It is a truth universally acknowledged that a child viewing his parent’s gadgets must be in want of his own. If you’ve got something cool, you can guarantee it won’t be long before they’re either taking yours or demanding their own.
Smartwatches and fitness trackers2020欧洲杯网站 are the latest tech products finding a younger audience – although not without attracting controversy. In Germany, children’s smartwatches are banned due to fears they could be hacked. Meanwhile fitness trackers for kids have been criticised for leading children to start calorie counting at a young age. Then there are the accusations of helicopter parents using smartwatches to track their children at all times.
Still, enthusiasm for the gadgets is clearly there, because tech brands continue to plug away with the kiddy wrist gadgets. Many of these take the generalised criticism on board and build in measures to quell anxiety that the watches can do more harm than good. The best smartwatches for kids are carefully designed with both the child and his or her parents in mind.
Here's what I found while testing and reviewing a range of the best kids smart watches for parents to buy, starting with my favourites...
1. XPLORA GO
Why we like it: It's basically a phone on your kid's wrist – in a good way
2020欧洲杯网站This pleasant-looking, waterproof watch includes a camera, a pedometer, an alarm clock and a stopwatch. But what really elevates it among the crowd is the fact that it can send and make calls directly.
That should be of interest to the parent who doesn't want their child to have a mobile, but who does feel the need to be able to stay in touch. Plus, the watch's contact list is controlled from the app on an adult's phone (and two parents can access this so little Tamantha won't constantly be bothering just one of you to add grandma's number to her device.) If you want to add a contact, you can, but they won't be adding anyone you don't approve of.
The call quality is actually really good; the watch has a crystal clear microphone and speaker. There's no headphone jack, so conversations can't really be conducted privately – which may be for the best, depending on your point of view.
2020欧洲杯网站In terms of parental controls, the functionality doesn't end there. From the app on your own smartphone, you can set school times – say between 8.30 and 15.30 every weekday – during which the watch will only display the time and make emergency calls (don't worry: you can still call it if you need an update on Tamatha's day).
2020欧洲杯网站The watch also features an encrypted GPS tracker that updates constantly with your child's location. If they're in danger, they can hold the button on the watch down for a few seconds and you'll get an SOS alert. Trust me when I say you won't fail to notice. Your phone lights up, the volume goes full blast, and a siren sounds. You can also set safety zones - a radius of 500m around the school, for example. If your child leaves one of these zones, you'll get an alert.
2020欧洲杯网站Thanks to a collaboration with Sony, kids can even link the XPLORA GO up with their PlayStation and win in-game rewards for achieving fitness goals, which is a cute and interesting way to encourage them to get active.
I criticised the previous model, the XPLORA 3S for a weak battery life of only 36 hours, suggesting that children might forget to charge it. However, the GO comfortably lasted almost a week without needing to be charged, so clearly this is an area XPLORA have invested in.
The other upgrade from 3S to GO is that you can now use the GO in 'asset mode' this means you can attach it to a bag, bike, or jacket and track that. Ideal if your little one is always losing their stuff. Personally I think I'd be more interested in keeping track of the children and letting them use it as a smartwatch but it's a nice feature to have.
Still, for the child who isn't old enough for a smartphone but is old enough to want one, this is the perfect mid-point which should help settle those arguments (for a little while, at least.)
2020欧洲杯网站You can also get the which is slightly more expensive but does come with better waterproofing, but is otherwise the same in all ways. Go with the GO!
2. Gator Watch
Why we like it: A solid kid-tracker
2020欧洲杯网站Less of a smartwatch and more of a tracker, Gator Watch might not be the ‘smartest’ of smartwatches in the modern sense, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a really solid bit of tech.
The device itself looks fairly spartan, there’s no touch screen or in-built games or any distractions. This is a watch, first and foremost, with a nice soft rubbery strap which reminded me of the old Casio watches I wore as a kid.
2020欧洲杯网站The device is controlled via three buttons on the right-hand side and two on the left. A combination of long and short presses on these will unlock the watch's functions, which include sending voice notes, making calls to a pre-approved number list (set by parents in the accompanying app) and activating an SOS function which alerts the parent.
The first thing I’d say to any parents considering the Gator Watch is that you absolutely need to unbox it and set the thing up before presenting it to your son or daughter. You know that tykes hate waiting and this one requires a fair amount of jiggery-pokery.
2020欧洲杯网站The whole thing needs mobile data to work so you have to pick a service plan. You must download the watch’s accompanying app then add in your watch’s own phone number (supplied when you purchase a plan) as well as the parent’s phone number to be contacted in emergencies.
2020欧洲杯网站None of this is especially convoluted or difficult, it just involves some fiddling around sorting through your emails, waiting for confirmation codes, etc.
Once you’ve done all this, the tracking is shown on the app. Wherever the watch might be, you can see directly through the app. Tracking is very good and it’s easy to set-up safe zones. You simply select a marker on the map and choose the radius, from 200m to 2000m. If the watch (which your child is presumed to be wearing) leaves the area, you get an alert.
Calling is a bit more complicated. It involves a long press on one of the buttons, but to be honest, I struggled to remember which was the one for calls and which for voice notes and whether I needed long or short presses. Still, there are no technical problems with calls. I could hear the person on the other end of the line loud and clear. With all this in mind, it might be worth having a few practice runs with your child so you know they are comfortable remembering what button does what.
2020欧洲杯网站The final thing is the SOS button. A three-section press activates the SOS and calls the parent’s phone immediately, as well as sending location data to the app. That’s a great approach because, hopefully, it should ensure you notice the feature being activated, rather than just a push-notification or some such.
Overall, while there are a few edges that could be improved upon in a future update, the Gator Watch is a really solid piece of gadgetry for parents who want to keep an eye on their little ones.
3. Garmin Vívofit Jr 2
Why we like it:2020欧洲杯网站 Makes exercise fun for kids and offers a cute way for parents to incentivise chores
There's plenty of debate around the idea of fitness tracking for children2020欧洲杯网站. Worrying about hitting exercise goals and calorie counting are adult concerns, loaded with implicit connotations about body image. Not something we should be subjecting kids to.
However, I’m pleased to say Garmin have crafted an activity tracker with a focus on fun rather than fitness. The Vívofit Jr 2 is about getting kids moving rather than helping them lose a certain amount of weight. It displays the time, the date, a step counter, an active minutes counter, and counters for chores, reward coins, and rewards.
2020欧洲杯网站I'll explain all that in a moment – but first, let's deal with the design, because that's where the Vívofit Jr 2 gets really clever. The console in the middle pops out, so that you can change the strap, with different designs available based around your children's favourite Disney characters. I’ve been using a charming orange model based on BB-8 from the recent Star Wars films – very cute!
What's more, those straps contain different storylines on the associated Vívofit Jr app, which is where the fun really starts. Each storyline plays out in the form of a little boardgame inside the app’s “Adventure” mode – so I was playing a Star Wars story that related to my BB-8 strap.
The boardgame works by rewarding activity in real life. If the watch records 60 minutes of activity from your kid, they are allowed to make one move on the board. (You can only move once per day, so don’t worry about your kids staying up late into the night jumping on their beds to move BB-8 forward on his quest. That should also ensure it’ll take a long time before child completes a game and demands a new strap.)
Away from this game frivolity, the Vívofit Jr does the basics well. The associated app is designed for kids, so it shows overall activity and sleep without harping on about calories or exercise goals. There is also a challenge mode where the kids can compare steps with approved friends and family members.
One of the sweetest features of the app actually has nothing to do with exercise. Parents can set chores for children to tick off, and reward them with a corresponding number of digital coins for each chore they complete. Brush their teeth in the morning? Five coins! Set the table for dinner? Ten coins! Pick up toys? Thirty coins!
It's a nice way to motivate your little one – although no doubt they will want their digital coins to translate into real-world goodies. To this end, you can set out reward ideas and kids can pay for them when they’ve accumulated enough coins. Perhaps they’ll choose to cash in fifty reward coins for the chance to stay up late one evening, or maybe they’ll save up their coins to cash in for a bigger prize like a trip to the zoo?
2020欧洲杯网站It’s fun way to introduce your children to the concept of capitalism while encouraging them to help out around the home. And since you set the rewards and their prices, so families of all different means will be able to enjoy the feature.
Overall, I found the Garmin Vívofit Jr. 2 a very charming product that knows exactly where the line is between incentivising the kids and keeping it fun.
4. Kidizoom DX2
Why we like it: 2020欧洲杯网站An unashamed fun-machine
The Kidizoom DX2 is probably the most toy-like of all the kiddie gadgets I tested out – which is to say that it's good for games, selfies, a few other tricks, and not practical stuff like making calls or tracking whereabouts.
The watch has two cameras, one on the watchface and the other on the top, both capable of taking reasonably good quality pictures and video. Obviously don’t expect iPhone quality photography, but considering most adult smartwatches don’t bother to include a camera at all, I think V-Tech have done well to include the feature.
In terms of the software, there’s actually quite a lot for the little ones to do. I enjoyed a Pokémon Go-style AR game which uses all the watch’s capabilities to see kids capturing quirky little monsters. The wearer has to hit a certain step goal, then scan an item of the right colour to make a creature appear before tapping the touch screen to capture it. A fun – and active – diversion.
Other 'apps' on the watch include timed games, brain games, and activity games. None are particularly challenging but smaller kids should get a kick out of them. You can also load additional games onto the watch by downloading them through V-Tech’s website while the watch is attached to your computer.
If you’re the type who believes video-games are rotting children’s minds, you’ll be pleased to hear about the sound effects mode, where the wearer selects which sound effect they want (Magic Wand and Laser Sword were my favourites) and the device makes that sound when it feels them moving their arms. A nice way to get kids exercising their imaginations.
2020欧洲杯网站You're probably getting the sense by now that this isn't the most practical gadget – it's more of a fun thing to play with than a connected device to wear all day. And that's fine – not all things gadgets need to be super serious – but I still harbour some reservations about the DX2's parental controls. You can limit the amount of game time children are allowed, but you can't turn certain games off, or restrict access to the camera, or set 'school time'.
Still, at such a bargain price, this one gives a lot of bang for your buck. Even if your little one grows out of it eventually, it’s not like you paid a fortune for it in the first place.
5. Vodafone V-Kids watch
Why we like it: 2020欧洲杯网站It’s a nice watch that’s got the right amount of functionality for a little one
Helicopter parenting alert! That’s what this device should scream whenever you strap it to your kid’s wrist, because it's main focus seems to be keeping tabs on your child at all times.
2020欧洲杯网站The watch itself is a nice, brightly coloured kid-friendly design with a soft silicone wriststrap and plastic watchface. I dropped it on the floor, jumped on it, threw it across the room, and dropped it from a balcony and found not a scratch on it - it should be able to handle anything your sprog can dish out.
That’s important because this gadget is designed with child safety in mind. Housed in the body of a watch is a SIM card which broadcasts your child’s GPS location data to you at all times. There’s also an SOS button on the side. If the child holds it down for five seconds, it’ll send an alert to the phones of all family members along with information on your child’s whereabouts.
2020欧洲杯网站The watch itself has a few ‘smart’ functions. Your kid will be able to see the time, the weather, and reminders you’ve set for them, as well as play with the calculator, a silly voice changer and a very basic whack-a-mole game (those last three functions can be disabled from the accompanying app to help them focus while they’re at school.)
There’s also a very basic chat function where your kid can send and receive 30-second voice notes from friends and family and communicate using a selection of hand-picked, child-friendly emojis. The quality of the voice notes isn’t stunning, but you can hear everything you need to.
Oddly you can turn off the friends chat in school mode but you can’t turn off the family chat. I’ve read enough parental advice columns to know that relatives (often grandparents) are not good at respecting boundaries in this regard and would happily spend all day chatting to your children, much to the chagrin of their teachers. Watch out for that.
2020欧洲杯网站That’s not my only criticism either. The notifications you get from SOS mode seem much too easy to miss. When your child presses the SOS button, you’ll get nothing more than a push notification. You want your phone to be ringing off the hook, buzzing like crazy, screaming at you to answer it. A humble push notification doesn’t cut it.
2020欧洲杯网站You’ve also got to pay £4 per month for the tracking service which seems steep to me.
2020欧洲杯网站Still, if the helicopter parenting episode of Black Mirror wasn’t enough to put you off, the V-Kids watch is a great tool. It’s well-designed, kid-friendly, the location tracking works well, and the ‘school mode’ is a neat feature to keep the young ‘uns focused on their studies.
6. Fitbit Ace
The first thing you’ll encounter with the Fitbit Ace is the amazingly convoluted set up process. You need to set up an adult account, then add a child’s account, then sync the band to the app – it’s an ordeal.
Like the Garmin Device this one is a fitness tracker first and foremost. It looks very similar to the adult-oriented Fitbit Alta; a very lean device that buckles around the wrist, with straps which can be removed and swapped out very simply. There’s a touch screen of sorts, but you’re required to give it a proper whack to switch between the clock, step tracker, and active minutes counter. That’s all the band can do.
The accompanying app is a pared down version of the adults Fitbit app, only allowing you to monitor steps, sleep, and active minutes. It does what you need it to but it’s pretty dry – I don’t know if children will find it particularly engaging. Little Gruncheon or Jimothy can compete in step competitions but that’s basically it.
7. dokiWatch S
You shouldn’t need advanced technical skills to start up a kids smartwatch. I thought that was obvious but clearly the minds behind the dokiWatch S disagreed.
2020欧洲杯网站To even start the damn thing you need to put a Nano SIM inside it, a process made far more difficult than it should be. Bits of metal pinged out at me, watch straps flew all over the place – it took me what felt like 45 minutes of grappling to actually get the SIM card in.
In theory, the device should then allow your kid to take photos, video-call people, manage their class schedules, make calls, and track their activity.
2020欧洲杯网站In reality, mine just froze.
Sadly I’ve seen stories like this across the internet, with angry parents complaining about devices which froze, inexplicably refused to turn on, could never find a connection, and messed up everything their kids wanted to do on them.