Have you had this dilemma yet in your family? You want to be able to stay in touch with your kids and know when they get home from school or practice, but don't want to get them their own smartphone yet - even if "everyone" (insert eye roll here) else in the whole school has their own. Luckily, there are a growing number of tech solutions that can help parents keep a digital eye on the kids without biting the bullet for an expensive phone and monthly plan.
With the kids back to school, our family schedule has gone from 0 to 60 mph with after-school extracurriculars, practices, and playdates. With five schedules in our family to coordinate, it has become increasingly more important for us all to be able to be in touch as plans change and *cough* some people are late. But my kids are just 6, 8 and 10 and I'm not ready to shell out the money (or give them the responsibility) for an iPhone yet. Instead, I'm eyeing one of these solutions.
The most basic way to keep a virtual eye on where your kids are is with GPS-enabled tracker device. The TRAX Play GPS Tracker can clip onto clothes or backpacks, lets you track your child on the free iPhone or Android app, alerts you whenever the tracker leave designated safe zones you've set up and works in over 33 different countries. The Kid GPS Tracker is another good option. Though it's bulkier, it's also half the price of the TRAX and includes a panic button kids can press in dicey situations that will immediately alert the parent app and share the current location. Both of these GPS devices do require a monthly service plan, but they are much cheaper than a traditional cell phone plan costing as low as just $4-5/month.
GPS + Voice Wearables
If you want more control and contact than just tracking a blip on your phone, you might want to upgrade to a GPS tracker that also include a voice/communication feature. The FiLIP wearable works as a watch and a GPS tracker, can receive texts, and has the ability to connect 5 different phone numbers to the device that your child can send and receive calls from. The GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch has two-way calling, GPS, a watch face and adds a built-in pedometer and alarm feature. The Tinitell wearable doesn't have a watch face, but does let you send and receive calls from up to 12 different pre-selected numbers and is water-proof, but still lightweight and durable. Plus, it comes with an included SIM card.
Another option? A no-contract, pre-paid minutes phone. Available at your local grocery store and retailers like Target and Amazon, you can pick up a cheap phone for $20-40 (or even use an old smartphone you have laying around) and then buy a card of pre-paid minutes for your child to use. You can opt for an old-school flip phone that only allows calls or choose a smartphone and monthly plan that allows to data use like texting, apps and maps, etc. I'm definitely leaning towards this option for my oldest. I like that he'd be able to call me if soccer practice was done early or there was a change of plans for a playdate, but wouldn't be able to eat up data with texting or apps.
Have you taken the iPhone plunge? If not, how do you stay in contact with your kids?
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