The 2023-2024 school year is in full swing, and you might be wondering what kind of gadgets to get for your child to help them with their learning and to stay in touch with you and others. However, if the idea of giving them a fully functional smartphone feels like giving them wings before they can walk, there are an array of alternatives to explore, tailored especially to their needs.
We have covered devices to more specifically help monitor your child here, and general trackers for your iPhone and Android devices, but if you are looking for something less intrusive, here are some of my top picks.
The TickTalk 4 Smart Watch is another great option for those who wish to keep in contact with their child without having to get them a phone. The watch has great features, including video calling, voice calling, Wi-Fi calling, and messaging, and your child can also have some fun with photos, emojis, and GIFs in their text messages. It also comes with accurate GPS location tracking and emergency SOS, so you won’t have to worry about losing contact with your child. Plus, it’s super durable with its IP67 water resistance, long-lasting battery, drop-proof and shock-proof technology. At the time of publishing, this product had over 2,100 global reviews on Amazon, with 57% giving it 5 stars.
If you have a super active child, then this watch would be a great fit. The Garmin Vivofit Jr. comes in tons of different colors and has a durable, swim-friendly fitness tracker. It can give kids active minute goals that unlock entertaining app adventures, games, and icons, and parents can even use it to assign tasks, schedule alerts and alarms, and reward kids for good behavior. It also has an emergency contact feature so that your kids can easily stay in touch with you. At the time of publishing, this product had over 10,000 global reviews on Amazon, with 76% giving it 5 stars.
The Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is a great watch for those who have kids that are tweens or teens. However, it has more features on it that might be too advanced for a child who is under 12. If your child is more active, this watch has an activity tracker and is also swim-proof, so you won’t have to worry about your child damaging it in the water. It also has a fall-detection feature that will be able to call 911 if your child is injured and unresponsive. Plus, if your child does not have a phone, you can pay extra for the watch to have cellular connectivity so that they can get in touch with you via call or text. At the time of publishing, this product had over 1,000 global reviews on Amazon, with 81% giving it 5 stars.
If your child is too young for a phone and you still want them to have a smart device you can track, the Garmin Bounce Smartwatch is another excellent choice. It connects to LTE cell phone data networks so you can see their location on the Garmin Jr app. It also tracks sleep and fitness and gives parents the power to two-way text, voice message, and track. A $10/month or $99.99/year subscription plan is required to use this watch, and you should plan on 2 days of use between charging.
The Bark Phone is a fully customizable Samsung Android smartphone that monitors texts, apps, social media and web searches, has GPS location tracking, removes app downloads, allows you to set screen time limits, manage calls, and remotely lock. Plus, parents and caregivers receive alerts for dangers or concerning behaviors on a separate dashboard.
Bark Phone comes with unlimited talk and text starting at $49/month – with no contract required. And it also comes with a subscription to the Bark app for the entire family which is great for kids who don’t have phones yet, or to monitor other devices in your home.
If you think your child is ready for a smartphone and you want one that costs less, then the iPhone SE is a great choice. Kids will be able to easily call their parents as well as text in iMessage groups just like any other iPhone user. Apple also can give parents access to parental controls for their children so that they can monitor screen time, track their children’s location, restrict certain apps, set purchase permissions, and more. If you are looking to save money, especially since this is a starter phone for your child, you may opt for this model which is refurbished, fully functional, and in excellent condition. Backed by the 90-day Amazon Renewed Guarantee. At the time of publishing, this renewed device was on sale at Amazon for $144.16 and had over 13,000 global reviews on Amazon, with 69% giving it 5 stars.
This is one of the best options out there for kids if you wish to get your child an Android phone. The phone is being sold for under $400 (at the time of publishing), and it has some great features like quality battery life and protection from things like water and dust. The phone also comes with Google’s Family Link, which is a feature that allows parents to control their child’s screen time, app usage, location data, and more. At the time of publishing, this phone had over 4,700 global reviews on Amazon, with 66% giving it 5 stars.
OTHER TRACKING DEVICES FOR IPHONE & ANDROID
Jiobit is great because it can easily attach to clothing, shoes, backpacks, and more, so it’s perfect for keeping track of your kids. It has real-time GPS location tracking and comes with incredible security, encryption, and privacy measures to ensure your child’s data is secure at all times. At the time of publishing, this product had over 2,300 global reviews with 59% giving it 5 stars.
You can easily attach an Apple AirTag to your child’s backpack or house key and keep track of them at all times via the Find My app. Its one-tap setup will instantly connect it to your iPhone or iPad, and it’s a much simpler and cheaper solution than purchasing a smart device for your child if you’re trying to save money. Plus, it’s completely encrypted so that your data is safe at all times. At the time of publishing, this product had over 144,000 global reviews with 84% giving it 5 stars.
And if you’re going to purchase an AirTag, here are my top picks for AirTag holders to make sure that yours never gets lost.
The Belkin holder with a wire cable is durable and can be securely attached to your luggage, keys, book bags, and more without falling off. It comes with an Allen key locking system and a durable braided wire cable to keep your AirTag safely inside the secure holder. At the time of publishing, this product had over 1,400 global reviews with 86% giving it 5 stars.
Another product you can use is the Apple AirTag Loop. Not only is it lightweight and durable, but it also can fit tightly around your AirTag to ensure that it stays put. It’s available in a few colors and had a 43% discount at the time of publishing on Amazon. At the time of publishing, this product had over 4,400 global reviews with 65% giving it 5 stars.
Like the previous Belkin holder mentioned, this one is very durable and perfect for keeping your AirTag safe while you’re traveling. It also is designed with a raised edge that helps prevent your Apple AirTags from getting scratched. Plus, it comes in various colors. At the time of publishing, this product had over 6,000 global reviews with 81% giving it 5 stars.
I’ve been testing Tile trackers which were first to burst out to wide success years ago. I still have a slim Tile tucked in my wallet which I’ve successfully used to locate when it slipped under a car seat. It’s got an impressive 250-foot range for local discovery of missing items that will beep to help find them.
Far away, the Tile Mate connects to other Tile owners through the Tile app and reports its last location each time to the Tile Network. That same network helped me reunite with a small travel pouch I had left onboard an aircraft.
I could see it sitting inside JetBlue’s lost and found at JFK even though the airline representative did not know it was there – until it beeped.
For features such as alerts when an item is left behind, Tile requires a premium subscription which Apple does without a fee. Tile Mate non-replaceable battery designed to last up to 3 years. If it’s anything like previous Tile trackers’ power performance, it may exceed expected battery life.
Apple AirTag knocked Tile out of the top spot but comes in as a solid #2 recommendation for Apple iPhone user and #1 best Bluetooth tracker if you own an Android phone.
There are several models of Tile available, each with its own unique features and capabilities. Some of the most popular Tile models include:
- Tile Pro: This model has the longest range and the loudest ring of all Tile models. It is perfect for keeping track of your keys, backpacks, and other items that you carry with you on a daily basis.
- Tile Mate: This model is a versatile tracker that is perfect for keeping track of your keys, wallet, and other everyday items. It has a range of up to 200 feet and a loud ring.
- Tile Slim: This model is a sleek tracker that is designed to fit into tight spaces like your wallet or passport holder. It has a range of up to 200 feet and a loud ring.
- Tile Sticker: This model is a small adhesive tracker that can stick to almost anything. It has a range of up to 150 feet and a loud ring.
Pair with any Android 11 or higher phone to find things. SmartTag+ is easy to setup and configure in the SmartThings app from Samsung.
It has added functionality to make the button on the SmartTag+ control other connected devices acting like a remote switch. A unique AR interface visually guides you to missing keys or any nearby object by showing the way. These two standout features are great but not good enough to make up for other shortfalls.
Battery life of 6 months is short by comparison with a number of online customer reviews sharing that the real-life replaceable CR2032 battery life can be as short as 2 months at times.
There are reports that the SmartTag+ is not compatible with Verizon devices when using the SmartThings app even when signed into your Samsung account without going through an arduous 30-step instruction list provided by Verizon. A Samsung support page still shows that “SmartThings is not compatible with Verizon devices.”
Samsung SmartTag2 (launches 10/11)
Samsung has introduced the SmartTag2, an electronic tracking tag with a new design featuring a meta-reinforced ring, making it easier to attach to items like bags and luggage. The SmartTag2 comes with several enhancements:
Lost Mode: Users can link their contact details to the tag. If someone finds the tag, they can scan it using any smartphone with an NFC reader and web browser to access the contact information. This feature is particularly useful for pets, ensuring the owner’s contact details are readily available if the pet goes astray.
Compass View and SmartThings Find App Upgrades: For Samsung smartphone users, Compass View offers directional cues and distance details to help locate the SmartTag2. The SmartThings Find App now includes a screen shortcut and full-screen map view.
Extended Battery Life: The SmartTag2 boasts an impressive 700-day battery life in Power Saving Mode and 500 days in Normal Mode.
Automatic Re-syncing: This feature allows for smooth transitions when switching phones.
Kurt’s key takeaways
A new school year can be stressful for both parents and kids, so take some of that stress off by providing your child with one of these fantastic gadgets. They’re a great resource for helping you to communicate with your child without you having to worry about them getting too much screen time before they’re ready for it, so check them out and see which one could best fit your child’s needs.
Kids used to get by without these technological devices in hand. What are your feelings about giving one to a child? Do you think they’re a good asset, or are they unnecessary? Let us know by commenting below.
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