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This Cell Phone for Kids Is Exactly What Parents Have Been Waiting For

Photograph by Republic Wireless

Ever since Steve Jobs put a talking Apple in our hands, the need for a hardwired telephone has been obsolete. In fact, if you ask anyone born after 2007 what a landline was, they will probably stare blankly into space and blink.

The problem with not having a landline is that kids can't "phone home" when they need something (or just want to say hi). So, parents are left with a choice: Do they keep their fingers crossed that there will always be a "public" mobile phone lying around and available for them to use or suck it up and give them a smartphone?

Understandably, many parents aren't sold on the idea of handing over a smartphone to a child. Some are concerned that excess distractions—games, videos and messaging—will keep them from being productive. Others worry more about what they will find or who they will meet online. Though most phones allow parents to set up restrictions, the protection it provides barely makes a dent. In other words, you can tighten up security as much as you want, but hackers, predators and children determined to get on YouTube can always find a way to work around it.

If you're one of those concerned parents (and who isn't?), you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. There's now a third option, and it's brilliant.

Republic Wireless has just released their newest device: Relay, the LTE and Wi-Fi-equipped walkie-talkie—designed as an alternative cell phone for kids.

Relay is a compact, durable, water-resistant and "screen-free" device that allows kids to stay connected without the hidden dangers of a smartphone. It’s also super stylish and easy to use, thanks to a simplified system that eliminates distractions and limits interaction to a single button.

Though it works like a walkie-talkie, Relay is anything but. The unlimited, nationwide range of 4G LTE & WiFi lets kids communicate with friends and family anywhere they want—outside, down the street or from another country.

Another cool feature is the product’s ability to connect with other Relays, so siblings (or multiple friends, at the parent’s discretion) who also own the device can speak to one another—alone or in a group.

But here’s the best part: parents who already have a smartphone to contend with and don’t want to walk around carrying another device in their pockets won’t have to because the company designed a companion app that works on iOS or Android. On top of that, the app comes equipped with GPS tracking so you can keep an eye on your kids wherever they go. Genius, right?

Worried about battery life? Don’t be. Relay uses software that drives optimization of battery-hungry functions that normally drain batteries. Again, less is more.

The company is also working on a Relay controlled “app store,” where parents will be able to introduce kids to music, games and the Internet at their own pace, protecting them against “stranger access” and privacy invasion.

MK Alderman, who works on the marketing team at Republic Wireless told Mom.me that Relay is one of her passion projects.

"It's opened up opportunities for my son to gain independence, learn responsibility, and find more active ways to spend his after-school hours than getting sucked into video games or TV shows," she said. "And it's given me the peace of mind I needed to let my kid do some growing up, to discover who he is, what he loves to do and to just enjoy being a kid."

So, how much will it cost to keep a family connected? According to their website, two Relays will only set you back $149 with a $6.99 monthly service plan, but the relief you will get from knowing your kids are outside enjoying life while still able to contact them, instead of getting sucked into god knows what on the internet, is reason enough to consider getting your entire family to go screen-free with Relay.

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