Do you remember when you got your first cell phone? If you're a Millennial, it may not have been until high school or even college! And for those in Gen X and earlier, it was adulthood when cellphones truly arrived. In fact, in 2001, only 45 percent of Americans had a cell phone. Imagine that! Today, that number just about 100 percent.
As mobile phones have become a constant in life, parents are now faced with the cell phone question earlier and earlier. When are kids ready for their first mobile device? Why do they need one? For many, the earliest and obvious answer is for emergencies. Is an emergency phone for a child is necessary, and if so, at what age are emergency cell phones appropriate?
If you find yourself Googling things like "emergency phone for child" or "best emergency phones for kids" while you’re lying in bed at night, you aren't alone. We'll help you understand why emergency phones for kids are especially important today and how you can find the best phone or smart device for your child.
Why Your Child Needs to Be Prepared in Case of an Emergency
These days, giving your child a means to stay connected to an emergency contact is more than a convenience; it's a necessity. Whether it's a mobile phone or a GPS smartwatch, these devices offer a lifeline between parents and their kiddos.
Ranging from minor instances like adjusting your child's pickup plans suddenly to the more unsettling scenarios we avoid contemplating, furnishing your child with a personal phone can significantly impact the outcome of an emergency, providing reassurance that you wield greater authority over your child's security.
Should Kids Have a Cell Phone In Case of an Emergency?
The question of whether to give their child an emergency cell phone is one many parents struggle with. On one hand, a cell phone provides instant communication and can be a valuable tool in urgent situations, especially if you no longer have a landline in your home. On the other hand, some parents may feel that their child is too young for a smartphone or that it will encourage too much screen time.
If your child stays home alone, frequently visits a friend's home without you, or walks or rides the bus to school, having a reliable phone may be a smart choice in case they need to reach you or emergency personnel in an urgent situation.
At What Age Should Kids Get an Emergency Phone?
Determining the right age to give your child a mobile phone or GPS smartwatch is a personal decision that varies from family to family. You should consider your child's maturity level, daily routine, activities, and specific needs.
If your child is school-aged, is responsible enough to care for a phone, and spends time away from you on a regular basis, you should consider providing them with a phone. A smartwatch with GPS tracking and cell service is an ideal option for younger kids who don't need all the features of a smartphone. These kids wearables, like the Cosmo JrTrack kids phone watch, are the perfect example of how technology can seamlessly blend practicality and safety.
Benefits of Emergency Phones for Kids
The benefits of emergency cell phones extend far beyond simple communication. It's about keeping your child safe and providing a sense of security, responsibility, and independence. Features like real-time location tracking give you the ability to monitor their whereabouts, adding an extra layer of safety. By teaching them how to use the phone responsibly, you're also instilling valuable life skills.
Here are a few more benefits of emergency phones for kids.
Instant Access to Communication
Smart devices allow your child to quickly communicate with you or others in their contact list, and allow you to contact them when you need to reach them. Whether it's a change in pickup time, a forgotten lunch, or something more urgent, emergency phones ensure you and your child are always just a call or text away. Many emergency phones for kids have cell service with major carriers and text messaging capabilities, and they allow you to program an emergency contact that can be reached with the push of a button.
With features like a GPS tracker and location history, you can always know where your child is. GPS functionality can provide updates on your child's location, which is useful in everyday scenarios like tracking their way to school or more urgent situations if they become lost or need help. You can also set up safe zones, where you can get a notification if your child leaves a designated area.
Teaching Responsible Phone Usage
An emergency phone is a great tool to teach your child about responsible phone usage. It allows them to understand when and how to use a phone properly. Through regular conversations and guidance, you can help your child learn the appropriate times to use their phone and how to do so respectfully.
Parental Controls and Safety Measures
Most emergency phones for kids have parental control features, so you can limit your child's access to inappropriate content and ensure they're using their device responsibly. The best phones and smartwatches allow you to tailor your parental control and the phone's functionalities to your child's age and needs. You can do things like limit prolonged screen time or only allow pre-approved apps to be downloaded.
Builds Confidence and Independence
Allowing the use of digital devices can help build confidence and independence for children. It shows that you trust them with responsibility, which can strengthen your relationship with your child and contribute to their personal development. Knowing they have the tools to handle unexpected situations can empower them to face challenges with more assurance.
Tips for Choosing the Right Emergency Cell Phone
Choosing the right emergency phone or smartwatch for your child can feel overwhelming with all of the children's phones on the market these days. Here are some tips to help you find a device for your child.
#1. Look for Necessary Safety Features
Depending on your child's individual needs, look for features like:
- Calling, texting, and voice messages
- Emergency button for quick dialing or built-in emergency services
- Internet access or WIFI connectivity
- GPS location tracking
- Safe zones
For older children who have more freedom and are more responsible, you can look for a full-blown smartphone with advanced features like photo messages or gaming apps.
#2. Consider Ease of Use
Emergency phones should be simple enough for children to use without difficulty. Look for devices with:
- a limited user interface
- an SOS button that is easy to find
- contacts with photos (for children who are still learning to read)
A GPS smartwatch with calling and texting capabilities can often be a more suitable and easier-to-use option for younger children than a traditional smartphone. They tend to have a more simplified interface with large, easily recognizable icons. As a wearable device, a GPS smart watch stays on your child's wrist, reducing the risk of loss or misplacement.
#3. Check Compatibility with Your Network Provider for Phone Calls and Texts
If you want your child to be able to make phone calls for more than just emergencies, make sure the device is compatible with your current provider. Ask about options like unlimited talk and text, data usage, or internet access where WIFI is available.
Certain devices, like the Cosmo JrTrack SE smartwatch, offer independent membership and cellular options that don't require a contract with major wireless carriers. This means that you don't have to tie the smart watch to your existing cellular network. Cosmo's monthly plan includes affordable and secure cellular service designed specifically for the smartwatch, providing connectivity without impacting your existing mobile contract.
#4. Evaluate Durability and Design
The best emergency phone for kids is one that is built to withstand everyday wear and tear. Look for features like shock-resistant casings, scratch-resistant screens, and water-resistant coatings.
Your child's emergency phone should have a long battery life that can last throughout the day without requiring constant recharging. Long lasting battery life ensures that the phone is always ready when needed.
You can also look for a phone with a large screen that is easy for a child to use.
#5. Explore Parental Controls and Customization Options
The ability to customize the phone's features to suit your child's age and maturity level can be a significant advantage. Look for phones that offer a wide range of parental controls, allowing you to have as much or as little control over your kid’s phone as you feel is appropriate.
Parental control features can give you the ability to:
- limit screen time
- view location history
- restrict third party apps
- manage your child's contact list
- control the internet connection
One of the unique features of the Cosmo smartwatch is the ability to set a school mode schedule. This disables all functions on the device, except for the time and SOS mode, during specific hours. It ensures that the device doesn't become a distraction during school or other focus-required activities.
Concerns and Privacy Issues With Phones for Children
While an emergency phone for your child offers many benefits, some parents are concerned about potential privacy issues. This is why it's important to choose a phone for kids that focuses on child safety and has extra features like contact management, an SOS button, parental controls, and robust privacy protections. In particular, be sure to look for an emergency phone for kids with end-to-end data encryption. And if your child isn't ready for a full blown smartphone yet, look for safe alternatives to smartphones.
Ensure Peace of Mind With an Emergency Phone for Your Child
Now that you know what to look for, you can stop lying awake at night going down the Google spiral of best emergency phones for kids. If you're still unsure where to start, try a simple flip phone or a smartwatch. The Cosmo JrTrack 2 SE Smart Watch may be a great option with features like a durable build, long battery life, contact list management, easy access to emergency numbers, and GPS tracking. You'll rest easier knowing you and your child can reach one another at any time.