Smartwatch For a Teenager: Good Idea? Or Not?

Your teenager wants a smartwatch. Or maybe you want a smartwatch for your teenager. You’re weighing the pros and cons. While these devices are fashionable accessories that may help keep an eye on your child, there are also some risks. In this article, we are discussing smartwatches from the parents’ point of view. We’ll lay out some factors to consider when shopping for a smartwatch for your teen, and at the end of the article, we will provide you with information about some of the smartwatch products out there to help you make a decision.

What does a smartwatch do?

Smart watches are mini computers that do much more than tell time. In many cases, even low quality (meaning low priced) smartwatches do the following:

  • tell time
  • connect (sync) with your smartphone via a free app
  • monitor heart rate
  • count steps and monitor distance walked/ran (pedometer)
  • count calories burned
  • sleep tracking
  • camera remote (waving watch tells your camera to take a picture)
  • music remote (turn on music on your phone, pause a song, skip forward, back, choose songs/playlist)
  • receive notifications from phone apps (social media, messaging, email)
  • receive and review email on the watch
  • receive and review text messages on the watch
  • receive phone calls through the watch (most have a speaker and a microphone)
  • make phone calls

Most Smartwatch apps are also available on your phone (meaning, most smartphones can also track steps, calories burned, etc). A smartwatch may be handy if you are a student athlete trying to manage your heart rate and pace. Or if you are frequently away from your smartphone and need to be contacted.

Does your teenager really need a smartwatch?

Smartwatches are becoming fairly powerful and useful devices. But before you purchase one for your child, ask yourself, does this teenager, who mostly goes to and from school, who also has a smart phone, really need a smartwatch? If your goal is being healthy and instilling lifestyle habits of longevity for your teen, then a smartwatch could be a great addition to aid in making those habits concrete. But then again, the cost of the watch (and the risk of theft or loss at school) might outweigh the potential benefits of it. Before you pull out your credit card, make sure you have answered this question in the affirmative.

Can a smartwatch help keep your child safe?

Safety is certainly a consideration. Most smartwatches come with a built-in GPS tracker so you can monitor the location of your child. Some models allow you to set a safe zone that sends you an alert if they leave this area. In theory, this sounds like a good idea, especially if you want to know if your teen is actually at school. However, they must be wearing it. (A small child might not be able to take the watch off or even notice it, but a teenager obviously will).

If you have trouble keeping track of your child, you can simply call him and talk to him, similar to how you might use a walkie-talkie. I can imagine this being particularly handy in a large campground, where children might disappear for long stretches of time riding bikes around. It would be hard to keep a phone in hand or in their pockets (phones are huge for kid pockets), but the watch is strapped on. I can also see a smartwatch being useful at the mall or at fairs. But in most cases, if your child has a phone, you would just use the phone to call them or message them.

Some parents want to be able to communicate with their children at all times. With the rise of shootings in schools, at public events, and even at private events, having the ability to talk to a child through a device even if they don’t have their phone on them might be really attractive. In the case of lockouts or lockdowns, teens don’t have the ability to get up and go to their backpacks or jackets, or they might even have to run and hide.

In every case, if a child is wearing a charged smartwatch, she’ll be able to answer your phone call and give you an update on the situation. Parents who have been through lockdown scares quickly realize that the schools and the local law enforcement are too busy dealing with the situation to provide much information to stressed out parents, who can do nothing but call the school or local dispatchers for info (and tie up the lines).

Despite the potential benefits of the smartwatch for safety considerations, the watches themselves probably aren’t yet to a place where parents can rely upon them. Most affordable (meaning cheaper) smartwatches must be charged every twelve hours. If the child wears the watch during the night, it will have to be charged before the child can wear it to school. Unless your teen is particularly responsible, the watch might spend a lot of time with a dead battery.

Ultimately, we don’t recommend that you purchase a smartwatch with the idea that it will be a good tool to help with child safety. This just isn’t the right product for that goal. If you want to be able to communicate with your child, a cell phone is probably a better option, with instructions about keeping it on their person at school or out in public (instead of in bags or purses).

Are there risks associated with buying your teenager a smartwatch?

Privacy concerns surrounding teens and the digital space have been growing. McAfee Labs identified the increasing risk to teen’s privacy as one of the top threat predictions in recent years. They argue that unethical organizations could use the digital content generated by teen’s smartwatches. These organizations, similar to Facebook, seek to have engagement and retention of smart watch data. This information helps them market and advertise to attract more teens.

The Federal Network Agency recently issued a ban on smartwatches marketed to children, describing them as ‘spying devices’. Here is a summary of their concerns:

  • Smartwatches can be used to listen in to the environment which means they should  be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting device. Smart watches can also be used by parents to listen to teachers in the classroom.
  • Smartwatches can have flaws in transmitting and storing data without encryption. This makes it easier for basic hacking techniques to track your teen. Parents who are concerned about kidnapping of their children for trafficking purposes should be extra wary on this point. These flaws could also make it appear that your teen was in a different location. This lack of encryption puts your teens privacy and identity at risk.
  • Other smartwatch features such as geofencing, can give a false sense of security. Often these alerts, set up for if kids move outside a pre-set zone, are not consistent.

If you and your teen are committed to the idea of a smartwatch, here are steps to protect their privacy.

  • Do not keep any personal information on your watch especially banking and credit card details and your address.
  • Don’t transmit any personal information using your watch.
  • Don’t download apps for the Smart watch from unknown sources. They may hack and store your personal information.
  • Keep your smartwatch up to date. As soon as software updates become available,  download them immediately to prevent hacking your device.
  • Use complex passwords when setting up the device or creating new accounts. A combination of lower case and upper case letters, numbers and special characters is ideal.
  • Use secured Wi-Fi networks to avoid public networks whenever possible when connecting to the internet.

How to choose a smartwatch for your teenager?

When you are ready to start shopping for a smart watch, brands play a big role in the selection process. From the research we have compiled a list of the top smartwatches for teenagers. Apple and Samsung typically are the first choice due to their extreme presence in marketing and advertisements. However you should look at all the brands and prices when purchasing a smart watch. In this review we will take a look at a varied list and give a fair comparison across brands.

One of the most important features you need to consider when purchasing a smart watch is if it must be paired with a smartphone to function. Some modern smartwatches work independently, but these days most need to be paired with a smartphone to have full functionality of features. Discuss this with the vendor and your wireless carrier when considering a specific smartwatch. If your teenager doesn’t have a smartphone of his own, you may have to pair the watch to your own phone. This may or may not be a good solution, as your teen could inadvertently get access to your private messages, phone calls, and other adult information.

Ultimately the best smart watch for your teenager is the one that has all the features of performance, durability, quality, and design that you and they want. Many smartwatches on the market currently are very practical-looking, with large, square faces. Are square-looking faces cool? You’ll have to ask your teen. Either way, currently smartwatches with customizable faces and bands are popular with teens.

Apple Watch Series 3

Apple Watch 3 is the latest premium smart watch from Apple. The watch allows for an electronic SIM. This allows connection even if you left your phone at home. Calls and text messages can be sent through the watch alone.

This watch can stream music, set reminders, and receive notifications from apps on your phone. It has water resistance technology that works up to 50m underwater. The watch also features a Heart Rate Sensor, Altimeter, Accelerometer, and Gyroscope.

Price: $230-499.99

Style note: Basic square face and rubber band.

Pros

• Optical heart sensor

• Tracks low and high heart rate

• Emergency SOS

• Personalized coaching

• Fall detection

• Stream music

• Swim-proof and waterproof

• Smartphone notifications

• 64-bit dual-core processor

• WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity

Cons

• There is no option of always-on screen

• Switching watch faces are annoying

• No advanced sleep tracking

• Doesn’t support 3rd party watch faces

If you are willing to invest money in a smartwatch for your teen, this is a high quality, well-reviewed watch. This product is frequently given FIVE out of FIVE stars on every review platform. One reviewer called it “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

As always, there are a few complaints, but in general these are small things. One reviewer complained about how he had to take off his gloves in cold weather to use the watch. Another user complained that the band gave him a skin rash, while another said the watch gave him blood clots. These negative reviews seems to be from a really very small percentage of users.

The primary thing we don’t like about this watch (like many of the good smartwatches out there) is the cost. It is just TOUGH to spend this much money on a product for a teenager who might not yet appreciate the value of what he has received.

Motorola Moto 360

Motorola Moto 360 watch is compatible with iOS and Android smart phones. This watch streamlines your smartphone use by providing information that is essential to you with updates that are not interruptive. Stay connected and receive messages, news and alerts without having to check your phone.

Price: $199.99-375.00

Style note: round glass face, continuous band, thin bezel.

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Lots of gadgets
  • Balance of design and functionality
  • Lightweight and resistant
  • Corning Gorilla Glass And stainless steel
  • Internal Qi wireless charging
  • Moto Body activity tracker app 
  • Well designed interface

Cons

  • Circular screen limits viewing area.
  • Built-in heart rate sensor is unreliable
  • Short battery life
  • Arguable durability

This smartwatch looks more like a “watch” than a computer. Most of the reviewers who bought it appreciated that it looked as stylish as it was functional. Some users complained that it was too complicated to use, but that doesn’t bother me. Honestly, I would worry more about whether my grandparents could figure out this watch than whether my kids could. (Technology just comes so easy to kids these days).

While this watch looks cool, some of the reviews about the durability concern me. It claims to have “gorilla glass” but some reviewers found that the glass in the face cracked after falling from the counter just one time. As a parent, I can’t tell you how many times things just magically fall off of the counter. (Think phones, laptops, dinner plates, anything expensive).

While it retails for a few hundred bucks, you can actually find this watch for sale on eBay and on other discount channels for under $100 if you are willing to spend some time looking.

Fitbit Iconic

The Fitbit Ionic smart watch is great for personalized workout sessions. It can give on-screen guidance during workouts and recommend routines based on your feedback.

This watch has the ability to store over 300 songs. It can also download more tracks from Pandora. It has built-in GPS. It is capable of tracking your heart rate, calories burned, sleep cycles and receiving notifications. The battery can last four days on full charge.

Price: $229.00-269.95

Style note: Basic square face and rubber band.

Pros

• PurePulse technology tracks heart rate 24 x 7

• Tracks sleep stages

• Built-in GPS

• Female health tracking option

• Reminder to move

• Guided breathing sessions

• Vivid and bright display

• Store and play music

• App notification

• Smartphone notifications

• Waterproof and swim-proof

• Awesome battery life

Cons

• The interface response is slow

• Lack of available apps

This watch is well reviewed, but not quite as well as the Apple Watch 3. Ultimately, it has a ton of functionality, and in most cases isn’t quite as expensive as the Apple Watch.

The primary complaints I’ve seen about this watch have to do with the FitBit company and the quality of support provided to buyers.

Samsung Gear Sport

This smart watch  comes with a lot of important features from tracking of your daily calorie burning to receiving calls and text messages. This smart watch delivers all notifications that you can accept on your smart phone.

This smart watch is compatible with many Android apps, and is Samsung Pay NFC compatible, allowing you to make payments on the go with your wrist tap. It is water resistant up to 50m underwater.

Price: $259.99-279.99

Style note: classic design, round face, sturdy look.

Pros

• Can play music while not connected to Wi-Fi

• Uses Samsung health apps

• Compatible with Samsung Pay

• Customizable

• Sleep tracking

• GPS tracking

• Comfortable design

Cons

• Not a lot of storage

• Short battery life

• Fitness tracking is inconsistent

• No Speaker

I love the idea of this watch, but as a parent I am firmly convinced that anything a teenager has must have the maximum possible battery life to be useful to her and our family.

Samsung Gear 3

This watch has a sporty look with its steel bezel. You can access apps and notifications by rotation of bezel. With this smart watch you can send texts, make calls, and get notifications directly from your watch while Bluetooth is connected to the phone. It has a built-in speaker and microphone that allow hands-free calls. It also has Hands-free and wallet free options to make payments on the go. With just a swipe or tap on your credit card and payment is done.

Price: $229.99-325.23

Style note: Classic design.

Pros

• Accurate heart rate tracking

• Measures activities all day

• Smartphone app notification

• Dual-core 1 GHz processor

• Compatible with Android and iOS

• Customizable design options

• Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity

• Rotating bezel

• Wireless charging dock

• Built-in Bluetooth

Cons

• No speakers

• Limited app selection

This watch is generally well-reviewed across the internet. For the most part, buyers raved about the battery, features, and comfort. As always, there are a complaints–about the battery life, water resistance, and glitchiness. Overall though, the experience with this watch seems to be a positive one.

(And for the price, it had better be positive)

Pebble 2+Heart Rate

Pebble 2+ is a top smartwatch pick for athletes. It has a fitness tracker to track the steps, runs and calories. It has the 24 x 7 heart rate monitor which measures heart rate and pulse rate automatically. It receives notifications, alerts, text, calls and events. Also has built-in microphone with voice dictation. It is water resistant up to 30m. Battery life can last up to 7 days.

Price: $89.99-158.99

Style note: modern rectangular face and rubber band.

Pros

• Compatible with Android and IOS

• Affordable pricing compared to larger name brands

• Wide range of apps and features

• Many accessories and changeable bands

• This smart watch is waterproof

Cons

• Lack of customer service support

• Design is basic

The Pebble 2+ might be one of my favorite options for a teenager. I like the price point (you can find them for under a hundred dollars) and the reviews about them are overall positive. The battery life is impressive, users say that they can get away with charging it only once a week. The primary complaints about the watch have to do with the accuracy of the tracking apps (such as sleep, steps, calories).

But overall, this watch may get the prize for the combination of both value and quality. As a parent, I struggle to want to spend hundreds of dollars on a device that my teen may lose, break, or have stolen from them. This pain and worry is lessened when the product costs me less than $100.

But overall, this watch may get the prize for the combination of both value and quality. As a parent, I struggle to want to spend hundreds of dollars on a device that my teen may lose, break, or have stolen from them. This pain and worry is lessened when the product costs me less than $100.

Fossil Gen 2

The Fossil Gen 2 allows for control of applications as well as receiving notifications from others. It is compatible with music streaming apps like Spotify, Pandora and SoundCloud. Features include activity tracking from steps walked to calories burned. There are customizable watch faces and interchangeable straps as well. There is a built-in microphone which allows for hands free calls.

Price: $199.99-249.99

Style note: Classy, metal round face, leather band.

Pros

• Beautiful Design

• Receive the same notifications as your phone

• Voice control allows you to answer texts and calls

• Durable quality materials

• Lots of band options for customization

Con

• Needs frequent charging of battery

• iOS compatibility is lacking

• Synching issues

Boo for bad battery life. Looks cool but I need battery life!!

LG Watch W7

The LG smart watch allows you to put in a SIM card. This allows you to receive and send text messages and phone calls. It comes with “Ok Google” enabled – allowing smart watch to do all the things a phone can. The device is IP68 water resistant and dust resistant. Internally, it is powered by a 1.1 GHz snapdragon processor. This smart watch includes Bluetooth and Wi-fi capabilities.

Price: $199.99-215.00

Style note: Basic round face, gray metal, black band

Pros

• Always-on screen feature

• Compatible with iOS 9 or later

• Compatible with Android 4.3 or later

• Water-resistance and dust-proof

• Built-in Google Assistance facility

• Changeable bands

• Accelerometer, Gyroscope, and ALS

• Leather band of high-quality

• Stainless steel case

• Slim and stylish

• Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity

• Smartphone notifications

• App notifications

• Wireless magnetic charging facility

Cons

• No Google Pay option

• Battery life is short

• Limited apps

• It is not swim-proof

Again, how do smartwatch manufacturers expect to compete if people can’t actually USE their watches? All the beauty in the world is amazing, but I can’t see how these watches will be around for more than a season or two.

Is price your main consideration?

Are you looking to purchase a smartwatch primarily on price, because you believe your teenager is likely to lose the watch within a few days or get tired of it quickly? If that is the case, we don’t recommend that you get a smartwatch for your teenager. Yes, there are “cheap” options for smartwatches. Unfortunately, they tend to be poor products. (See this review of the iTouch smartwatch series of products). The low quality tends to contribute to quickly losing interest in wearing or using the product.

What are your thoughts about smartwatches for teens? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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