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 phone has no access to the Internet, games, social media, app stores, or picture messages. A safe smartphone for kids.

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.

A Gabb Smartwatch Is Coming Soon

Although it isn’t available yet, 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.

Other features include a voice recorder, settings, and file manager, all of which are basic and straightforward since 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.

Minor Issues

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.

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.

Availability

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.

Price

The Z2 costs $99.99, 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 $19.99 per month and offers unlimited talk and text on a nationwide 4G LTE network. Step up to the Gabb Plus Plan for $24.99 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.

Customer Support

Their website offers instant messaging for customer support to get immediate assistance, but users can also email customer support at support@gabbwireless.com.

Overall Thoughts

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.

Article updated with new information on August 18, 2020.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.