I’d like to share why we went with Pinwheel for our kids first phone and hope you’ll find it useful and informative for making a decision for your kids. (Pst: There’s also a Pinwheel Discount Code make sure you click that link to save 10% and your discount will show in your cart at checkout!)
After a year of research and searching, we finally decided on a Pinwheel phone for the first phone for our kids (you know, after the played with old dead phones for years). It hasn’t been an easy decision, but the kids are happy with the Pinwheel and so are we. We are paying customers first and used the phone for a while before writing about it and sharing about it.
So, what’s a caregiver to do? Should you go with a basic flip phone (did you know these can still access the internet) go with a smartphone that comes with a wide range of tech challenges, like managing screen time or preventing contact with predators? We definitely considered all of these options.
I was pretty happy when I discovered Pinwheel and continued to read more and learn more about it before making a decision. (Yes, I sometimes have research and decisions paralysis).
Pinwheel is a smartphone designed for kids by parents who weren’t happy with the tech options already out there. The Pinwheel phone is more than just a smartphone, it’s a tool created to help you and your family introduce technology to your kids and teens in a healthy, non-addictive way.
What Makes Pinwheel Different
The caregiver console (available both for desktop as well as an app) is basically the hub for all things Pinwheel for the caregiver. I like the inclusivity here in not calling it a parent console.
In the Dashboard, you have the location of the Pinwheel/child, battery status and the storage used on the phone.
Pinwheel has a GPS locator right in the caregiver dashboard. It will show a map of the current location of the pinwheel device (aka your child) as well as a history of previous locations.
Need to see if your child is where they said they would be? Pop into your caregiver portal and check their location on the map.
Days/Modes allows the caregiver to activate schedules as well as which apps (see the full list of Pinwheel apps here) and contacts can be used at certain times. In school, during the day, maybe you only want emergency contacts to be able to come through. You can also allow certain apps while disallowing others on a schedule.
Routines allows for setting things like “wake up” or “bedtime routine” and a checklist for a child to complete. These can be edited depending on the needs of the family.
Curated Apps is where the caregiver can activate and set modes for various apps that pinwheel has approved. Pinwheel also very clearly marks if there is a recommended age range for an app and if there is a parent warning for potential loopholes. This allows caregivers to make the best decision for them and the child.
Pinwheel’s Appstore, which is only shown to parents and caregivers, has been carefully curated and approved by a board of child and family therapists so you know your little one can safely navigate their apps unsupervised.
Some apps include Calculator, alarm, Google Calendar, Amazon music, Bark, Google Maps, and more, but only if caregiver enables them.
The Phone History is where caregivers can see a complete history of all text messages and phone calls sent and received.
If a text message comes through from an unapproved contact (more on that below), it will show in the “needs review” tab only for the caregiver. Some of the text messages that come through on that tab are wow!
Other times, it’s a friend who got a new phone or a new contact and they reach out. I am able to approve them on the spot.
This has also been a great way to introduce texting etiquette. When my daughter gets a news message that says “yo” and no name or anything, she has realized how important it is to make sure you know who is sending a message. Especially a new contact. (I don’t approve the “yos” or “hellos” until we know who the person is.)
This is also a good place to note that yes, Group Messaging does work. BUT, all of the contacts have to be added to the Pinwheel. (Looking for a discount, the code no longer works, but shop this link and the discount will be added to your cart at the end to save 10%!)
Images are optional when it comes to text messages. Caregivers are given the opportunity to decide if their child can send and receive images within text messages.
** UPDATE FALL 2022** Caregivers can now select image texting by contact. So, caregivers can turn off all images, or allow certain contacts to sent and receive images. On each contact in the caregiver portal, you’ll see the option to toggle image permission on or off.
Contacts are added via the caregiver console for a safelist of contacts and can be put into categories for use with the modes. Additionally, say a kid wants to add a new contact. They can add them via the pinwheel and it is sent to the “needs approval” tab for the caregiver. Usually, my daughter just sends me a quick note that she’s added a new contact and to please approve it.
New + Improved In Caregiver Portal (updated November 22, 2021)
NEW Safelist Options
Safelist now has 3 possible settings, controlled through a button at the top of the Contacts tab in the Caregiver Portal. The settings are:
Caregiver-Managed: The original Pinwheel Safelist. Still the default and recommended setting at the beginning of the phone journey. The caregiver approves each contact. The Pinwheel cannot call or text with any number you have not approved. Modes allow you to schedule when each contact is available.
Child-Managed: For kids who are a little older and more independent, and you have no concerns about inappropriate or unsafe communication choices. The child-managed safelist allows the child to add new contacts. They are able to immediately communicate with any contact without your prior knowledge or approval. You still have the ability to see their contact list in Caregiver Portal, and to reject or block any contact at any time. Also, if the child hasn’t added a contact, it will still be up for review by the caregiver (aka spammy texts and links won’t get to them!)
Disabled Safelist: For older teens who are almost ready to have an adult phone. Your child can directly dial any number at any time, and anyone can call or text them. They will receive spam calls, robocalls, and telemarketers, like they would on a regular phone. You can still see their call log and text history in Caregiver Portal, and can block specific contacts if needed. Calling and texting is available 24/7.
A Real Solution
Pinwheel has been designed to evolve and grow alongside your child. Pinwheel’s Operating System upgrades over stage and age development. Even since we’ve had the Pinwheel there have been updates including group messaging and an updated home screen.
No internet browser and no social media
This was a big one for us! We didn’t want the girls scrolling mindlessly on social media or having open access to the internet. It’s scary out there!
I know they will see things and find things, but this can help them grow with the phone and help with conversations.
With an agreement with Bark, monitoring on your Pinwheel phone is $5/month. Bark uses AI to monitor text messages, kids messenger and even photos for anything harmful, bullying, drugs and more. With or without the Pinwheel phone, I highly recommend adding Bark to monitoring of phones AND computers for your children. You can use this link for a free 7 day trial for Bark.
Cost of Pinwheel and Pinwheel discount code
For the Pinwheel phone you will pay:
- the price of the Pinwheel phone (use this link to save 10%…you have to use this link to get the discount-the discount will show in your cart at checkout) which varies depending on the model.
- Monthly cell plan. You select the carrier from options like Verizon, T-mobile and Mint Mobile. We went with Mint Mobile’s 4GB/month plan. Because there is so little data used, 4GB/month is more than enough. You can use our Mint Mobile referral code from now until 1/7/2022, to get 3 months free when you purchase any 3-month plan. You can even transfer your phone number when you switch.) After 1/7/2022, that code allows you to save $15 off your bill 15 days after your activation! (How I wish I had that when we set things up). When you are purchasing your pinwheel, if you want to take advantage of this, you need to select that you’ll get your own SIM card.
- $15/month for pinwheel caregiver dashboard (subsequent phones receive a decreased monthly charge or $5/month.)
When you shop through my link, when you get to the cart, you will see the 10% discount applied. (See the image below for the Tier 1 discount.)
Order Pinwheel with Pinwheel Discount Code
You can order your very own Pinwheel, as well as access a number of other valuable family and tech resources, here and save 10% on your Pinwheel phone order. Discount will show in your cart at checkout. Make sure you click through the link to get the discount! Buy Pinwheel with a 10% discount by clicking here.
Heaphones and earbuds that work with Pinwheel
Any bluetooth or auxiliary plug headphone should work with Pinwheel. Since kids tend to lose things, we opted for more inexpensive and affordable ones.
We’ve been using the ilive Truly Wire-free Earbuds with great success.
They are pretty inexpensive, come with a case that charges them and have a couple different ways to wear them (over the ear or just in the ear).
She’s also borrowed some of ours and Mr. Serious and I both like these JLab earbuds that pair well with the Pinwheel. And, since we like music so much here, she also pairs a bluetooth speaker with her Pinwheel while she runs and has no issues making the connection.
We’ve been very happy with the Pinwheel phone for our kids. After reading countless stories of parents and caregivers having to go from an iPhone to a Pinwheel because of dangerous conversations and habits, I’m very happy to have Pinwheel as an option.