Kids and Tech
April 25, 2023

The pros and cons of smartwatches for children

Should you get your child an Apple Watch? How about a Garmin Vivofit Jr? We dive into all the pros and cons of smartwatches for children.

Look down at the wrist of any random adult in America, and you’ll see a smartwatch on about 45% of them. And, these high-tech wearable devices are becoming increasingly popular for children as well. These watches offer a variety of features that appeal to parents in particular: you can track your child’s location, make phone calls and even monitor their fitness stats. There are even lots of smartwatches designed specifically for children that include games and other kid-friendly features. But like all technology, smartwatches for children come with pros and cons. Read on below to understand the potential benefits and risks.

What are the pros of smartwatches for children?

Smartwatches can offer a lot of cool and useful features for adults. Maybe you know this already because you have one of your own. When it comes to children, a lot of parents find that a smartwatch can be a helpful tool, offering ways to stay in touch, stay safe and stay entertained. Here are some of the pros of smartwatches for children:

  • Connection: Smartwatches let kids communicate with family and friends through calls, text messages—or even video calls.
  • GPS tracking: Lots of smartwatches are equipped with GPS tracking, letting parents monitor their child's location in real-time.
  • Safety features: A few smartwatches on the market have SOS buttons or geofencing capabilities, which can alert you if your child leaves a certain area.
  • Health and fitness tracking: Smartwatches can also help kids stay active by tracking their daily steps, heart rate and other metrics.
  • Educational tools: Some smartwatches for children offer math games, spelling quizzes or language apps that can help kids learn something new.
  • Entertainment: Smartwatches can also be used for pure entertainment—with features like music, games and camera functions.

With all these positive features, many parents find that smartwatches are exceedingly useful tools. But, with a lot of compelling features, there’s a chance smartwatches can become a distraction, especially for younger children. Below are a few of the cons of smartwatches.

What are the cons of smartwatches for children?

If you’re considering taking the leap and getting a smartwatch for your child, it’s a good idea to consider some of the drawbacks that might come with this tech as well.

  • Distractions: Smartwatches can be distracting for kids, especially if they are using them during class or while doing homework. If you’re planning on giving your child one of these devices, it’s a good idea to look into what kind of pings and notifications they serve. Turning off all but the most essential will help ensure the smartwatch doesn’t become a distraction for your kid—and others in the classroom.
  • Security and privacy: Depending on the device, smartwatches can pose security and privacy risks if they are not properly secured—or if they collect personal information from your child. (More on that below!)

What else should parents know about kids’ smartwatches?

While lots of parents opt to give their children adult wearables like Apple watches, there are actually a growing number of options designed specifically for children. These can be a better alternative because the features tend to be more age-appropriate—and many models have parental controls built in. These can help you manage your child’s usage and control their access to certain apps and features.

Look for smartwatches that have safety features like GPS tracking, emergency buttons or geofencing, which can all help keep your child safe, and give you some peace of mind as well. The kid-friendly devices might also be a bit more durable than those designed for adults. Choose a smartwatch from a reputable brand, and have a look at some user reviews to get a sense of how other parents have found the devices.

It’s also important that kids understand when they should and shouldn’t be using their smartwatches. If you suspect that your kid won’t be able to resist some tempting features in the classroom, they might not be ready yet for a smartwatch.

Will a kids’ smartwatch collect data from my child?

Like most smart devices, children's smartwatches can and do collect data. Depending on the type of smartwatch, it may collect data on your child’s location, physical activity and other personal information. It’s important for parents to understand what data is being collected—and how that data might be shared or used.

Choosing a device from a reputable company is one way to help mitigate risks, as is buying a device specifically designed for children. That’s because tech made especially for kids is bound by different privacy rules than adult devices. Depending on the device, you might also be able to adjust some of the data collection settings, so it’s a good idea to do a bit of research upfront.

Once you’ve found the right device, it’s important to spend some time using it alongside your child. This way, you can help them understand the features and learn how to use them properly.

Happy time-keeping!

Image credit: Zinkevych / Getty Images

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