to give my child an old cell phone -without social media access- to slowly begin teaching them how to:

  • handle this kind of technology,

  • teach them about online behavior and safety,

  • benefit from educational apps,

  • and capture memories by taking pictures.

To ensure a safe experience, we:

  • installed the parental control app to manage screen time, to block social media access and downloads,

  • and I made a Guide about Safety Rules, Online Behaviors, Risks and Consequences of Misuse. You can download for FREE, here.

We were ''prepared''!!

Little did we know.

black flat screen tv turned on displaying yellow emoji
black flat screen tv turned on displaying yellow emoji

Within a few weeks, we realized that even though the phone had very limited functions, it disrupted family dynamics and affected my child's physical health:

  • Negotiating screen time turned into a daily conversation:

    What started as setting boundaries became a tug-of-war over when and how long the phone could be used, leading to frequent disagreements and frustrations.

  • More sedentary behavior:

    Instead of playing outside or engaging in physical activities, my child increasingly opted to spend time indoors with the phone.

  • Alongside eye strain, the use of the phone affected my child's posture.

    Hunching over the screen for even just an hour resulted in neck pain and discomfort.

So, we decided that we weren't ready yet!

In my journey to better support my child and better understand how we can do better, I dove headfirst into countless hours of research—like a superhero mom on a mission!

And guess what?

I struck gold with some fantastic insights and discoveries:

person holding white samsung galaxy note 8
person holding white samsung galaxy note 8

If you decide that your Kid is Ready, here are the Best Smartphone Alternatives for Pre-Teens

These devices provide safer alternatives to smartphones, allowing communication without the risks associated with internet access and social media:

  • Internet Safety: Sandboxed to block internet, social media, and inappropriate content.

  • Message Monitoring: Parents can review all sent/received messages.

  • Minimal Notifications: Only for calls and messages, reducing interruptions.

  • Saved Communications: All numbers and texts are saved for review.

  • Parental Controls: Parents can enable/disable features, set screen time limits, block apps/websites, and schedule a bedtime shutoff.

  • GPS Privacy: Scrubs GPS metadata from photos/videos.

  • Location Tracking: Check your child's location anytime through an online portal.

  • No Tethering: Prevents internet access to other devices.

  • Privacy Protection: No data or usage information sold to third parties.

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Wisphone Marketing With familiesWisphone Marketing With families

This little gem is all about making your life easier by breaking free from addictive apps, keeping communication simple, and delivering top-notch performance.

Essential communication and productivity tools like calls, texts, camera, map function, calendar, clock, alarm, timer, stopwatch, calculator, notes, and flashlight.

🌟 Use this link to automatically have a discount added to your Wisephone order, and use code DDL75 to get $ 50 OFF.

*Wisephone is currently available in the USA. and Canada.

Best Features of WisePhone:

The Pinwheel phone is highly customizable, allowing parents to add apps from over 500+ options while blocking access to the internet and app stores.

It takes pictures and videos, supports music, and looks like a regular smartphone, so kids won't feel embarrassed using it.

Parents can monitor all texts, block texts from unknown numbers, and remove distracting apps. You can keep your phone provider, and it works abroad.

Best Features of Pinwheel Phone:

  • No Social Media: Keeps kids safe from social media.

  • No Internet Access: Prevents access to inappropriate websites.

  • Customizable Parental Controls: Set screen time limits, block apps/websites, and schedule a bedtime shutoff.

  • App Store Restrictions: Kids can’t download unapproved apps.

  • Parental Monitoring: Review calls and texts via the parent portal.

  • Safe Communication: Allows kids to contact parents without web browsing.

  • Location Tracking: Parents can check their child's location through an online portal.

  • Compatible with Major Carriers: Some models work with T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T.

  • Flexible Schedules: Customize phone use based on daily routines.

  • Multiple Kid-Friendly Apps: Access to over 400 child-safe apps.

See full list of 500+ apps available for Pinwheel phones here.

*Wisephone is currently available in the USA and Canada.

Use this link to visit PinWheel site and have a discount added to your PinWheel order.

You can begin with a Bark Phone that has no apps, no internet, and no games.

As your child grows, you have the option to upgrade by adding features while retaining the same phone.

Best Features of Bark Phone - Starter Plan

  • Affordable Plans: Starting at just $39/month, with various data options to suit your needs.

  • State-of-the-Art Monitoring: Receive alerts for potential issues in texts, emails, and over 30 social media platforms and apps.

  • App and Contact Approval: Manage which apps your child can use and control who they can communicate with.

  • Tamper-Proof Parental Controls: Ensures the rules you set remain in place, including the inability to delete texts without your permission.

  • Real-Time GPS Location Tracking: Stay informed with real-time map tracking, customizable location alerts, and easy check-ins for peace of mind.

With these features, the Bark Phone Starter plan offers comprehensive digital monitoring and parental control.

*Bark Phone is currently only available in the USA.

Go to Amazon

person wearing silver Apple Watch with white Sport Band
person wearing silver Apple Watch with white Sport Band

Discover watches that are less expensive, less prone to being lost, include built-in trackers, and offer a safer introduction to technology for children.

Smartwatch Solutions: Safe and Affordable Tech for Kids

1. Gabb Watch:

The Gabb Watch 3 is designed to be a safe, durable, and fun smartwatch option for kids, offering robust features and parental controls to ensure a secure digital experience.

  • Safety Features: Includes GPS tracking, customizable safe zones, and emergency SOS contact.

  • Durability: water resistance, dust protection, and Gorilla® Glass 3 for durability.

  • Wireless Charging: Hassle-free charging with included USB cable.

  • Network Coverage: Expanded service coverage for reliable texting and calling.

  • Speech-to-Text: Allows easy dictation of messages; multiple keyboard options available.

  • Variety of Watch Bands: Fun and adjustable silicone bands including themed options like Star Wars and sports bands.

  • Storage and Memory: Enhanced storage, more memory, and improved chipset for better performance.

  • Gabb OS: Secure operating system blocks internet browsers, social media, and unsafe apps.

  • Parental Controls: Manage focus and silent mode remotely via the MyGabb app.

  • Gabb Go and Gabb Move Apps: Encourages fitness and productivity with step tracking and digital pet care.

Visit Gabb's page here!

2. TickTalk Watch:

The TickTalk children's GPS watch is designed to keep kids safe and connected, offering comprehensive features tailored for parents' peace of mind.

  • Real-Time Location Tracking: Know where your child is at any time using the TickTalk app on Android or iOS.

  • Secure Messaging: Encrypted end-to-end individual and group chat for private and safe communication.

  • Free Streaming Music: Unlimited access to kid-friendly songs and podcasts powered by iHeartRadio Family.

  • Safety Features: 2-way voice calling, HD video calling, Talk-To-Text, and customizable quick text responses.

  • Emergency SOS: Set emergency contacts and get immediate alerts when needed.

  • High-Quality Camera: Capture photos and videos, and share them with approved contacts securely.

  • Durability: water-resistant, drop-proof, and shock-proof for active kids.

  • Historical Location Tracking: View past locations visited by your child for added peace of mind.

  • Affordability: Plans start at $9.99 per month with no hidden fees or contracts.

3. Apple Watch SE (2e génération)

The Apple Watch SE is designed to be a powerful, stylish, and environmentally conscious smartwatch, offering comprehensive health features and seamless integration with Apple's ecosystem.

  • Family Setup: Allows parents to pair watches for kids without their own phone, enabling communication, location tracking, and safety features across family members.

  • Motivation and Activity: Essential tools to keep you motivated and active, with enhanced workout metrics and Crash Detection.

  • Carbon Neutral: Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) with Sport Loop is carbon neutral, part of Apple's environmental commitment.

  • Health and Safety: Includes Fall Detection, Crash Detection, Emergency SOS, and health insights like irregular heart rhythm notifications.

  • Compatibility: Seamlessly works with Apple devices, unlocking Macs, finding devices, and using Apple Pay.

  • Swimproof and Stylish: 50m water resistance, three finishes, and a color-matched back case with reduced carbon emissions.

  • Customizable: Various watch bands and customizable watch faces to suit your style and mood.

  • Stay Connected: Text, call, listen to music/podcasts, use Siri, and Emergency SOS with iPhone or Wi-Fi connectivity.

Kids sitting on their cellphonesKids sitting on their cellphones

Download The Ultimate Cellphone Responsability Guide

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