The best GPS track­ers for kids: Lo­cate your lit­tle ones with ease

We iden­tify the top de­vices, plus out­line what to look for when shop­ping.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews - BY BEN PAT­TER­SON

Awear­able GPS tracker could strike the right bal­ance be­tween giv­ing your chil­dren in­creas­ing in­de­pen­dence while pre­serv­ing your peace of mind. You can track where your kids are, dis­cover if they’re not where they’re sup­posed to be, keep in touch, and even get an SOS if some­thing re­ally bad hap­pens.

GPS track­ers come in many shapes and sizes—some are pocket-sized mod­ules that can be fas­tened to bags or cloth­ing; oth­ers are watch, pen­dant or neck­lace de­signs.

Most of them, how­ever, come bun­dled with sim­i­lar bells and whis­tles rang­ing from twoway call­ing and text mes­sag­ing to step coun­ters and even panic but­tons.

Some track­ers are even de­signed specif­i­cally for el­derly rel­a­tives in mind, though most can be used by any­one of any age. Of course, a par­tic­u­lar model may lack a de­sired fea­ture or two, and you may need to make some tweaks so that they can be car­ried se­curely, due

to dif­fer­ences in child and adult siz­ing. Read on for re­views and rec­om­men­da­tions for the lat­est GPS track­ers we’ve tested, plus tips and what to look for when shop­ping.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GPS TRACKER FOR KIDS

You’ll find that many GPS track­ing de­vices are tai­lored for spe­cific age ranges and life­styles, but in gen­eral, you’ll want to con­sider a few key fea­tures while shop­ping for a GPS tracker.

Two-way call­ing

Many GPS track­ers al­low for two-way voice calls be­tween the wearer and a loved one or guardian. When it comes to GPS track­ers for chil­dren, two-way calls are gen­er­ally only al­lowed with a given num­ber of con­tacts—like Mommy, Daddy, a fam­ily friend, and maybe a grand­par­ent or two. Calls to and from strangers are blocked. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, we’ve found that kids as young as five or six can use two-way call­ing fea­tures with ease, although you’ll have to rein in their urge to call you every five min­utes.

Wa­ter­proof de­sign

Any type of “wear­able” gad­get needs to be able to with­stand a cer­tain amount of pun­ish­ment, par­tic­u­larly on the play­ground. Make sure the GPS tracker you choose for your child is both rea­son­ably tough and wa­ter­proof, or else their fancy new GPS de­vice won’t sur­vive the next trip to the wa­ter foun­tain.

Lo­ca­tion-based alerts

If your child walks to school alone, you’ll un­der­stand that small feel­ing of re­lief each time you learn that your loved one has safely ar­rived at their des­ti­na­tion. That’s the beauty of lo­ca­tion-based alerts, which ping your phone when­ever your kid ar­rives (for ex­am­ple) at school. Look for GPS de­vices that can alert you when the wearer ar­rives at or de­parts a given lo­ca­tion.

Wi-fi sup­port

GPS track­ers of­ten de­pend on a com­bi­na­tion of cel­lu­lar sig­nals and GPS to de­ter­mine the de­vice’s lo­ca­tion, but when you head in­doors, all bets are off as far as cel­lu­lar and GPS re­cep­tion goes. Luck­ily, some GPS track­ers of­fer Wi-fi sup­port, which makes up for a lack of cel­lu­lar or GPS sig­nal.

Fit and com­fort

The most fea­ture-packed GPS tracker on the mar­ket won’t do much good if it’s a pain to wear. Don’t buy a GPS watch for a lit­tle one be­fore mak­ing sure they can wear it com­fort­ably on their wrist.

Sure, that GPS tracker you’re cir­cling seems to have all the boxes checked in terms of fea­tures, but make sure you read the fine print be­fore plunk­ing down your credit card.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GPS TRACK­ERS FOR KIDS

Sure, that GPS tracker you’re cir­cling seems to have all the boxes checked in terms of fea­tures, but make sure you read the fine print be­fore plunk­ing down your credit card. Con­sider th­ese fac­tors be­fore snap­ping up a GPS wear­able.

Most GPS track­ers re­quire monthly fees

All that GPS track­ing and two-way call­ing doesn’t come for free, un­for­tu­nately. Ex­pect to pay a monthly fee for your GPS tracker use, rang­ing any­where from $5 a month on the low end (gen­er­ally for GPS track­ers avail­able through a cel­lu­lar car­rier) all the way up to $50 a month.

Fre­quent GPS up­dates come at the ex­pense of bat­tery life

Not all GPS track­ers of­fer con­stant, real-time lo­ca­tion track­ing. There’s a good rea­son for that: The more fre­quently a de­vice checks its lo­ca­tion, the more power it needs to ex­pend. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, GPS de­vices with true real-time track­ing will need larger bat­ter­ies to make it through the day, mean­ing the ac­tual de­vice might be rel­a­tively big and heavy. Users of smaller GPS track­ers (watches, pen­dants, etc.) will of­ten have to set­tle for man­ual lo­ca­tion checks or pe­ri­od­i­cally sched­uled checks, in or­der to squeeze as much juice out of the diminu­tive bat­tery as pos­si­ble.

Schools gen­er­ally al­low stu­dents to use gad­gets, but not dur­ing class

Though kids can usu­ally bring their cell phones to school, they typ­i­cally aren’t al­lowed to use them in class—and the same goes for GPS watches and track­ing de­vices. Check the gad­gets pol­icy of your child’s school be­fore you buy, and make sure the GPS tracker you pick has a “quiet hours” fea­ture that lets you si­lence the de­vice dur­ing in­struc­tion pe­ri­ods.

The LG Giz­mo­gad­get.

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