Gadgets | Best Smartwatches For Kids 2023
The best smartwatches for kids keep parents and children connected without all the complexity that comes with handing a young child a phone. They often offer emergency calling, texting and GPS tracking to ease our anxious parental minds. The more robust kids smartwatches allow kids to play a few games and take pictures too.
“Smartwatches allow tweens some independence while still giving parents peace of mind,” 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. “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.”
After testing a number of these watches at home and on the wrists of our own children, nieces and friends’ kids, we’ve tried to find the best smartwatches for kids of every age. See below for our top picks, and don’t miss our story on the best phones for kids for your older tweens and teens.
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
The Forbes Vetted team cares deeply about finding the best, safest and most useful products to make parents’ lives easier. We produced this story by partnering our parenting team’s knowledge with our consumer technology team’s experience in order to find the best smartwatches for kids on the market right now. We’ve reviewed and tested many consumer technology products, as well as baby and kids gear and applied that category knowledge in this case too.
One of the authors of this story, Jason Rich, is an experienced consumer technology reporter and author who has tested the latest watches, smartphones, tablets and consumer technology gadgets. Tyler Hayes, the updating author, is a parent and technology reporter who has covered consumer electronics since 2014. Beyond Forbes, he has written for The New York Times, Wired, Newsweek, PCMag and dozens of other publications over the years.
We tapped into both authors firsthand experience with smartwatches to report on the best picks for kids, as well as interviewed additional parents for their feedback on particular models, including Rose Gordon Sala, the senior editor of baby and kids gear at Forbes Vetted who tested the Gabb Watch 3, two models of the Verizon Gizmo and the T-Mobile SyncUp. Additionally, we spoke with Pearlman to discuss the safety concerns and issues surrounding kids and technology, as well as screen time.
We frequently review and update this article for accuracy. It was most recently updated in November 2023.
How We Chose The Best Smartwatches For Kids
After speaking with parents and the experts interviewed for this story, the authors careful considered the features of each smartwatch, weighing which attributes parents value the most and which ones kids love. We researched the top brands, tested several with our kids and pored over firsthand reviews to find the best kids smartwatches for every age child and the best in every scenario.
What To Look For In A Smartwatch For Kids
There are full-featured smartwatches for kids and others that offer scaled back functionality to match the child’s age. “Parents generally introduce a smartwatch as a precursor to smartphone ownership,” explains Dr. Pearlman. “Therefore it is important to look at the features of the watch to determine if it lines up with the parent’s and child’s needs.”
The kid-friendly smartwatches each target a specific age group. Many offer a theme or functionality that may not be suitable for kids outside of that recommend age range. For example, a smartwatch might be too complicated for a younger child or have a theme (such as Marvel, Disney princesses or Minions) that’s too childish for someone who’s a bit older.
If you’re going to spend money on a smartwatch and then potentially pay a monthly fee so it can connect to a cellular network, choose a device that your child will be excited to wear and use on an ongoing basis.
The rechargeable battery built into a typical activity tracker will last for several weeks before needing to be recharged (which can be done overnight while your child is sleeping). However, a full-featured smartwatch that connects to a cellular service, for example, will typically have a battery life that lasts just one day. This means the watch will need to be recharged nightly to remain functional. The type of screen the mobile device uses and whether or not it has a built in speaker and camera will also impact its battery life.
A smartwatch for an adult will rely heavily on the smartphone with which it is paired. However, models designed for kids will function autonomously, so your child does not need their own smartphone to use the watch. To provide this autonomy, the smartwatch will have its own cellular connection, which means a monthly fee to a cellular service provider is typically required.
In some cases, a smartwatch for kids will work with any cellular service. As a parent, you can sign up for a no-contract, pay-as-you-go plan, which will typically have a flat monthly fee (between $10 and $20) associated with it. However, some kid-oriented smartwatches will only work with one or two specific cellular service providers and will require the parent to already have an account with that service for the grown-up’s own smartphone.
What will be possible using the cellular service—in terms of voice calling, video calling, text messaging, GPS tracking, utilizing emergency functions, accessing the Internet, streaming music, downloading apps, or using other functionality will vary based on the watch. However, in all cases parental control features can be turned on and set up by a parent to limited what a child can do with the device.
A typical smartwatch for kids will have a dozen or more parental control features that can be turned on and manually adjusted by a parent (via a proprietary app on their smartphone that communicates directly with the child’s watch). Using these tools, a parent can determine what smartwatch functionality a child can use and when they can use it. Often, you can also program or limit who can contact them via the watch, too.
Built-In Games And Activities
Many smartwatches and activity trackers for kids have a specific theme or offer interactive activities and games—some for fun and others that have an educational element. When choosing a device, pay attention to what theme, games and activities are offered and make sure they’re age appropriate.
Just like smartwatches for adults, a few of the kid-friendly versions have online-based app stores that allow parents to add optional apps to their child’s device. In most cases, however, whatever apps come preinstalled within the watch determine its capabilities. The Apple Watch SE is an example of a smartwatch that offers access to the Apple Watch App Store, where users will find thousands of optional apps available.
What Are The Best Smartwatches For Kids?
The best smartwatch for your child depends on your needs as a family. However, we found the TickTalk 4 to be the best smartwatch for kids overall for the most families. It has a robust set of features that appeal to both parent and kid—and at a fairly affordable price point. We also like the Gizmo Watch 3 for younger kids with parents already on a Verizon plan, and the Gabb Watch for families who really prefer to strictly use the If you have a teen or an older child, possibly one whom you’re trying to keep away from phone ownership a bit longer, you may want to consider splurging on an Apple Watch SE given not just its range of features but also its higher-end quality.
Which Is Better Gabb Or Gizmo?
The Verizon Gizmo 3 and the Gabb Watch 3 for kids have a lot of similarities, so if you have a younger child (under 10), you likely can’t go wrong with either.
The Gizmo works on Verizon exclusively and allows for fewer contacts than the Gabb, but it does have a camera, so kids can enjoy video calling and taking pictures with it. It also has a few more basic games, and the battery lasted longer on it than the Gabb, though both held a charge through a full-school day during testing by Sala’s kids. That said, for parents who want a solid, locked-down kids smartwatch, the Gabb 3 makes an excellent choice. It does not allow kids to go online, but it offers up to 100 pre-approved contacts (you need to manually load them on), a step counter, calling and texting (including pre-set messages and a keyboard for personalized texting), tracking and multiple quiet times in which you can restrict use of the watch to emergency calling. This is all very similar to the Gizmo.
Depending on sales, the two watches are priced similarly as well, so it just depends on which features you want your kid to have or not have, and whether or not you’re already a Verizon customer and want to open a new line there or not.
What Age Should A Child Get A Smartwatch?
This is a personal decision for the family in terms of determining the right age for a child to get a smartwatch. You may find that you want your kindergartner to wear one, because she’s taking the bus for the first time this year, or it may be that a watch is too distracting for a particular child at that age. Another family might want their 7- or 8-year-old to wear a smartwatch, so they can remind them about an after-school sports practice or check-in with them at a playdate. Parents to older children might bequeath a smartwatch to delay handing over a phone to a tween begging for one.
Based on our use of these at home, we think the sweet spot for giving kids a smartwatch tends to be a bit narrow: ages 6 to 10, and the older kids, ages 10 and up, might really prefer an Apple Watch in part because that’s what teens are wearing. Once they hit the upper limits of tweendom, they’ll likely press you for a smartphone anyway.
The kid-focused smartwatches often make a great first watch for a child. It’s an introduction to digital life and something the whole family can learn from and build upon, says Dr. Pearlman. “Over time, parents can slowly add more options, like greater texting ability, use of the Internet and apps for kids on watches and phones to give time for digital skills to develop,” she says. “It is best not to offer fully loaded smartphones and watches at the first entry point.”
What Is A Good Watch For An 8-Year-Old?
An 8-year-old is still a kid but also ready to send out some texts and do some video calling, so you could consider most of the fuller feature smartwatches for kids on this list, including the TickTalk 4 and GizmoWatch 3. You may want tracking if they are going on playdates solo, attending sports events and riding the bus home, and if they’re a young athlete, you could consider the Garmin Bounce. It comes with all the typical kid smartwatch features, including tracking and preset texting, as well as voice messaging but also records their laps at the track or in the pool.
What Is A Good Smartwatch For A 10-Year-Old?
Your 10-year-old is likely already begging you for a phone, so you may want to spring for the most full-featured smartwatch for kids at this age. The Apple Watch SE works well for a mature 10-year-old, especially if they are walking home alone. If you want to spend a bit less, however, you can consider any of the other smartwatches for kids on this list, including the TickTalk 4, GizmoWatch 3 or the Gabb Watch 3.
What Is The Best Smartwatch For A Kid With A Camera?
Not every smartwatch includes a camera, but it’s a feature that kids who don’t already own a phone appreciate. Sala’s 9-year-old loves to take pictures on his Gizmo no matter how low-res and send them to friends or store them as wallpaper. You could consider any of these kids smartwatches if your child must have a camera, including our top pick for kids—the TickTalk 4—as well as the GizmoWatch 3, Lil Tracker and the T-Mobile SyncUp Kids.
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