The kids smartwatch market in the United States has grown substantially since 2018 so it is important Understanding Real From Fake in Kids Smartwatches.
Concerned parents are driving that demand as they search for devices less vulnerable and less addictive than cell phones.
Another useful perspective is are they Dumb Devices or Brilliantly Simple?
Smartwatches promise something new: contact with your young children wherever they are and an element of confidence in a time of data privacy confusion.
This guide describes the strengths and drawbacks of this technology, what this year’s devices have to offer and what is coming to the market soon.
This guide is meant to help discerning customers avoid scams and find those brands that are rapidly developing and enhancing the industry’s standards.
Kids smartwatches are happening now because studies are suggesting they reduce child anxiety, influence parents to let their kids have more independence, and delay the challenges that come with more connected smartphones.
Smartwatches to avoid at all costs
A quick Amazon search will show a host of kids smartwatch options from numerous different brands.
Despite being priced very differently (anywhere from $25 to $200) buyer beware: most of these are the same low quality devices just packaged differently.
These listings are made by resellers who buy smartwatches in bulk on Alibaba or other similar platforms that let companies buy goods from Chinese manufacturers.
They are cheaply made, do not perform as advertised and are frequently flagged for all kinds of issues like data privacy, shoddy security, hacking and more.
Additionally, buyers need to know that the functions like calling, texting and GPS tracking all require a SIM card with a data plan.
Some resellers will include a SIM card with your purchase, but you will then need to buy their data plan, which can be exorbitantly expensive and does not include important services like broken device replacement, upgrade options and more.
Bottom line: research before you buy.
There are amazing, high quality kids smartwatches being made by great companies in the US. Amazon will not necessarily tell you which ones those are.
How to spot a great kids smartwatch
Great technology doesn’t come from nowhere!
It is important to research the company listing a kids smartwatch on Amazon to see if they are reselling shoddy Chinese technology or if they have custom developed a quality product.
That means searching for their website, looking to see if they have certified their device for US safety requirements, whether they offer customer service, and publicly disclose their corporate information.
If you can’t figure out who the company is behind the product, it’s best to avoid.
Reviews can help as well.
While even the best products will have negative reviews, check to see if customers have been able to contact customer service.
This will indicate whether the product is being sold by a real company or just a reseller.
Check reviews to see which mobile app the devices connect to — the most common Chinese app is called SeTracker.
SeTracker is a generic app hosted in China, which does not comply with any US data privacy laws outlined in the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).
While the product may function, it is important for consumers to be aware that all of their data is being sent offshore to China, including texts, photos, geolocation and more.
Many investigations across the US and Europe have shown that this platform and the devices that operate on it are highly insecure.
The bottom line is usually the same.
Devices not built by credible US brands frequently have the following problems:
- Not waterproof, even if advertised as such
- No data plan included
- No 4G network (2G or 3G at best)
- Little or no security (can be hacked)
- No data privacy
- Short life span
- Gimmicky features
- Poor quality mobile app
Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of a poor quality smartwatch is your child will not enjoy using it.
Parents understand the challenge of getting kids to do as they’re told and if a child doesn’t like using the smartwatch it makes the process of getting the most value out of it that much harder.
Quality smartwatches, by contrast, should be offered with some kind of device insurance — meaning the company is willing to put their money where their mouth is and protect your purchase.
Smartwatch safety features you can’t live without
Two-way calling, video calling, messaging, GPS tracking, geo-fencing, location history — these are just a handful of the features that smartwatches offer.
Customer surveys conducted by COSMO continually suggest that communication and location tracking are the top features that parents look for.
That said, the same feature is not as reliable or helpful from one device to another.
Here is a summary of what makes the most desired features great vs. disappointing.
For many parents the need to communicate with their kids throughout the day is the leading cause for buying a cell phone.
Despite the risks associated with an open internet connection, the app store and social media, the trade off can seem like the lesser of two evils.
Smartwatches replace the need for cell phones.
A quality device should come with a strong 4G connection. Look for devices that allow for restricted calling.
This means only phones that have paired with the watch using a proprietary mobile application can call the device.
Restricted calling allows people with approved numbers (mom, dad, grandpa, aunt Beth and older sister Katie) can call the smartwatch.
Unknown numbers are blocked, so no one is calling your child without your consent.
Buyers beware: 2G and 3G smartwatches should be avoided.
These frequently drop calls or have no connection at all.
Without a strong 4G connection, the device will not support many of the most important safety features.
In 2020 look for enhanced parental controls to manage who can call during school hours, better admin functions and bluetooth connected headphones to allow for private conversations.
You can know where your child is 24 hours a day.
That statement was not true just a few years ago.
Young kids are the last people in our society who still leave home without any way to be contacted.
For you to hear your child’s voice when they are at school you must first contact an adult in their immediate vicinity.
More parents than ever feel that this reality has to change.
In a day and age when everyone can be reached or found at a moment’s notice, it is scary that our youngest, most vulnerable family members simply drop off the grid for substantial portions of the day.
The world is a challenging place for kids today.
School safety is a serious topic of conversation, as are the consequences of bullying and developmental issues connected to separation from parents while at school.
Kids GPS trackers have become a way to ease parents and kids’ sense of separation.
However, the best devices do more than periodically update a location pin on a map.
Buyers beware: some kids smartwatches are not programmed to constantly update location.
Instead, location data is pushed to the app only once an hour.
Buried in the settings you may be able to increase the frequency to once every 5 or 10 minutes, but this will rapidly kill the battery.
Cheap devices like this are still very common and are prominently listed on ecommerce sites like Amazon and Google.
Key Takeaways for Parents:
- Beware of cheap and non-secure, resold Chinese devices!
- Don’t just rely on Amazon – look for a company website, certifications, and reviews noting quality customer service.
- Look for devices/companies that publicly state compliance with important U.S. child safety data regulations (COPPA compliance).
- Look for critical features you can trust: 4G connection, water resistance, restricted calling, included SIM/data plan, quality GPS location accuracy.