There are some basic phones available. The selection is small however.
I'm most definitely NOT a VZW employee. If a post answered your question, please mark it as the answer.
No you don't have to upgrade to a smartphone. You can choose one of the few basic phones they offer. They probably aren't any better than what they have now. You don't have to upgrade ever if you want. Now if you are asking if you have to get a data plan if you get a smartphone then the answer is yes. The cheapest data plan is $30.
Tell your kids they can have smartphone if they can come up with the $60 extra per month it will cost.
Or, they could use the same phones that they have now and you could buy them personal media players (i.e. an iPod Touch or a Galaxy Player).
This is what i do, i have the Samsung Brightside, great phone, no problems at all. Then i have an ipod touch 5th gen for internet, games, etc. It saves me about $30+ a month for my part of the phone bill. I only pay about $12.70 for my phone bill a month.