Experts say that around middle school age is an appropriate time to have the cell phone discussion with kids (if you’re thinking about going that route, be sure to read this first).
But that conversation gets a little complicated if you have a younger child who’s far from smartphone age, but who you’d like to be in touch with for safety’s sake – when, let’s say, she needs to take a long bus ride to school, or is using a ride share app for kids, or public transportation.
That’s where wearables for kids could be a win. The same technology you use for monitoring your own activity when you’re getting in those extra steps is also a great way to track your kids’ movements. Some models even include basic communication via one-touch phone call, so you can get in touch when you need to, without the distraction and responsibility of an actual cellphone. (Not to mention wearables for kids and their mobile plans are waaay more affordable.)
The picture of my kids above is from the pre-cellphone age: Things were simpler then— my son is driving now, and my daughter’s about to be on a middle-school bus for nearly an hour each day. Plus her social and athletic life puts her on different buses and different people’s cars all the time. They’re so much older now, and their lives are so much bigger— smartphones, at this age, are a given, but I know that in the past there were situations here and there— a weekend-long stay at a friend’s vacation home, or a trip to an amusement park with another family— where I would have loved a way to check on their coordinates or connect with them quickly… and if those situations had been more regular, I could see where these devices would have provided a great, pre-smartphone solution.
There are some wearables made specifically for gaming, but honestly why on earth would you go there? Aside from the fact that they will outgrow these devices in a nanosecond (can you imagine a 6th grader wearing one?), kids have no shortage of gaming opportunities, so slapping a gaming device on their wrist seems a bit ridiculous (VTech, I’m looking at you).
That being said, there are several kids’ wearables that are practical and worth considering. Until your kid is ready for a cellphone, these are a great baby step:
If you need to get in touch with your kid regularly…
Try the LG GizmoPal 2 or Tinitell Smartwatch (above). Scheduling pick-ups from sleepovers and sports practice is a whole lot easier if your kid can just call you with updates. In addition to built-in GPS tracking, these models have a super easy call function that lets your kid call with the touch of a button. The twist is that you have control over their caller lists, and their limited to a handful (babysitter, mom, dad and grandma). Plus you can see all activity on the corresponding smartphone app.
If you want a cheap way to keep track of your kid on the go…
The super small Trax Play is a great option for parents whose kids travel around a lot on their own or have special needs. Though it weighs less than an ounce, this little tile is pretty powerful: It can track multiple kids (and even pets) at once and send all of their geolocations to your smartphone. If you get separated outside or in a crowd, just point your smartphone camera around until it locates the Trax Play to figure out where your kid is headed. It also includes a geofencing feature, which allows you to set a virtual “fence” for your kids to stay within; if they go out of bounds, you get a notification. If you’re looking for a simpler device at a lower price point, try Lineable (above), a silicone wristband that sends you an alert if your kid wanders out of the zone you set. It’s around $13 on Amazon – a pretty good deal for what you get.
If you want to get your kid moving…
Take the vívofit JR. (above) for a spin. Thanks in large part to, well, technology, more and more kids don’t get in the recommended 60 minutes of activity each day. The good news is, wearable technology specifically designed to get kids moving can help. Much like adult fitness wearables, the vívofit jr. tracks kids’ steps, sleep, and whether they get in the recommended hour of movement each day. You can even assign tasks – like chores or brushing their teeth – via the app, which then show up on the watch’s to-do list. Kids are rewarded for their efforts with “coins” they can exchange for rewards set by their parents and adventure activities they can do on their vívofit. Want a super simple version that’s less than $25? Check out the iBitz Kids Activity Tracker. It’s more barebones, but offers the basic motivation your kid needs to get up and moving.
Would having your kid wear a wearable be a help or a hinderance? Let me know what you think in the comments.