As a parenting educator and coach, I get a lot of questions and concerns from parents relating to online activity and social media. As you learn how to navigate parenting in a tech world, it can feel overwhelming to know how to keep your kids safe online, especially if you’re not a tech-savvy person. One question parents often ask me:

“What’s the safest phone for my kids and at what age should I get them one?”

That’s when I tell them about Pinwheel. It’s by far the BEST first phone option for your kids. 

I suggest that one of the most important things you can do for your kids mental health is to make sure that what they are experiencing online or on social media isn’t damaging. And that’s something the Pinwheel phone can help parents achieve. 

If you’re considering getting your child a smart phone, the Pinwheel kid’s phone should be first on your list. Along with being able to monitor everything your child has access to within the Pinwheel parent portal — on your computer or easily downloaded as an app for your phone — there are MANY reasons why this is the safest smartphone to get your child.

Reasons why Pinwheel is a great first phone for your kids

  • It only allows parent and therapist-approved apps – no social media or mindless game apps whatsoever!
  • Safelist ONLY Calls and Texts
  • Loophole Prevention
  • GPS Location
  • Partnered with Bark (Monitors their conversations for you and only alerts when needed)
  • Structure their day with modes
  • Add tasks from your phone to theirs

In essence, the Pinwheel phone gives parents peace of mind, knowing their children aren’t in harm’s way.

pinwheel phone features

What is the right age to give my child a phone?

It’s a mission of mine to help parents nurture their child’s mental health by fostering a healthy tech relationship with their kids and keeping them from developing an early phone addiction. 

My advice — it’s better to be a part of something they will be curious about than do everything you can to keep them from it.

That’s why I got my son his first Pinhweel phone at 10 years old. To some, this may feel too young, but I think you should consider the maturity of your child, not just their age. 

Because the Pinwheel phone is so safe, the fears I originally had about my son having a phone were eliminated. But please understand, if Pinwheel didn’t exist, he wouldn’t have a phone. The ONLY reason he has one, is because it’s a Pinwheel phone

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when considering getting your child a phone. 

  • Is it something they need or is it simply because “all my friends have one?”
  • How responsible is your child? Do they take care of the things they own? Are they accomplishing responsibilities at home, like chores?
  • Is it going to be a point of contention in your relationship? Will they have the self-control not to stare at their phone all the time?
  • Are you able to have open and honest conversation about the capabilities of phones and how they can be used for good or for harm?
  • Are you able to follow through on boundaries you set for them using their phone?

Even though Pinwheel eliminates many fears parents have with allowing their child a phone, you should still consider their maturity level.

girl with phone

Why we chose the Pinwheel Phone for our child

I had been thinking about getting my son a phone, so I started doing some research on the matter. The conversations with our son about technology, video games, social media, etc, have always been open and honest. 

As his parents, we remember what it’s like to be curious. Growing up, neither my husband nor I had the kind of relationship with our parents where we felt free to ask them anything, especially things we were embarrassed about.

Touchy subjects were often avoided, which led to our curiosity getting the best of us and experiencing things beyond our maturity level.

We want different for our kids. We want them to feel safe to share their questions and doubts, no matter how uncomfortable. We’ve had conversations about the dangers of the internet, and what it can do to your mind. Not just with inappropriate content, but also with forming addictions. 

These conversations will be monumental in your relationship with your child. If they end up experiencing something they shouldn’t have, they will feel safe to talk to you about it, not ashamed or like they have to hide it from you. 

How we protect our son on all our devices at home.

So far, his computer is protected with Covenant Eyes, as he’s homeschooled and does a lot of research on his laptop. In fact, ALL of our devices at home are protected in some way. Our iPad has Bark, and our smart TV has Bark Home. 

For us, this has nothing to do with mistrusting our son, but rather, all of us holding one another to a higher standard. Accountability is important for all of us — to aid in protecting our hearts and minds. We would rather nurture our relationship with our son now and protect him in areas we can, rather than picking up the pieces when he’s older. It’s hard work. It’s definitely not passive parenting; it’s intentional parenting.

We limit screen time for our kids (which is mostly movies and video games) and keep a close eye on how it’s affecting them (we ended up not allowing Fortnite for various reasons). We make sure the games they play are age-appropriate, and that they are living a normal life outside the meta-verse.

But we also don’t think it’s right to keep them from technology altogether. Like most things in life, balance is key. 

And thankfully, companies like Pinwheel and Bark make it that much easier to keep our kids safe. And that is worth every penny you will spend on a phone or parental control software. 

Long story short, after a lot of research and seeing 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?

pinwheel coupon link

Be sure to use THIS LINK if you decide to purchase your child a Pinwheel Phone — it will get you an automatic 10% off!

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?
  • What are the main differences of the Pinwheel Phone and the Gabb Phone?
  • Is the Pinwheel Phone worth it?
  • 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 10-year-old.

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 their phone be a source of connection via text or call. But when the time is right, you also have a complete parent or caregiver portal that allows YOU to choose the best apps. That’s right! It’s not a flip phone, but rather a smart phone with 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.

If you want to keep their contact list to emergency contacts only, then you can do that. They will not be allowed to contact or receive calls or texts from anyone else.

What kind of phone is the Pinwheel?

The Pinwheel phone is a smartphone, not a flip phone. It has apps like any other smartphone, but since there are only pre-screened, healthy apps, you don’t have to worry about social media or other dangerous apps being downloaded. Parents have complete control over what is allowed, accessed through an app on their own phones. 

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. 

It was created to grow with your child. You can keep things simple by only enabling call or text (no picture texting), and adding all the apps it has to offer — listed below. This is different from Gabb wireless phones, which ONLY allow call and text.

As a mom, I feel like the Pinwheel phone with its filtering technology 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.

Gabb Phone vs. Pinwheel Phone

Many people are asking what the main differences are between a Gabb Phone and a Pinwheel phone and wondering which one is the best for their child, as they are very similar. But there are some key differences that I want to explain so you can make the best choice for your family.

The Pinwheel phone has more features than the Gabb phone, including: Safelist contacts, remote management, review text history, music streaming, finance and banking apps (Greenlight Card app, which is awesome for teaching kids money management). It’s compatible with Bark (parental control app), supports multiple carriers, doesn’t sell your data, spam call data, and has no streaming.

Some parents might want to get a phone that’s more simple, in which case, the Gabb phone might suffice. But if you want to save money in the long run, like when your child is older and in need of something more extensive, the Pinwheel phone evolves with your child’s needs. Here is an image of the main differences between the two, as well as a normal iPhone or Android device.

Does a Pinwheel Phone have internet?

The Pinwheel phone does NOT have an internet browser or social media apps. 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 which include a fitness tracker, and many other apps to help your child establish good habits in this digital age.

  • 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.

Check out my full review of Bark here.

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 (monthly service plan) is a compatible and affordable option. Simply sign up on their website and they will send you a sim card within days of ordering. We did it for my son’s phone and it was very straightforward and simple.

That being said, 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 verizon, AT&T, etc.

Our experience of getting and using the Pinwheel phone.

You will find that the Pinwheel company has a great customer service team behind it that is open to answering 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 10 year old 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.

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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