I’ve lost my kids during a Target run more times than I care to admit, which makes me reluctant to give them more freedom to venture out into the world. Though I may misplace my children once in a while, I’ve somehow never lost my smartphone. This troubling fact has made me wonder if I should invest in a system to track the small people I shouldn’t lose with the piece of technology that never leaves me.
I acknowledge the safety and ethical concerns that come with tracking members of your family, but I think with proper use, these devices can offer anxious parents like myself some peace and give children the freedom to enjoy life without their parents once in a while. Here are some of the best gadgets you can use to keep tabs on your kids.
Tracki GPS Tracker
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According to their Amazon page, these affordable trackers, utilized by UPS and Nissan, come with a SIM card, allowing you to keep tabs on anything or anyone worldwide. It also has an SOS button and a feature that alerts you whenever anything leaves a pre-selected area. And with the ability to notify you when a car is speeding, this device is perfect for parents of new drivers.
Apple AirTags don’t utilize GPS. They work by communicating with a network of Apple Bluetooth-enabled devices, which, in theory, should work, especially if you live in a densely-populated area. However, as Lifehacker Deputy Editor Joel Cunningham explains, the tiles update sporadicly, so it can be tricky to use them for live tracking. Apple has even stated that these relatively inexpensive (but controversial) devices should only be used to track inanimate objects (such as your luggage), but that hasn’t stopped parents from doing it anyway.
Using a similar technology as Apple AirTags, Tile products have been around for years, allowing Android users to track their objects, pets, and children reliably with the help of a free app. The Sticker model is water-resistant, and its battery lasts for three years. Just remember: They’ll likely have the same limitations as AirTags, so don’t be surprised if they don’t update the location immediately.
Apple Watch SE
The basic model of the bestselling smartwatch is the perfect device for a tween who is almost ready for a smartphone. You can easily track it on your iPhone, iPad, and MacBook with the Find My app. It also includes safety features like Crash Detection, Fall Detection, and Emergency SOS, so if something happens to your kid, you know within seconds. If your model has cellular service, the user can call and text without an iPhone nearby. It’s also customizable and can play music, which will go a long way in making your kid the cool kid on campus.
If your child isn’t ready for wearables yet, the Gabb Phone is another way to keep track of them while giving them a little freedom to communicate with friends. Sure, the device looks like a smartphone, but there is no access to the internet or social media apps. You can also track them on your devices through a free app, but the service is $24.99 a month for a two-year contract.
Jiobit Smart Tag
From the same company as Tile, Jiobit is an upgrade from its smaller sister using a combination of GPS, wifi, and Bluetooth to track your child. You’ll need to use an app and subscribe to its service, which has a range of prices depending on the length of your contract. Like the Tracki, the Jiobit has an SOS button and can alert you when the Smart Tag leaves a designated area, but what sets it apart from other devices is its 10-day battery life and durable Strap Clip, which can only be removed with a special tool.
AngelSense GPS Tracker
AngelSense markets its tracker for children and seniors with special needs and offers accessories for those with autism and sensory challenges. It has many of the same features as the Jiobit Smart Tag, but includes two-way communication, and claims to utilize AI to learn your child’s routine: That way, it will alert you automatically when there’s a deviation. The only drawbacks are an expensive subscription service and a low battery life, but the company frequently offers promotions on the device, which helps offset some of these costs.
TickTalk 4 Smartwatch
Slightly more affordable than the Apple Watch SE, the TickTalk 4 Smartwatch has many of the same features as its more expensive cousin, including talk, text, and an Emergency SOS button. What sets this bulky wearable apart is its camera, so users can make video calls and send photos and movies through text. There’s also a listen-in feature, allowing concerned parents to hear their child’s surroundings without their knowledge.
Bouncie GPS Vehicle Tracker
Unlike the Tracki, this piece of equipment plugs in directly to your car to ensure it’s safe for your teen to drive, track trip details, and alert you when they leave a designated area or are in a car accident. It also offers roadside assistance with its subscription service.