You want to make sure that they are safe, you want to be able to contact them, but you don’t yet want to grant them access to the dangers of the web, and you not yet sure they are mature enough for a phone. What do you do?
This is already a very controversial subject, and Germany has already banned smartwatches targeted at children due to fears that they could be hacked. Given the technology now available this may have been a slightly trigger happy approach, but it does point to the sensitivity of the issue.Accusations have already emerged regarding ‘Helicopter’ parents using devices to constantly monitor the movements and whereabouts of their offspring. The idea of fitness trackers for kids has also been accused of persuading children to calorie count far too early in life.
That having been said, enthusiasm for child based wearables is obviously there, not only that but given the number of devices coming to market it appears to be a strongly growing sector. The mainstream manufacturers seem to have taken the criticisms on-board and in the main they have built in safeguards around their devices to work around the areas for concern.
Given all of the above it would be remiss of me to fail to investigate the market and not to show you my findings. Below are some of the more mainstream products currently out there. As usual i have included links to the best deals that i have been able to find for each product.
So you’re desperate to be able to contact your son or daughter, but despite this you just can’t get over feeling that he, or she, is still just too young to be having a phone of their own.
The Xplora 3s, might just be everything that you are looking for, but never knew.
Right off the bat the xplora 3s, is my favourite for loads of reasons, not least the fact that currently it is exactly what I need for my daughter and it is available from Amazon with more than £60 off it’s RRP.
Boy or girl, available in blue (pictured) or pink, waterproof (IP67) and including a camera, a pedometer, an alarm clock and a stopwatch, this good looking watch stands head and shoulders above the rest because it is also capable of making direct calls.
You do not need to worry about the little one contacting anybody that you don’t agree with as the contact list is controlled through either, or both of the parent’s phones. He/she also hasn’t got access to a headphone jack either, so no secret calls. It has the added bonus that the call quality is not compromised either as the watch sports a decent crystal clear mic and decent speaker.
The Xplora is Sim, free and so you needn’t concern yourself over increasing phone bills, as the first year is free and there is a standard charge of £5.99p.m after that. Though by then that mobile could well be a different consideration after the first year.
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.
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 8.30am and 15.30pm every weekday – during which the watch will only display the time and make emergency calls
At around 36 hrs the battery life is a little bit low but still not a massive compromise for a watch with this much functionality and control, which let’s face it might just buy you another year or maybe 2 before you are left with no option but to let them loose with a full blown phone.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 2
If what you are looking for is to just make simple chores more fun then check out the Vivofit Jr2.
Garmin have given some thought to the connotations surrounding the issues of fitness tracking, calorie counting and body image, which are all, lets face it more adult concerns.The Vivofit gets around this by aiming itself at encouraging kids to get moving and rewarding activities rather than aiming at weight loss or any other such grown-up worries. It displays the time, the date, a step counter, an active minutes counter, and counters for chores, reward coins, and rewards.
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. The straps contain different story-lines on the associated Vívofit Jr app, which is where the fun really starts. Each story-line plays out in the form of a little boardgame inside the app’s “Adventure” mode.
The boardgame works by rewarding activity in real life. If the watch records 60 minutes of activity from your child, they are allowed to make one move on the board. You can only move once per day, so that should also ensure it’ll take a long time before child completes a game and demands a new strap.
The Vívofit Jr actually 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.
It’s a nice way to motivate your little one. 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, pick up toys, set the table etc.
The V-Tech approach is understandably aimed mainly at even younger children and it’s main aim is fun.
The Kidizoom, is capable of games, selfies and a few other tricks that will get the idea of having a useful tech piece on the wrist, but that is about as practical as it gets. Although give credit where it is due, Apple camera they are not, but this little child’s device doubles-up on something that very few adult watches even present. It has 2, yes 2 selfie cameras!
There’s actually quite a lot for the little ones to do. they will enjoy 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.
You would be right to consider this more of a semi-educational toy rather than a watch of any practicality. The DX2 also suffers from a flaw that I am aware V-Tech, have been highlighted for on several of their educational toys, that is a concern regarding parental controls. As is the case with much of their hardware you can limit the amount of game time, but with this watch you cannot turn off certain games or even set school time.
Even given it’s limitations, and lack of practicality, the fact that it will be quickly grown out of. For younger children price if the DX2 means that it may well still be well worth considering.