August 31, 2020
So your child is going back to school and you’re about to break down and get them a connected device. For you, it’s important to be able to keep track of your little one. A GPS tracker or a find my phone feature is peace of mind when you don’t see them all day. Plus, if they have a phone it makes pick up and drop off easier, etc. We get it, it’s not just that your child wants one, you do too and that’s okay!
But parents everywhere are familiar with the incessant pestering from their kids about wanting a device as well. Kids are getting older faster, and in a world where everyone is connected to each other it can feel belittling to be left out.
Keep in mind that while internet-enabled smartphones do come with a litany of issues that parents are rightly worried about, psychologists generally agree that the hysteria is part hype, part real. Whatever device you choose the important thing is what you do next.
We’ll talk a little about managing kids and their devices in this article, as well as how to choose the right one.
Kids Safety Devices: Should I Get My Child a Smartphone?
To begin with, your journey in searching for your child’s first device should not be between the newest Apple iPhone and the latest Samsung Galaxy. While there are parental control settings and apps that can help to child proof some of the more dangerous functions of these devices, we strongly caution parents against giving these to kids as a first device. These are just a few of the serious problems that come with young kids and over-capable smartphones:
-Adult Content: The average American child sees pornography for the first time at 10 years old.
-Bullying: Increasingly, bullying is going online: social media, texting, etc.
-Sexual Encounters: Yes, sexting is rampant even in elementary school.
-Screen Addiction: Psychologists warn that today’s devices can mentally train kids with bad habits.
-Predators: 40% of kids are talking with strangers online, and 11% actually meet them in person.
All of these issues stem from the core functions of smartphones: social media, internet browsing, unrestricted messaging functions, and app stores (where kids can download decoy apps that hide more sinister functions).
If you are reading this article because you are looking for information about what kinds of devices are best for kids, we hope this is enough to persuade you that there are better (and cheaper, more reliable) ways to go than a top line smartphone.
Kids Cell Phones and Smartwatches: What to Know
There is an emerging genre of connected devices (wireless-enabled, can make calls, send texts, GPS tracking, etc) that are geared toward young kids. Most companies, like COSMO, are designing for kids ages 5-12. Or, think Kindergarten through 8th grade.
These devices fall into The First Device category. What that means is the first connected device that a child will get in their life. It’s their first phone number, their first point of contact with the world and will play an important role in establishing their relationship with technology for years to come.
The First Device category is tasked with customizing technology for users who have entirely different needs than adults. For decades tech companies have designed for one generic user: an adult age 15-75 years old. At either end of those ages are kids and elderly individuals whose technology needs are considerably different.
Here is just a short list of issues that we plan for when we engineer a child’s device:
-Durability (no glass features, has to be water resistant, withstand falls)
-Comfort (small wrists, small pockets)
-Lifestyle (shouldn’t interrupt class even if kid forgets to silence it)
-Friends (needs to connect to friends in a way parents can monitor)
-Affordable (no need to break the bank just yet)
-Battery Life (kids forget things, like charging devices)
Of course the full list is pages long, but those are just a few highlights to help you start thinking about what these products are supposed to be.
Okay so here we go, cell phones vs smartwatches: what you need to know.
To begin with, we will disclose our obvious preference for the smartwatch. COSMO has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development of child safety products and our emphatic conclusion is that the ideal First Device is a kids safety smartwatch, not a kids cell phone.
Why a kids safety smartwatch and not a kids cell phone?
Kids smartwatches, on the other hand (pun intended), will vibrate, light up or chime right on their wrist, making it nearly impossible not to see. When you absolutely positively must get ahold of your child, hope they’re wearing a smartwatch.
There are a lot of misconceptions about hacking. What we are talking about here is not the kind where you accidentally click on a link and someone is given backdoor access to all of your things. What we are talking about is kids hacking their own devices to use them for purposes they aren’t meant for: browsing the internet, social media, etc.
A kids cell phone likely has micro-usb charging or easily accessible SIM card slots that would allow a clever kid at school to jailbreak the device. Not a COSMO Smartwatch. Built like Fort Knox using all proprietary software and engineering, we’ve made our devices so they can’t be abused by the school hacker.
As long as we’re talking about designing for the user, we have to acknowledge that some kids drop things in a way that an exasperated parent might call ‘clumsy’. A kids cell phone is highly droppable and many of our customers come to us after finding out the company they bought their cell phone from doesn’t warranty against that kind of obvious damage.
COSMO not only includes broken device replacement in all of our subscriptions, we also build our devices knowing they’ll receive rough treatment. Plus, you can’t drop something that’s attached to your wrist!
Kids smartwatch vs kids cell phone is a conversation to be had with your child, but we’re letting you know now that if you only want to buy one device -- start with a smartwatch.
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