As a tech guy and a parent, I’ve been torn about the trend over the past few years where kids as young as five have their own smartphone. All over my kids’ school, I see young kids with iPhones and Android phones. Here is Gabb Wireless: A smartphone for kids to keep them safe and minimize screen time.
Why Kids Shouldn’t Have Smartphones
As a tech guy, I understand that these devices have become the way we communicate and keep track of everyone, including the apps that allow you to see exactly where your kids are at any time. However, as a parent, I worry about what they’re looking at on their smartphones and what else they have access to. Plus, I’d prefer that my kids — especially the younger ones — don’t spend most of their lives hunched over one of these devices.
A recent article in the National Review furthers my own concerns about young kids and smartphone ownership. As adults, we know what’s out there on the internet. However, as the article so glaringly points out, young kids — whether on their own smartphone or a friend’s device — are seeing and learning about things at a much younger age than is healthy or appropriate.
Then there are the headlines that are sure to alarm any parent about young children being groomed by adults through games and other apps. Even scarier is the realization that all the parental controls in the world on your child’s iPhone won’t protect him from much of this content and contact.
Setting Boundaries Is Key
Being a parent has shown me just how much boundaries matter. My kids aren’t old enough to hold themselves accountable, so it’s up to me to set the rules.
In my house, for example, we have a “no phones over dinner” rule. My kids can shoot off a quick text before they eat, and I don’t mind if they check their messages after the meal. I don’t want to see any devices out when family members should be checking in with each other, though. Young people don’t yet understand how inappropriate screen use can corrode relationships.
Another one is the “8 p.m.” rule. After that, all devices are supposed to be put away until 8 a.m. the next day. Whatever the latest drama is, it can wait until tomorrow morning.
The reason is that screens sabotage sleep. The blue light from screens inhibits the release of melatonin, which is a hormone that signals the body that it’s time to rest. Worse, before-bed phone usage makes sleep less restful by disrupting the body’s REM cycle.
The final and most important rule? No phone use in the car. Although my kids still have a few years before they can legally get behind the wheel, I want to set good habits now. That way, they won’t be tempted to take their eyes off the road to read a text when it comes time.
What about text-and-driving laws? At 16, a lot of kids don’t take legal consequences seriously. It’s up to parents to find ways to promote safe behaviors on the road. The “no phone use in the car” rule helps me be a good role model.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned that parental control tools don’t always work. Kids are constantly looking for ways to bend the rules. If an app has a hidden “disable” or “delete” button, trust me: My kids will find it.
That’s how I stumbled on Gabb Wireless: I needed a way to stay in touch with my kids while encouraging positive screen-time habits. And in my experience, a kid-safe phone is the only workable solution.
About Gabb Wireless
Apparently, there are many other parents, grandparents, and family members out there who share my sentiments and concerns about giving smartphones to their kids.
Stephen Dalby, a father living in Palo Alto, California, developed and founded Gabb Wireless, a cellular network designed to be safe for kids. Gabb offers devices that provide communication and connection without all the features of a regular mobile device.
When Stephen couldn’t find a phone for his teenage son that didn’t have access to apps and other content he was concerned about, Dalby decided to make his own phone. Both the classic Gabb phone and the latest Z2 model have no access to the internet, games, social media, app stores, or picture messages.
Everything that scares parents about smartphones for kids has been removed from Gabb devices. Stephen designed a phone that would not only be safe, but it would also enable his son to spend less time on the device.
To a degree that surprised even Stephen, word spread like wildfire. To reward fans, he set up Gabb Advocate. Every time a phone is purchased through the program, $10 is donated to Defend Innocence, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse.
Gabb Wireless’s Z2 Kids Phone
New for August 2020, Gabb’s Z2 kids phone is a mature-looking, Android-based device that kids enjoy using. An upgraded version of the classic Gabb Phone, the Z2 looks just like a smartphone and offers some of the same features.
While the original Gabb Phone had a five-inch display, the Z2’s measures 5.45 inches. The Z2 also features an 8MP rear camera, compared to the original’s 5 MP camera. The classic Gabb Phone and Z2 both include 2GB RAM, but the Z2’s ROM is doubled to 32GB. The Z2’s processor is a quad-core 2 GHz unit — nearly twice the speed of the original’s 1.1 GHz processor. In both phones, the battery lasts up to three days between charges.
What about apps? The Z2 has everything parents want for their kids and nothing they don’t. The phone includes a calendar app, Bluetooth, a fingerprint reader, FM radio, photo gallery, voice recorder, alarm clock, and a calculator. The primary purpose of the phone is for kids to text and make and receive calls. Contact information can be stored to make it easier for your kids to reach you, friends, and family members.
Gabb Watch – Smartwatch For Kids
I couldn’t help but notice a Gabb Watch on the company’s site. To me, it looks like a great complement to the Z2. Notifications, hands-free calling, and GPS functionality are all included. Kids get the look and key features of a smartwatch, while parents get additional peace of mind.
How Gabbs Safe Smartphone for Kids Works
For anyone who has used a smartphone, the Gabb phone works similarly to Android phones because it uses the same operating system. You can see icons that represent the minimal apps that are available on the phone. The phone icon allows users to make a phone call and look up numbers in the contacts list.
The photo gallery is where pictures that have been taken with the phone are stored. You can share these or organize and store the photos in albums within the photo gallery. The user can also take video footage and store videos in the gallery. The camera and photo feature even allows users to customize their photos with fun design flourishes.
The calendar app allows kids to add events and learn how to organize what they have going on in their lives. The FM radio only works with earphones that double as an antenna. This feature makes it peaceful and relaxing for anyone around your child while he’s listening to music.
Other features include a voice recorder, settings, and file manager, all of which are basic and straightforward because the phone is made for a kid to use.
What I Like About the Z2 Phone
There’s nothing to dislike about the Z2 kids phone. The price is fair, and the phone does exactly what you want it to do for young kids. Even better is that my kids only use it when they need it instead of becoming glued to the screen, day and night. Even the phone plan pricing is fair. More on those details to follow.
If I were to find anything wrong with the phone, it would be that some of the things parents did like about traditional smartphones — like tracking apps — tracking doesn’t work with this phone.
For example, Google’s Family Link app, which enables a parent to pinpoint the location of the phone on a map and establish alerts when certain geofences are crossed, doesn’t work on the Gabb device.
Gabb will need to add cellular data to make future options like this possible. Other than that, this is an excellent option for kids.
Gabb Wireless Reviews
For a deeper look, I dug in: What do Gabb’s customers have to say? Online reviews have a way of revealing the real story.
On BestCompany, parents say Gabb balances safety with kids’ social needs. Ellen, a mom from Middleton, Wisconsin, calls it “a smart, inexpensive way for teens to be in touch with their parents and friends without the addictive quality of an internet connection, and without making them feel too different from peers.”
Others on BestCompany point to Gabb’s hands-off nature. “It has all the limits you want without all the fuss of trying to keep up with it. Their service has great connection and no problems in the local area where the kid needs it most,” writes a customer from Sandy, Utah.
On Gabb’s own site, many parents say it’s a way to keep kids in touch without jeopardizing their real-world relationships. Samantha, a mom in Fishers, Indiana, writes, “I mostly love that once she’s done sending a text, she can put it away because there are no other distracting games or apps on it.”
Another good sign? Gabb’s on-site reviews include high marks from educators.
“As a teacher, I was thrilled to find out about Gabb Wireless! It gives me hope in knowing there are other concerned adults out there that want something better for this generation,” explains Jessica, a grade-school teacher in Bolivia, North Carolina.
“In all the work I do with high schoolers, I have yet to see a situation where having a phone created a benefit or even had a neutral impact on mental health and relationships,” Kristin, a mom and educator, points out. “I don’t envy our kids in this world of hyper-connectivity.”
Over at Gabb’s Facebook page, the reviews seem just as positive. There, the device itself gets a lot of attention.
“The quality of the phone is actually better than I was expecting,” wrote a reviewer who’d been with Gabb for two weeks. “The device does what it was advertised to do. Great for parents who need basic connectivity for their kids, but don’t want to worry about apps.”
The lack of apps doesn’t seem to bother kids, though. “My child was sooooo happy to get this phone,” exclaims a Facebook user named Tana. “The plan is a great price and the phone is excellent quality!”
Jen, another Facebook user, put it this way: “A perfect phone to teach responsibility and keep kids connected. No internet is a huge positive.”
A few Facebook posters criticize Gabb’s customer service. For the most part, device malfunctions seem to be to blame. Because Gabb’s devices aren’t sold by other providers, it’s likely the startup still has a few hardware wrinkles to iron out.
In a couple of cases, reviewers seem to misunderstand the goal of Gabb’s devices. One Facebook user mentions that Gabb devices don’t come with parental controls — when, in fact, Gabb’s goal is to take the burden of disabling features off parents’ shoulders.
Another Facebook reviewer is frustrated that Gabb doesn’t provide call screening. Spam calls are a problem for customers of every carrier; to me, it doesn’t seem fair to pin this on Gabb. Plus, adding a call-screening service would likely force Gabb to raise its price point. More on that later, but most parents need to keep the budget in mind when buying their kids’ first phone.
The good news? Even when the feedback is negative, Gabb’s team responds promptly and positively. Every company makes mistakes; only the ones worth dealing with make an effort to put things right.
Gabb doesn’t sell fully featured, next-generation iPhones — but that isn’t the point. Parents and teachers know kids don’t need access to every app and website in the world. And when the rubber meets the road, kids want the same thing: a modern smartphone that helps them stay in touch with their friends.
Gabb Wireless Alternatives
Of course, your decision to purchase a first phone for one of your children is a highly personal one. There isn’t a service provider in the entire world who knows your child as well as you do. Kids mature at different rates, they have varying temperaments, and each one is entirely unique. A first phone that works great for one child may not be the right choice for his or her sibling.
When picking out a child’s first phone, it’s generally best to wade in at the shallow end and move slowly, adding capabilities as a child consistently demonstrates responsible behavior.
Parents need to be aware that there is a spectrum of internet access available when picking out a child’s first phone. For example, the two competing products listed below move further down the road to full-blown adult smartphones than the Gabb Wireless product.
With increased access comes a greater need to monitor usage and perform regular check-ins. These service providers are all touted as protecting your child from internet dangers, they just differ in their approach. Only you know your child well enough to make the final call.
Pinwheel is marketed as a child’s first safe smartphone. Parents should think of Pinwheel as something more than a fully-locked-down child’s phone and a full-blown smartphone. It allows kids to become comfortable with the daily operation, care, and maintenance of a phone without exposing children to internet-related risks.
Pinwheel phones do not allow for the installation of social media apps, web browsers, email, or games. Instead, apps are available only through Pinwheel and carefully screened in advance with child safety as the primary concern. Of course, audience appropriateness also factors heavily into Pinwheel’s evaluation process.
Pinwheel users have the ability to request specific types of apps or suggest safe versions of popular apps otherwise available for unrestricted smartphones. It comes with intuitive parental controls, a messaging app, and even allows access to Spotify. For parents who are comfortable landing somewhere in the middle in terms of functionality for kids, Pinwheel is worth a look.
Troomi Wireless markets its service as featuring a proprietary KidSmart OS operating system that promises to grow with your child as he or she develops. The idea behind Troomi is that what’s considered appropriate for any child should be customizable based on age, emotional maturity, and demonstrated responsibility. Monthly plans start at $14.95 for unlimited talking and texting.
Like other phones targeting the child and preteen market, Troomi does not allow for the installation of social media apps or addictive games. The Troomi service includes protection from spam calls and provides GPS location services that parents can access at all times. Other features such as group texting, photo messages, email, and safe browsing apps can be unlocked as the child grows up.
The Troomi service is also being marketed as an ancillary support mechanism for school and learning. Emphasis is placed on protecting kids from cyberbullying, predators, and pornography. Devices are manufactured by Samsung, feature a quad camera, and offer Bluetooth connectivity to external devices.
Where to Buy Your Kid’s First Smartphone?
Right now, you can only buy a Gabb Wireless Z2 and phone plan from the company’s website.
Currently, Gabb Wireless is only available in the contiguous 49 states, and there are a few zip codes where coverage may still not be available.
The Z2 costs $149.99, including activation and shipping. I don’t have to remind you how much an iPhone or Android phone like a Samsung Galaxy costs, so the price of a Gabb Phone is something else that makes it really smart for kids.
The Gabb Basic service plan costs just $17.99 per month and offers unlimited talk and text on a nationwide 4G LTE network. Step up to the Gabb Plus Plan for as low as $22.99 per month, and MMS service — which enables group and image texts — is included as well. Both plans are billed month-to-month, with no long-term contract required.
Their website offers instant messaging for customer support to get immediate assistance, but users can also email customer support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gabb Wireless is an excellent option for parents to provide their kids with a smartphone. Easy communication and connection that keeps them safe and minimizes the amount of time they spend on it. The Gabb Phone does everything it advertises and provides parents with peace of mind.
There are still plenty of features on this phone to maintain a certain level of entertainment value for kids, making it something they will enjoy using. Don’t say it’s not a smartphone. It’s still a smartphone, but it is limited in its features. This helps protect your kids — and helps them develop healthy habits with technology.
Which network does Gabb Wireless use?
Gabb Wireless is a virtual carrier. It uses the Verizon Wireless Network, named the best network overall by Fortune in Jan. 2020. The Verizon network is consistently cited as one of the most reliable for connection speed, data transfer, and calling. Gabb Wireless chose the Verizon network for these reasons and also the fact that the Verizon network has consistently been rated No. 1 in the coverage area for the U.S.
How much does a Gabb Wireless phone cost?
Priced at $99.99, the Gabb Wireless phone is one of the least expensive models in the phone for the kids niche. Gabb has focused on developing its phones and service to be safe, smart, and affordable.
Customers also have an opportunity to receive $50 off on the purchase of a Gabb phone if you know a friend whose family already has a Gabb account. Parents simply enter the phone number of an existing Gabb account parent as a promo code during checkout to get the discounted price. Gabb phones arrive pre-activated and ready to go, with no added shipping costs.
As of June 2021, Gabb service plans start at $19.99/month. This is Gabb’s most popular option. The plan offers text-only messaging (no images or group texts), GPS location service, and unlimited talking and texting. The $24.99/month plan offers all of these features and adds the ability to send images via texting and participate in group text chats.
Neither of the Gabb plans requires a contract. Gabb backs its products and services with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Are Gabb phones good?
Gabb phones are manufactured by ZTE. They are Android devices that have been heavily modified to meet all Gabb Wireless specifications. The Gabb phone features an 8-megapixel primary camera, a 5-megapixel front camera, and 1080-pixel video recording capability. The phones also feature useful tools such as a calculator, calendar, and clock.
Gabb phones are also capable of playing music and connecting to a wireless headset or external speaker. Because Gabb phones do not connect to the internet, songs must be loaded onto the Gabb phone manually. Songs can be transferred to a Gabb phone from a desktop or laptop computer or stored as MP3 files on a microSD card.
Can you delete texts on a Gabb phone?
Yes. Gabb phones allow kids to delete specific messages or entire threads. The phone interface features an intuitive trash can icon, similar to those we’ve all seen on computers and other tech-enabled devices.
One word of caution, however.
Parents should make sure their kids understand and agree to whatever is decided with regard to the protocol for deleting messages. If, for example, your child is being harassed or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable, they should be instructed not to delete the message but instead tell you or another adult immediately. You may wish to hang onto certain messages if some form of follow-up or remedial action is needed.
Can you group text on a Gabb phone?
Yes and no. Group texting is available for Gabb customers who choose the $24.99/month plan. The most popular Gabb package costs $19.99/month but does not offer the group-texting capability.
Parents need to consider carefully before opening up a child’s phone to group texting.
Group texting is something that many kids will say they want, until they are upset by a thoughtless remark made about them by another child. Just as it makes sense to monitor your kids when they are playing with others in a real-life setting, opening up group chats will require an extra dose of parental vigilance. We all know that adults often say things to one another via text that they would never say in person. For kids, multiply that tendency by a factor of 10.
What is the best phone for kids?
The best phone is the one that works best for your child. Because kids mature at different rates, have different personalities, and vary widely in their capacity to interact wisely with technology, no provider can hope to offer a product or service that is perfect for every kid at every age. Parents must devote some time to checking out all the options before making a decision.
That said, the Gabb Wireless phone is focused first and foremost on the safety of our kids.
Research over the past several years has demonstrated clearly that kids lack the brain development necessary to make consistently good choices while connected to technology. This is why the Gabb phone does not allow internet access of any kind. Gabb phones also do not permit games to be installed, as kids can’t always tell when “enough is enough.” In addition, many games are intentionally designed to keep kids playing. Your child has other things to do.
Lastly, Gabb Wireless made a conscious decision to exclude social media from its phone services. We believe that studies linking social media to increased levels of depression (and worse) in our children ought to be taken seriously. By ensuring that both monthly plans allow kids to talk and text as much as they like, Gabb believes its phone addresses the primary reason kids ask for phones: To stay connected to their real-life friends.