The 7 Best GPS Watches for Kids in 2021

Relax knowing where your child is.

Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNED
Reviewed by Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNEDWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on August 27th, 2021

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Our top picks

Best Overall : TickTalk 4

Runner up: XPLORA X5 Play

Best for worried parents: Angel Watch

Lowest upfront cost: Cosmo JrTrack Kids

Best for Apple fans: Apple Watch SE (with Family Setup)

We parents worry. There, I said it. 

Yes, we want to raise independent, resilient kids. And, yes, we know that achieving this means allowing them to take risks. That’s fine. But some risks are not worth it. I’m assuming you agree, and that’s why you’re looking for a GPS watch.

The best GPS watches for kids provide us parents with peace of mind. At a glance, we can learn where our children are, know they are safe, and communicate with them if need be. Additionally, if your child has special needs, then you may want to monitor their body health vitals. All this is possible with today’s GPS watches.

But wait:

Honestly, most of the GPS watches on the market are cheap garbage. They are often cheaply made and rely on 2G cell networks that are now obsolete in the US. We urge you to beware of low-cost, random brands. They may be terrible, and that’s if they even work in the first place!

The good news: we’re real parents with real kids and we’ve done extensive research into GPS watches. In our opinion, there are only a few decent models worth investing in. We’ll run you through them.

Our picks of the best GPS watches for kids

Best Overall

Specs

  • Price – $$$
  • Network fee – Pay as you go
  • Compatible networks – AT&T and T-Mobile
  • SIM included – Y
  • Video call – Y
  • Voice call – Y
  • Messaging – Y
  • Pedometer – Y
  • Water-Resistant
  • Battery life – 100 hrs (standby)

Are you the kind of parent who would like some type of intelligent robot to follow your child wherever she goes? Well, if that describes you, you might want to take a close look at the latest TickTalk 4 iteration of the iconic child’s GPS brand. 

Why do we think the TickTalk 4 is so special? First, there are the onboard features, including calling, messaging, two cameras, GPS locating, and free streaming music from the kid-friendly iHeart Radio. 

The phone comes with a Red Pocket SIM card. This is a pay-as-you-go hook-up with no activation fees or contract and costs about $10 per month. If you are already on AT&T or T-Mobile plans, this smartwatch offers two-way calling, texting, and HD video chat on your plan for a fraction of the cost. WiFi calling for up to 53 parent-approved numbers is included. If you turn on the Firewall feature, only those numbers can be reached from the phone.

GPS tracking with the TickTalk4 is fantastic. You will be able to know where your child is within 10 feet of their location. You can’t ask for closer contact information than that.

What we love
  • Rubber shell protects the smartwatch from screen-shattering spills.
  • IP 67 water resistance
  • Recommended for ages 5 to 12 years.
  • Included with the phone are one Red Pocket SIM card, a charging cord, and a SIM lid opener.
Watch for
  • The watch is pretty large for a kindergartener’s wrist.

Runner up

Specs

  • Price – $$$
  • Network fee – From $5/mo
  • Compatible networks – Speed Talk Mobile
  • SIM included – N
  • Video call – Y
  • Voice call – Y
  • Messaging – Y
  • Pedometer – Y
  • Water – Proof (up to 1.5m)
  • Battery life – 5 days (standby)

This kid’s smartwatch can only make calls to pre-selected, parent-approved phone numbers. You won’t have to worry about who’s talking to your kid, and you don’t have to remember to restrict other calls manually. The messaging service is wide-ranging and includes texts, emojis, voice messages, and images.

For parents’ peace of mind, there is an SOS button on the watch that your child can press in an emergency. The call for help will immediately go to three pre-selected numbers. The smartwatch will provide the device’s exact location. Another option is to set up Safety Zones around school and home.

The phone is WiFi and network compatible. A SpeedTalk Mobile SIM is compatible with several mobile networks, including Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular.

What we love
  • Parents have total control of the numbers their children can dial.
  • A good smartwatch for tweens, not too childish nor too advanced.
  • The watch is a good fit for older kids who are not quite teenagers.
Watch for
  • The Speedtalk SIM system can be complicated to set up.

Best for worried parents

Specs

  • Price – $$$
  • Video call – Y
  • Voice call – Y
  • Messaging – Y
  • SIM included – Y
  • Compatible cell networks – AT&T
  • Network payment – $10/m
  • Pedometer – Y
  • Water – Proof
  • Battery life – ?

We don’t all live in quiet leafy suburbs; some of us live in iffy urban areas. Some of our kids are having trouble with bullies. Others may have physical, social, or intellectual challenges. For these and other special situations, you might do well to consider equipping your child with the Angel Watch.

Like the proverbial guardian angel, this smartwatch’s primary purpose is to safeguard your child. The Angel Watch uses a 4G network using an Android or iPhone app with a unique phone number and data stream. It ships with a complimentary SIM card connected to AT&T. You can also use your cell phone service.

What we love
  • Parents can follow their child’s progress step by step while kids are away from home.
  • Fully controlled by caregivers
  • Angel Watch sends body temperature, heart rates, and more to parents.
Watch for
  • Some parents have a difficult time getting the watch to work and complain that advice from the company’s customer service is slow.

Lowest upfront cost

Specs

  • Price – $
  • Network fee – $19.99/m
  • Compatible networks – T-Mobile
  • SIM included – N
  • Video call – Y
  • Voice call – Y
  • Messaging – Y
  • Pedometer – Y
  • Water – Proof (IP68 up to 1.5m)
  • Battery life – 5 days (standby)

Fashioned for the elementary school set, this smartwatch has a good package for a small price. If you want to test how your kids, and you, will take to a smartwatch, the Cosmo JrTrack will give you that entry point. It has a two-way voice and video calling capability, so you’ll be able to keep in touch wherever they go.

For safety’s sake, the phone’s software is firewalled. Your child won’t be able to access the internet, adult content, or even social media. The only numbers it will call are those that have been approved by you. A low price, the access you need, and protection against those your child shouldn’t have a real bargain.

What we love
  • All the protections including safety zones and a GPS fence.
  • Free SIM card and flexible data plans
  • T-Mobile data plans enabled
Watch for
  • While this is by far the cheapest GPS watch, it requires ongoing monthly payment of $19.99 per month to use the cell network. This is $10 to $15 per month more than the others.

Best for Apple fans

Specs

  • Price – $$$$$
  • Network payment – From $5/mo
  • Compatible networks – All
  • SIM included – N
  • Video call – Y
  • Voice call – Y
  • Messaging – Y
  • Pedometer – Y
  • Water – Proof (up to 50m)
  • Battery life – 14 hrs (heavy use)

Suppose your kids are getting older and, hopefully, more responsible. In that case, the Apple Watch SE might be a very worthwhile investment. It has all the features of an adult’s smartwatch. Your teen can keep track of physical activity. It’s even water-resistant if they forget they have it on and take a dive from the high board.

The watch features a fall alert and emergency SOS alert in bike turnovers or a header off a trampoline.

What we love
  • S5 dual-core SiP so the Apple Watch will operate at top performance levels.
  • The watch is an athlete’s dream. Measures distance, pace, laps, and even an always-on altimeter just so you’ll know how high that hot-air balloon is drifting upwards.
  • It features audible books, Apple music, and podcasts.
  • Keeps track of sleep cycles so your teen can get the huge amount of sleep they need.
Watch for
  • Doesn’t feature an OLED display or have 3d touch capability.

Final verdict

Overall, we have to give the nod to the TickTalk 4 (check price on Amazon). It is a feature-full GPS smartwatch with all the functionality that parents want, while also looking super-cool and packing plenty of games and apps that school-age kids will love.

If you are less interested in a flashy gizmo with tons of apps, and instead you simply want to keep your child as safe as possible without the distractions, then we recommend the Angel Watch (check price). This company puts parents and child safety at the heart of their devices. As such, it provides an array of easy-to-use, powerful tracking and safety features, while avoiding media intrusion into your kid’s life.

How we chose these GPS watches for kids

As parents, we get the motivation behind buying a GPS smartwatch. We understand what features parents need and want. Our selection is based on reliable and secure functionality, ease of use, and cost (both upfront and ongoing network charges).

We’ll name no names, but many articles out there recommend GPS watches that simply don’t work. Watch out for articles that only recommend Amazon products. 

With this in mind, we did extremely deep research into brands and models of smartwatches. We also scoured customer feedback to learn from real parents (not fake reviews) what was good and bad about various products.

FAQs

Do 2G-compatible smartwatches work?

No. 2G is all but obsolete in the US. Buy a cheap watch with only 2G capabilities, and you’ll find that SIM cards and cell network providers simply won’t support it. In short, the watch won’t work for GPS tracking or communication.

Does my child need an SOS call feature?

Given that the primary purpose of a GPS watch is safety and security, then why not have this feature. It allows your child to quickly and easily call for help on their smartwatch with the push of a button. Typically, watches cycle through a list of trusted contacts, calling one at a time until someone answers. Another type will allow them to call 911.

Why is GPS tracking important?

There are many smartwatches on the market but most do NOT have GPS tracking, so look carefully. Others have GPS tracking specifically geared around exercise and sports. These are good for measuring your run times, but have little use for parents wanting to track the whereabouts of their children.

Parental real-time GPS tracking provides you with the ability to know where exactly your child is at any given time. The precision of the tracking depends on the watch and network technology. 

Some parents worry that location tracking will inhibit their child’s independence. However, in our opinion, the opposite is true; many moms and dads find that they are far more likely to let their children walk home from school or play outdoors so long as they have the option to ‘check in’ and see where they are. As a parent, you’ll need to decide whether these benefits will work for your family.

What are parental controls?

Parental controls allow parents to pick and choose what functionality kids have access to. They also allow parents to monitor smartwatch usage, so as to make further decisions about how their child is using the device.

For example, parents can typically limit who kids can call and how much talk-time they use. They can also restrict the duration and times that kids can play games (if at all). 

Most schools do not allow smart devices such as phones in their classrooms or require them to be turned off. Many smartwatches have a parental control known as ‘school mode’ or ‘class mode’. These allow the parent to limit access to the watch applications during specific hours of the day while your child is in school.

What to look for in a child’s GPS smartwatch

Age-appropriate

If your child is a preschooler, ask yourself if your child really needs a smartwatch. At younger ages, kids are usually closely supervised by parents or caregivers all the time. If you decide that your younger child would benefit from a GPS watch, then you can opt for a streamlined model with all the safety features but without games and music-type functionality.

For older kids, if you are happy for them to use devices, then it makes sense to get the kiddo a watch with a couple of games and let them graduate to a full-featured smartwatch when they’re ready.

Features

There are various features that you may wish to consider:

  • School mode. If your kid is school-aged, you may want a watch that will disable all but SOS calls during school hours.
  • Geofence. Do you want to make sure your child is where they are supposed to be? A GPS geofence allows you to set up a digital perimeter or ‘virtual fence’ on a map. If your child strays out of this area, then various alerts will be triggered.
  • SOS call. With the touch of the button, children can call for immediate help from their caregivers.
  • Pedometer. Many smartwatches allow you to track your child’s steps. This can be a fun way for them to remain active and play games that challenge them to take a certain number of steps each day Think carefully about what you want in your child’s watch before purchasing.

Technology (2G, 3G, 4G)

Beware of cheap smartwatches that only use 2G. This is an obsolete technology and won’t work in the US. You’ll need a minimum of 3G and 4G will work further into the future.

Cell data, network providers, and cost

To enable calling and location tracking, GPS watches require data provided by a cell network provider. Be aware that this will mean an additional monthly cost above and beyond the price of the smartwatch. Typically you are looking at $5 to $20 per month.

It’s generally easy to get set up as most smartwatches come with a SIM card and recommend a particular cell network provider that they prefer to partner with. This normally works well for parents. It normally involves rolling contracts that you can cancel at any time.

It is possible, however, that your current cell provider will offer a special deal for adding an additional family member SIM card. If so, you’ll need to check which network providers the smartwatch allows. Most smartwatches will NOT allow all providers but instead, have a shortlist of compatible ones. Be sure to check this before you buy.

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Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNED
Reviewed by Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNEDWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on August 27th, 2021

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