A New Option in the Smart Devices for Kids World
Molly and I are constantly wrestling with how much technology and when to introduce to our kids. Our lifestyle isn't one where the kids are often out and about without us. When they are though, it's so nice to be able to get a hold of them.
For a while we were using Verizon's Gizmo watch but that carried a few annoying limitations- namely the kids couldn't text freely. They could only send preset text messages. Molly and I are big texters and enjoy messaging with the kids when we're away from home or they're on various devices at home. Another complaint I have about the Gizmo watches are their quality. They're cheaply built and plastic and well, kids. One of ours broke and we've gone through several charging cables.
So while right now, we're not really using anything, I was really stoked to hear Garmin released a device for kids that, like the Gizmo, you can get with a texting plan. I've been a fan of Garmin for a while having used lots of their poducts over the years including the Fenix 2, 5s and nav devices. It's called the Garmin Bounce.
I haven't seen one in person, so while I'm sure build quality won't be Fenix levels, I would expect it to perform better than the Gizmo and it's quite a bit cheaper. It has *almost* all the same features as the Gizmo but for less money. One feature it is lacking is voice calling. So if that's important to you, then the Gizmo is probably your jam.
Now, what really intrigues me as the kids get older is Apple's Family Setup they released this year.
What this means, is that you can purchase a Series 4 or higher Apple Watch and add it via Family Setup as a separate device with all the Apple Watch features: voice calling, full text messaging, apps, everything. Naturally, you can drill down and control as much access as you want via Parental Controls. (I recommend checking out Swappa for something used and more affordable.)
I've had a couple Apple watches over the years (the most recent Series 7 is now lying somewhere at the bottom of the middle fork of the Flathead River near Whitefish). They do feel a bit fragile to me but as the kids get older, this option is far more appealing than a full on phone.
One caveat is you generally can't use services like Mint Mobile or Visible Wireless (like we are) with Family Setup services.
Over the coming weeks, we plan to publish more information and resources about consensus moving towards keeping kids out of smartphones until they get quite a bit older as well as an updated parental control resource guide for online activity.