Getting ready to make the leap to purchase a smartwatch for your child? If so, you probably didn’t come to the decision easily as most of us are concerned about the level of screen consumption by our kids. The best smartwatches for kids display time, of course, but also offer perks for parents like emergency calling and GPS tracking to ease our anxious minds. Of course, plenty of them also come with games, selfie modes, music and texting. There are also time management options in some smartwatches to help hone those skills in otherwise distracted kids and activity tracking to encourage movement.
There are hundreds of smartwatches out there, so to help you discover which will pair best with your child, we did the research and spoke with the screen and safety experts to find the best kids smartwatch. I’m also a consumer technology reporter, educator and author who has tested the latest watches, smartphones, tablets and more, for the last three decades, as well as a doting uncle.
As you’re about to discover, there are a handful of companies that offer smartwatches designed specifically for kids. Each offers a different collection of features. Continue reading to decide what functionality you need for your child. Also, be sure to select a watch that’s the most age appropriate for your kid. We’ve included target ages to help.
“There are potential dangers, even with a simple smartwatch, that parents must explain to children,” says Dr. Catherine Pearlman, a licensed clinical social worker, founder of The Family Coach and author of First Phone: A Child’s Guide to Digital Responsibility, Safety and Etiquette. “Scammers and predators are sophisticated and excellent at engaging vulnerable people. Children need to learn how to apply ‘stranger danger’ to the cyber environment and how to protect personal information. And, there is etiquette to learn so kids are not on their smartwatches when they should be focusing on school or visiting with a friend during a play date. Parents should be invested in helping children through these challenges.”
I’ve distilled it down to six top picks. Read through the product specifications and age ratings, to find the right one. Here are the best smartwatches for kids.
Best Smartwatch For Kids Overall
Enjoy Video Calling And Messaging With Pre-Selected Contacts
Best Smartwatch For Kids With Activity Tracking
A Fitbit Activity Tracker That’s Designed Just For Kids
Honorable Mention: A Fitness Tracker With A Marvel Theme
Best Kids Smartwatch For Communications
A Kid-Oriented Smartwatch With A Focus On Communications
Best Kids Smartwatch For Security
Keep Tabs On Your Child Remotely Using This Smartwatch
Best Kids Smartwatch For Calling And Tracking
Fun, Stylish Video Calling And Text Messaging
Best Smartwatch For Older Kids And Teens
Apple Offers A Budget-Friendly Smartwatch That’s Great For Teens With An iPhone
Frequently Asked Questions On The Best Smartwatches For Kids
As you’re perusing through the specs, you might have some questions that have come up. We’ll try to answer some of them here.
Does A Child Really Need A Smartwatch?
No, of course not. But these devices do offer a way for busy parents to keep in touch with their kids, and it can also be a nice in-between step for kids begging for a smartphone.
“Need is relative,” adds Pearlman. “Often children say they ‘need’ a smartwatch, but they really don’t. However, there are some valid reasons that parents might want to purchase a smartwatch for a child.”
For the young person wearing the watch, they can learn basic skills, like time management and how to manage chores that need to be done by a certain time. They can also be encouraged to be more active.
“Smartwatches allow tweens some independence while still giving parents peace of mind,” says Pearlman. “Sometimes parents want to be able to reach children but they don’t really want to give all the capabilities of a smartphone. The watch can be a good first step. Other reasons parents might consider a smartwatch is for a child who could benefit from a fitness tracker, or when a child wants to begin to text a small number of people. Lastly, kids may need a smartwatch when parents are divorced to help the noncustodial parent stay in contact with the child.”
What Types Of Parental Controls Are Available On Kids Smartwatches?
The best smartwatches for kids offer a comprehensive collection of parental controls that allow the adult to lock or unlock specific features built into the watch and then set specific limits about how and when the watch can be used.
These tools are managed using a proprietary smartphone app that the parent loads onto their smartphone. This same app then allows the parent to track a child’s location or participate in voice calls, video calls or text messages exchanges with the young person wearing the watch. Keep in mind, the types of parental controls and the limits that can be set vary greatly between products.
“Parents should consider the functionality of various watches,” says Pearlman. “Is the parent looking for GPS to track a child on a walk home from school? Do they want texting to be enabled? Is it important to have games or to have the ability to limit access to the Internet? There are various safety options on devices that may be of interest to parents, such as duplicate texting or the ability to contact 911.”
Does My Child Need A Smartphone To Use A Smartwatch?
With the exception of full-featured smartwatches that do not have their own cellular connectivity, like some versions of the Apple Watch SE, your child will not need their own smartphone to fully utilize a child-oriented smartwatch. However, the device will need to be paired with a parent’s smartphone to set up the watch, activate the parental controls and then track or communicate with the watch, depending on the functionality that’s offered.