Although parents might want their children to have phones for safety, what about the dangers? Smartphones are expensive, fragile and provide access to the not-so-savory world of the internet. But not all phones are designed this way.
A 2017 survey by The Nielsen Company found that the top three reasons parents want their children to have phones are to be able to call them, to give them a way to call home and to track their location via GPS. Fortunately, tech companies are recognizing parents’ priorities and designing kid-friendly phones that provide families that peace of mind without all the apps, social media and fragile glass screens.
The Relay is ($99 for one/$149 for two, relaygo.com) a sturdy, water-resistant communication device similar to a walkie-talkie, so children of any age don’t have complicated menus to scroll through before calling parents—and it has just one button. It offers GPS tracking to pinpoint your child’s location via the app on your phone and connects over 4G LTE and Wi-Fi.
Remember playing Snake on this bad boy? The Nokia 3310 ($59.99, bestbuy.com) has been rebooted for 2018 looks but still only makes calls, send texts and plays music. Just like the original, the battery lasts up to a month on standby.
Suitable for kids ages 6 to 12, DokiWatch ($199, doki.com) is what spy kids dream of. It makes two-way video calls and regular voice calls and can operate with any SIM card or network. The watch provides GPS tracking, sending alerts if your child leaves a geo-fenced area. If the wearer presses an SOS button, it alerts everyone on a parent-defined contact list and activates the camera and mic to record your child’s surroundings while displaying their location.
The Omate x Nanoblock smartwatch ($149, omate.com) has 3G connectivity for voice and video calls thanks to a built-in SIM card and tracks its wearer’s location using GPS, Wi-Fi and cell networks. The manufacturers use special encryption to ensure none of this information about your child can be compromised. The watch is designed for kids ages 5 to 10 and is currently only compatible with iOS devices.
GPS Tracking Devices
The AngelSense ($99 for device and $39.99 for service, angelsense.com) has every feature imaginable—view your child’s route and speed and get notified if they’re late or in a new place. You can even listen to their environment using the app. Two-way voice calling became available this year on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. One potential caveat, though—all these extra services will cost you.
For a pocket-sized device designed to track, get the Amber Alert GPS Smart Locator ($135, amberalertgps.com ). Toss this into your child’s backpack to check up on his or her location using either a web browser or the iOS and Android app. Chat using the two-way voice function, and set up geo-fencing boundaries. The tracker even sends a text or email if your little one comes within 500 feet of a registered sex offender’s residence. Subscription charges start at $15 per month.