Much of the tech market is aimed at adult users. But have manufacturers forgotten about a younger audience? This article will cover everything you need to know about smartwatches for kids.
What smartwatch should you buy a child?
The problem of too much choice can be solved by having strict criteria. Think about your needs, the parent, as much as the user, your child. What’s important is design, durability and security.
The addition of cameras, games and health tracking are probably not the most important features to look for. Control and security are number one so it should also be able to interpret location.
Aesthetics may not be the main focus for a parent, but could be key for the child. Younger users prefer brighter colours and perhaps an on-screen cartoon character.
When it comes to teens, bold colours aren’t what’s important. Boys tend to opt for black or blue. Girls opt for red, pink or yellow. There are some unisex options that are popular; like gold and green. It should resemble an adults’ smartwatch.
There are three things to look out for on a display. A typical liquid crystal screen with control button(s). A full touch screen. A combination of both.
The touch screen element makes things user-friendly. Calls answered and texts easily typed with a few taps. The presence of a touch screen does increase the cost of the smartwatch, but as it’s becoming more commonplace the price differential is getting smaller. If you don’t have a touch screen, the choice on a child’s watch is that or a black and white display.
Some devices will monitor steps taken and calories burned during the day. The more advanced and expensive devices will monitor sleep.
A heart rate sensor probably isn’t top of a parent’s wishlist for a child’s smartwatch. The more accurate sensors are more expensive and the less costly aren’t as precise.
Waterproof and ruggedness
A child’s smartwatch will inevitably be bumped around so check how well protected it is from water, dust and mechanical stress.
Safety glass on the screen prevents scratches. There are also dustproof options to keep sand and dirt at bay.
Children tend to wash their hands vigorously, get caught in the rain, play in puddles and snow and forget to take their watches off before they bathe. A smartwatch with a waterproof rating of IP67 or IP68 means they can do all these things without damaging their device – but they shouldn’t press the buttons near water, though.
It’s important to think about the compatibility with your phone. The most accessible platform is Android (see – Best Android watches for more info). iOS also offers interaction with iPhone but there is no Apple Watch for children. It’s app-specific.
Via the app, the parent will be able to see the health information tracked via the sensors on the smartwatch. With the presence of a microphone, you can listen to audio transmitted from the watch. This is unknown to the child.
If you wish to monitor your child’s location, you will need a device that requires a sim card or offers navigation. A smartwatch with GPS tells you the geolocation of the device by sending coordinates via satellite. One that uses wifi, however, will be more accurate. GPS tends to be less so, but more consistent. It can depend on where you live.
GPS is more accurate for locations of 5 – 50 m. The error rate can be as much as 500m, though. When it comes to children’s watches, they have a geofencing sensor, LBS scanning and a Wifi function.
With Wifi, the smartwatch works best inside the house but can also correct street coordinates. If the Wifi signal isn’t great, it will naturally only work intermittently.
LBS gives a geolocation by tacking onto the nearest tower. The more there are in the area, the more accuracy on the location. LBS, however, is an independent service and isn’t available in all areas so offers the least reliability of the three location options.
Wifi offers 5 – 50m of location with accuracy
GPS, 5 – 30m.
LBS – 50m – 1km, but this is dependent on the presence of a tower.
Most smartwatches work on a 2G network and many will also work on 3G.
The ability to play games on a children’s smartwatch isn’t a core need. Games aren’t likely to be enthralling on such a small display. Built-in cameras for selfies and photos might be useful.
Some smartwatches allow the child to send a text or voice note, or even a call to up to 15 saved numbers. Video calls may be an option, but this isn’t a universal feature. There might be some communication ability between other children using the same brand of smartwatch. The latter feature lets the child call the parent or other pre-approved numbers. Smartwatches will not accept calls from numbers of known spammers or banks.
Some smartwatches offer an SOS button to alert parents – when pressed for five seconds a call is made to the parent. If the first number does not pick up, a second number is called.
A parent wants all of the above to function for a reliable period of time so battery life is important. Manufacturers list the battery capacity in milliampere-hours (mAh) and typically, the time between charges on a child’s smartwatch is between one and three days.
There are a lot of things to consider when buying a smartwatch for a child. Take our tips into consideration and make sure you get a device that the child loves, with the important security in place to put your mind at ease.
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