Advice for first cellphone for almost-6th grade daughter

I feel I am chasing a unicorn here.  Our family agrees our 11 year old daughter will need a cellphone for phone calls/texting us.  Although she loves our iPhones, she herself is ambivalent about connectivity and risk of cellphone addiction, having just seen the movie "Screenagers" with us (pretty sobering).  We'd like to add her to our AT&T Family Plan.  An old flip phone is out (too hard to text with the buttons). She'd like some basic online capacity (Google, maybe a simple little game or two) but we're all worried about the magnetic allure of online-phone time (especially when she's not at home).  We thought about passing along an old family iPhone 4S but struggle with this worry.  

Anyone know a phone with a touch (onscreen) keyboard for easy texting, but no (or minimal) internet access?   It seems (looking at the phones on AT&T website) that anything that's not a flip-phone is automatically in internet territory.  Thanks for any suggestions.  

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Take a look at the Chinese imports such as  Bluboo Xtouch, OnePlusX, OnePlus2 or UMI.  There are well over 100 of them that will work with AT&T and cost between $100 and $250.

All of the OnePlus phones have outstanding reviews and seems to be the one to get if you're not interested in paying $900 for an iPhone.  Many of my friends in the tech have them and are very pleased.  My wife has and one for over a year and it's worked flawlessly.  Get the insurance.  I think it was $40 for two years.  If the screen breaks twice in two years you'll get a new phone.

OnePlus phones have to be ordered on their web site.  For the other imports you'll have to order from eBay or Amazon. 

Every kid is different - some kids glom on to the phone immediately and won't let it go.  Others, like our kid, never think about the phone at all, forget to take it with them, forget they can use it to text us, and never reply to our texts.  It's frustrating!  I would suggest that you get whatever phone is easiest for the family, lay down a few ground rules, and then see how it goes and adjust later as needed.  We got our son his first phone when he started middle school too, when he would be walking home by himself. We used our existing Verizon family plan and gave him one of our old touch screen phones. We soon learned that even if, after constant daily reminders, he remembered to take it with him to school, it would stay in the backpack untouched all day. He would not text us if he would be late, and he would not check for new texts from us. The ringer had to be turned off for school of course, so it stayed off, so we couldn't call him either. He is now 15 and has only this summer begun using it to occasionally text his friends. We find that we have to check his texts for him and let him know when there is something he should reply to. haha His closest friends also rarely use their phones.  They all seem to play online games on Steam which has messaging so that is how they communicate with each other.  Getting them a phone is just like all other parenting things:  you might have a problem with it and you might not! But you never know what the problem is going to be until you do it!

The LG Extravert may be a little too simple, but it is great for texting (has a pull out keyboard) and minimal internet access (can do very very limited Google queries) and it's battery life kicks butt. I've had an Extravert and was a fan. The ZTE Z431 also seems to fit your criteria. The only issue may be whether either of these phones works with AT&T service. Good luck!

Why do you need a touch screen? I actually find those harder to use. A flip phone with a querty keyboard is easy to text on. Here is an example. 

https://www.amazon.com/LG-Lotus-LX-600-Phone-Sprint/dp/B001MYLXY0

You are wise to be cautious about handing a smart phone over to your daughter. We made mistakes with our daughter (now 18), and our son years when he was 11.  We gave them phones because they were commuting by train to school. I wish I could go back and do it differently! Technology has changed, and the features available to restrict access on an iPhone are better now. It's hard to impose restrictions after they have had some exposure. Definitely develop a contract about the circumstances when the phone is to be used, where it will live at night, your need to know passwords, etc. I feel like we really lost control with our daughter and didn't put enough restrictions on our son when he got his first iPhone at 11.  At least now, the iPhone 6 has a "restrictions" feature, which helps parents control content. I wish we known how put in the limits on in the beginning, because by the time we figured it out, the kids felt entitled to have access. The iPhone has a restrictions feature which allows parents to use a separate password to block access or put age restrictions on apps, like safari, explicit music, etc. It has it's problems though, and kids can change their password and lock you out even though they can't change the restrictions unless they know a separate password. I made our son use an apple ID that I controlled (which had no access to a credit card, only a first time $10 Apple gift card, and then when that ran out, he could only spend from a gift card he might receive). Controlling his Apple ID helps, because I can see what music and games he is downloading (I get an email or can go into iTunes to check), and I set up location sharing and "find my phone" so I could see where he is.  Make sure the Apple ID is different than your own, or your child will start getting your texts and content too on their phone. It takes a bit of iPhone knowledge but in this day and age, since our kids are living in this tech world, parents need to learn.  I spend a lot of time at the Apple store taking workshops, and testing things out on my own phone and computer.  Some cellular providers have "smart limits" (for a small monthly fee) which allows you to set up time restrictions for data access and get reports of who they are texting, what time, etc.  If you lay out your rules early and limit access with the restrictions feature, I think you will be in better shape.  Our son, now 14, complains bitterly about the restrictions and I wish I had established the rules earlier so it wouldn't now seem like I am taking something away instead of it just being that way from the beginning. The documentary you mentioned sounds like a great thing to have watched with your daughter. Thank you for the reference - I need to watch it with my kids!  Kids can have a whole "private" online life of communication with peers via snap chat, Instagram, and who knows what. The cat is out of the bag, especially for our 18 yr old, and we are definitely figuring out how to deal with it.

Our son only got a smart phone a year ago as he was heading off to college. Up until then he only had a button flip phone that required the more complicated way to text. And I gotta tell you, he got lightening fast texting on those buttons! So don't let that piece dissuade you; texting would be more cumbersome but she would get fast, I promise. He liked not being tempted by internet access and we appreciated saving the $$ all those years. You could always try a flip phone for 6 months and see how it goes...

I got my daughter an iphone 5s, which is smaller and less expensive than the newer model and then disabled the safari search engine on it. This means she cannot browse the internet. She's lobbying now to have it enabled, which I might do, since she is now 13. There are still restrictions on the phone so she cannot watch videos and other content that are adult in nature. There are ways to control it.

Check out textnow.com. Locked smart phones, just for their plan, are very cheap. I have a plan for my son that is 18.99 a month, unlimited calls and text, and just 500mb of data, which is pretty limited and why I chose it. You can get more expensive plans with more data if you want. He can have unlimited internet at home if he connects to our wifi--and I can be around to monitor use. I can also go online to the account and see all texts he has sent. I'm very happy with it.

Agree with the parent on the flip phone -- kids figure out how to text on those pretty quickly.  Besides, when they're still young, they tend not to notice texts anyway, so if you want to communicate with them, you have to call.  My kids got a flip phone in 6th grade. You can also set it up so that they can only call certain numbers.  The other problem with touchscreens is that they shatter too easily.  Flip phones are well nigh indestructible.

I switched my kids to smartphones in 9th grade.  Worked out fine.  

My younger daughter, now graduated from high school, actually just thanked me for all the internet restrictions I set up in her middle school years.  I wouldn't even let them use Google on their laptops until 8th grade--only kid friendly websites like PBSKids were open to them, and the laptops would shut down after x hours and at bedtime.  She is a voracious reader now, partly thanks to that, and feels like some of her classmates got lost in YouTube and games too early.