Avoiding the “I want a phone” conversation with your tween or teen? I get it. I’ve avoided getting my son a phone for as long as possible. But then I asked myself the other day. Do I want to get my 10yo a phone while he’s still impressionable and more open to being held accountable? Or do I want to get my son a phone when he’s 16, at the height of desiring independence and privacy? If you’re considering getting your child a phone, the Pinwheel kid‘s phone should be first on your list. Here’s why.

This post contains affiliate links because I truly desire to promote the most beneficial products to parents who want to keep their kids safe online!

Pinwheel understands these thoughts and conversations we parents deal with, and they have done extensive research on kids and media technology. With that in mind, they have created a phone that is therapist-endorsed, parent-approved, and kid-acclaimed.

It’s been a BIG mission of mine here on the blog to help parents nurture a healthy tech relationship with their kids. It’s better to be a part of something they will be curious about than keep them in a bubble that will someday burst. So here is yet another article to help you do so.

After a lot of research and getting shown an ad for Pinwheel (because Facebook and google know me well!) I decided to reach out to the newly formed company and form a relationship.

With all of my review articles, I test out the product extensively beforehand. I want to give my readers the most honest and in-depth understanding of a product. I care more about building trust with my readers than about pleasing the company I work with. But I only work with companies I truly stand behind. What’s the point of writing an article about something I disliked? Be sure to use THIS LINK if you decide to purchase your child a phone — it will get you an automatic 10% off!

kid using phone

Now, let’s look at some commonly asked questions about the Pinwheel phone and what my and my son’s experience has been like (at the very end).

You’re either reading this because you want to get your child a phone, or you’re considering it. To make this simple enough for you (I know parents are anything but free to read an hour-long article), here is a checklist of what we will cover. That way, you can skip to the section that most interests you.

  • What is a Pinwheel Phone?
  • Are pinwheel phones good?
  • Does a pinwheel phone have internet?
  • What apps are on a Pinwheel Phone?
  • Does Pinwheel Have GPS tracking?
  • What are the features of a Pinwheel Phone?
  • How will the Pinwheel Phone keep my child safe?
  • How user-friendly is Pinwheel for parents who know nothing about tech?
  • Why Pinwheel is a good option for younger kids
  • Our personal experience with the Pinwheel Phone – getting it for our 10yo

What is a Pinwheel Phone and is it worth it?

Pinwheel prides itself on being a phone that grows with your child. If you so desire, you can simply have your child’s phone be a source of connection via text or call. But when the time is right, you also have a complete caregiver portal that allows YOU to choose the best apps. Of course, not all apps are on there because Pinwheel only approves safe and healthy ones for your child.

What’s also nice is when you’re going through the app library, it gives you information on what the app does, how your child will be using it, and if there are any loopholes for them to get to something they shouldn’t. For example, there are ways your child can wander into Facebook on specific apps, and Pinwheel discloses this on every app with this detail.

If you find an app that you want your child to have, but it doesn’t exist in their Library, you can request it. Everything is explained in a very easy-to-use dashboard within your caregiver portal.

Are Pinwheel Phones Good?

To sum it up, the Pinwheel Phone is very versatile and a device that parents have FULL control over. It allows kids to develop a healthy relationship with a mobile device from the start while giving parents the peace of mind they need, knowing their kids are safe. The phone was created to grow with your child. You can keep things simple by only enabling call or text and adding all the apps it has to offer — listed below. This is different from the Gabb Wireless/Gabb phones, which ONLY allow call and text.

As a mom, I feel like the Pinwheel phone is an incredible way to teach accountability and healthy mobile usage from a young age. When they are older, they will already know the boundaries established.

Parents are also able to control who is on the safelist, which is an added benefit to keeping your child safe. 

Does a Pinwheel Phone have internet?

The Pinwheel phone does NOT have internet or social media apps or even a web browser. However, it does have certain communication apps for older kids, which is why they’ve partnered with Bark. With older kids in mind, the Bark parental control app monitors (according to your preference) their communication with others. Read more about Bark and how it works in conjunction with the Pinwheel phone below, as well as more about the Bark app on my review here.

What apps are on the Pinwheel Phone?

The apps on the Pinwheel Phone are limited to ones that are safe for your kids and therapist-approved. That being said, there isn’t everything, and if you have an app you really want, but it’s not listed, you can request it. So far, these are the available apps.

  • Pet Care
  • Bark
  • Chores and allowance bot
  • Connected
  • Cozi Family Organizer
  • Family Wall
  • Google Home
  • Life 360
  • Pet first aid
  • Rooster Money
  • Beanstack Tracker
  • Duck Duck Moose
  • Epic
  • Kindle
  • Libby, by Overdrive
  • Notebook
  • Overdrive
  • Story Dice
  • Amazon Music
  • Apple Music
  • Audible
  • Audio Recorder
  • K-Love
  • Musicolet
  • Pandora
  • Piano by Yousician
  • Pinna
  • Pulsar Music Player
  • Shazam
  • Specdrums
  • Spotify
  • SpotifyKids
  • Metranome app
  • Band
  • Bloomz
  • Gizmohub
  • Google Duo
  • Google Hangouts
  • Google Meet
  • GroupMe
  • Marco Polo
  • Messenger Kids
  • Single Private Messenger
  • TeamReach
  • TeamSnap
  • WhatsApp
  • Zello
  • ABCya Games
  • Babbel
  • Bansho
  • Campus Student
  • Canvas Student
  • Chess for Kids
  • Class365
  • Duo Lingo
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Drive
  • Google Sheets
  • Grades
  • Grasshopper
  • IXL
  • JW Library
  • Kahoot!
  • Khan Academy
  • Learning Ally Audiobooks
  • Mango Languages
  • Moose Math
  • Nearpod
  • PBS Kids Games
  • Pet Bingo
  • Photomath
  • PowerSchool
  • Podigy Math
  • PupilPath
  • Quissizz
  • Remind
  • Reverse Dictionary
  • Schoology
  • Science Journal
  • Scratch and Scratch Jr.
  • Seesaw
  • Skyward
  • Snaptype
  • State the States
  • TimeMac English Dictionary
  • Zoom
  • Boomerang
  • Canva
  • ChatterPix Kids
  • Complete ear tuner
  • GuitarTuna
  • LEGO – building instructions
  • Lightbot
  • Mussila Music School
  • Perfect Ear
  • SideChef
  • Simply Piano
  • Sketchbook
  • Stop Motion Studio
  • Tuner – Pitched!
  • BASIQs Baseball
  • DribbleUp Smart Basketball
  • DribbleUp Soccer
  • GameChanger Baseball & Softball Scorekeeper
  • Garmin Vívofit Jr.
  • Google Fit: Activity Tracking
  • Halo Fitness
  • hum by Colgate
  • Meet Mobile: Swim
  • Nike Training Club – Home workouts & fitness plans
  • statUP
  • Strava: Track Running, Cycling & Swimming
  • TeamSnap Tournaments
  • Telehealth by SimplePractice
  • USA Baseball Mobile Coach
  • Very Fit Pro
  • Volleyball Referee
  • Abide
  • Breathly – Just Breathe
  • Calm
  • Calm Harm – manages self harm
  • Children’s Bedtime Meditations for Sleep & Calm
  • Clear Fear
  • Clue
  • DBT Travel Guide
  • Headspace
  • Inner Balance
  • Ninja Focus
  • Oky
  • Stop, Breathe & Think
  • STOPit
  • Coin Collection
  • FamilySearch Memories
  • Google Arts & Culture
  • Google Earth
  • Sky Map
  • Troop Master
  • Adobe Scan
  • Calculator
  • ColorNote
  • Dexcom CLARITY
  • Dropbox
  • Genius Scan – PDF Scanner
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs
  • Google Keep – Notes and Lists
  • Google Maps
  • Google Photos
  • Google Slides
  • Google Translate
  • Graphing Calculator
  • Kevo
  • Lyft
  • Mathway
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Mint Mobile
  • Proton Calendar – Private and secure calendar (Early Access)
  • ProtonMail
  • Snapseed
  • Tile
  • Time Timer Visual Productivity
  • Todoist
  • Trello
  • TroopWebHost
  • Uber
  • UKG Dimensions
  • Weather
  • Wyze – Make Your Home Smarter
  • Chase Mobile
  • EveryDollar
  • Greenlight
  • PNC Bank
  • You Need A Budget
  • Bible – Audio & Video Bibles
  • Bible App for Kids
  • Bible by Olive Tree
  • Blue Letter Bible
  • Chabad
  • Come Follow Me
  • Daily Chumash
  • Daily Readings Lite
  • Deseret Bookshelf
  • Doctrinal Mastery
  • ESV Bible
  • Gospel for Kids
  • Gospel Library
  • Gospel Living
  • Got Questions?
  • Grace To You
  • Hallow: Catholic Meditation & Prayer App
  • LDS Member Tools
  • Ligonier Ministries
  • Literal Word
  • Muslim Pro
  • New City Catechism
  • Prayer Book
  • Sacred Music
  • ScripturePlus
  • Soul Revolution
  • The Holy Quran
  • VerseLocker

How will the Pinwheel Phone keep my child safe?

The whole intention behind a Pinwheel phone is to keep your child safe — physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. So Let’s talk about how and why a phone like this is beneficial for your child’s well-being.

GPS Tracking and locator

The Pinwheel phone has a GPS tracker, so you can always check in on your child to find out where they are, keeping them safe from harm.

Bark parental control app for better monitoring

As mentioned above, Pinwheel has partnered with Bark to help monitor and screen for text messages and conversations with people that might prove harmful for them and for others. Pinwheel alone does this, but instead of sifting through all the apps and conversations yourself, Bark will do this for you and simply alert you to anything concerning. This can be especially useful for parents whose older kids are struggling to have healthy communication with them.

Bark is the leading software in parental control, so they are the first to know about secret words and emojis kids use to get around parental supervision. Bark also monitors screen time, keeping your older child accountable for how long they use their phones.

It also enables you to block spam calls, because all contacts are filtered and approved by you, the parent. 

Why the Pinwheel Phone is a good option for younger kids

Many parents want a way to communicate with their kids while they are at school or an aftercare program. With choosing to only have the phone for text and calling purposes, Pinwheel is a great option that does exactly that while also having the capability to grow and change with your child.

We homeschool our 10yo, and when he goes on a bike ride or to the Library by himself, it gives me peace of mind knowing he can call me if he needs help or has questions. At the same time, he’s not old enough to need apps, except for a few. Pinwheel has been an incredible way for us to create our very own mixture of what he does and doesn’t need and be able to change it as he ages.

What are the features of a Pinwheel phone?

“With our thoughtfully created operating system, we give caregivers the ability to enable creativity, communication, and responsibility in the form of daily schedules that can be customized to suit your family needs.” – Pinwheel

Within the caregiver portal, either by using your computer or an app on your phone, you can curate apps that your child can use, decide what contacts your child has (safelist), decide what their schedule or routine will be with “days and modes” — say you don’t want them on their phones at all during a certain time of the day — you can disable everything during that time you allot. For more info on details and features, check out their website.

How user-friendly is the Pinwheel Phone for parents and people who aren’t tech savvy?

As a mom who’s not the best with technology, I found the Pinwheel phone extremely straightforward and user-friendly. This was actually something I was worried about when getting the phone, but I was pleased to feel confident when navigating everything. I have an iPhone, and the app worked well, and I didn’t run into any issues or technical problems. 

What phone carrier is best for the Pinwheel Phone?

Pinwheel will suggest to you that Mint Mobile is a compatible and affordable option. Simply sign up on their website and they will send you a sim card within days of ordering. 

You can also go through any phone carrier — let’s say if you want to stick to the one the rest of your family has, like version, AT&T, etc. 

Our experience of getting and using the Pinwheel phone.

You will find that the Pinwheel company has a great team behind it that is open to answer any of your questions and concerns. This makes the whole experience of stepping into unknown waters of buying your child their first phone pleasant and exciting for everyone.

With my son only being 10, I was hesitant as to whether or not this was a good idea. I am all about limiting screens, and this would typically be against my M.O. But then I started thinking. I don’t want to be a mom who keeps their child in a bubble until it bursts; I want to walk alongside him and help him have a healthy relationship with mobile technology. My other M.O. is also, “Prepare your kids for the world they WILL grow up in, not for the world YOU want them to grow up in.”

In this day and age, it’s not something parents can get around. Our kids will eventually end up with a phone in their hands, and us teaching them how to use it healthily is part of our parenting job. So why not introduce a phone at an age where he is still moldable, impressionable, and able to heed his parent’s advice?

Such things sparked our journey in getting our 10yo his first phone.

I told my son to close his eyes and hold his hand out. Usually, when I do this, it’s something special, so he knew it was a big deal. So he held his hand out with anticipation, grasped the phone, and, of course, burst at the seams. I mean, what 10yo DOESN’T want a phone?

We talked about how this phone is mostly for calling and texting, explaining its different features. He understands that he can ONLY text and call people I have approved through my phone – there are no unapproved contacts allowed to contact or receive calls from his phone.

 Which is a hilarious side-note. I accidentally put the wrong number in for one of his friends who lives across the country. So he ended up texting some stranger. Thankfully it wasn’t a creep or anything. But after that, I was able to change the phone number, and this person no longer can have contact with my son. If it were a regular ole phone, this guy could text back and have a conversation with my son without me ever knowing it!

Before I gave my son his new phone, I set up everything, including his contacts and apps. He has VERY limited apps (ones good for school and that chess game– he loves chess). Other than that, I also set up time limits of screen use to a “must need” basis. 

That means he can’t look at his phone (which can be monitored in the Days and Modes feature) at certain times of the day. AND he can only bring his phone with him if he goes somewhere without us. He can text and talk to this friends and family who don’t live near us, which is nice. I also find it refreshing that I can monitor those texts as well. If you add Bark, it does all the filtering and heavy lifting for you. 

As he gets older, he will be given more freedom. But while he’s in our home, there will always be accountability and monitoring, and he knows that. By teaching this mindset young, he will hopefully be more accepting of it when he’s older. That’s the hope, at least.

My son has done a great job of understanding and adhering to the boundaries we’ve set so far, with a few “but why can’t I bring my phone!?” situations. But other than that, the Pinwheel phone setup makes it so easy for us not to be the bad guys. If it’s not in his schedule to text anyone or look at his apps, he can’t access it. The phone literally does all the work for us!

As a mom, I would totally recommend this for your child’s safety, as well as nurturing a healthy relationship with mobile technology from a young age.

And as with anything, remember that you are the example of everything to your child. Do you look up from your phone when they talk to you? Are you more in tune with the contents of your smartphone than you are with the contents of your child’s heart? Are you spending your entire day on your phone, or are you interacting with your loved ones?

I am constantly keeping myself in check on these things. But, because I’m not perfect, I have to apologize frequently — it’s also good for your kids to know that you aren’t perfect.

Author

Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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