Are you looking for a phone alternative for tweens? Today I’m sharing the best smartwatch for tweens and how it can help in delaying giving children their first phone.
As parents, we have so many responsibilities on our plates as our children get older. Especially as they approach the tween and teen years.
A large decision that weighs on us is when to give our children their first cell phones. We have all read the articles and heard the statics about the importance of delaying giving a phone to our children.
But HOW do we delay it? How do we get them to stop asking us over and over again for a phone? What options are there for a phone alternative for tweens? What is the best smartwatch for tweens? I’ll share our personal experiences and tips in this post!
Why We Delayed Child’s First Phone
We have four children and a rule of thumb when it comes to parenting that I like to follow is to “start as you mean to go on.” I try to really think through each parenting decision that I make for each child, but especially for our oldest.
What we do with the first child trickles down to the others and it’s much easier to establish rules and standards for the first child because then the younger ones know what to expect and we avoid having to “reparent.”
That’s not to say that everything is always fair between siblings, we try to parent the individual child and meet their individual needs. Just because we allowed a privilege to an older sibling at a certain age doesn’t mean the same will be true for the younger sibling.
When I was growing up cell phones were just becoming a “thing.” My husband and I both received our first phones when we were driving age.
In today’s world, many kids have their own phones in elementary school. I’ve heard my kids’ arguments for why they need a phone and usually one of their top points is that “everyoneeeeee has oneeeee.”
I am perfectly content with letting my kids be “left out” of what “everyone else” is doing. We delayed our children having phones for many, many reasons and have found multiple options for a phone alternative for tweens and kids.
A Life Without Phones Extends Childhood
It’s true. Once a child has a phone, their world changes. They are no longer bored. They are no longer as likely to participate in imaginative play. They are less likely to play with toys.
Owning a phone puts a child in a more adult role. I want my kids to remain kids for as long as possible. Even my teenage son will still play with toys and enjoys spending his days after middle school reading books!
Allowing them to be bored. Allowing them to disconnect from their peers. A life without a phone allows them to remain children a little longer.
A Life Without Phones Gives Peace
As kids get older the social aspect of life at school becomes more and more involved and impacts their sense of self-worth and self-value. Disconnecting kids from that peer environment allows the home to be a place of peace and refuge for them.
A place to remain connected to who they truly are – without the influence or pressure from their peers. They walk in the door of our home and know they are surrounded by people who love them for who they are and are able to be their truest selves.
They can shut off the outside world and truly relax and rest in a way they would be unable to do if they were constantly “connected” to the world via phones. Delaying smartphone ownership protects a child’s mental health.
A Life Without Phones Keeps them Safe
There are many dangers that come with phone ownership. Social media apps. The internet. Even texting can become dangerous.
Children’s brains are not fully developed and are unable to fully grasp the long-term consequences of short-term decision-making.
They are more likely to be trusting of others and less likely to have a sense of danger. We’ve all heard countless stories of children being harmed as well as children making poor decisions themselves with their phones that lead to long-term consequences.
A Life Without Phones Prevents Temptation
We are doing our best to raise our children in a way that honors God and follows His Word.
The reality is the minute we hand our children a phone we are literally putting Satan in their pocket. Phones open up countless avenues of temptation to sin.
Even when staying up to date on the latest parental controls, even with frequent check-ins and looking through the phones it’s impossible for parents to completely protect their children from the sinful temptations that come along with phone ownership.
A Life Without Phones Makes Parenting Easier
As a parent, it’s MUCH easier to just say NO to a phone rather than say YES and have to navigate all the parental decisions and parental monitoring that come with a child having their own phone.
I have four kids. I don’t have the time to be reading every text my child sends or going through all their apps or having to check up on their usage. By just saying NO it makes MY life easier!
It’s one less thing for me to have on my mental load. One less item for my child to forget or to break or to lose. Life is simpler for MOM when a child doesn’t have a phone!
How We Navigated Delaying Child’s First Phone
I’m sure many of you reading this are in the same boat I’ve been in. Your child is begging and pleading for a phone. You even have times when day-to-day life would be a whole lot easier if they had one!
That time when they forgot something at home and needed it for school and could have called you if they had a phone. Or when they had that field trip and had to use a teacher’s phone to text you what time they’d be back. All those after-school activities.
Playdates and hangouts where it’d be nice to just communicate directly with your child rather than having to get the parents’ phone number to make plans and pick up arrangements.
It can be difficult to stay strong on the decision to delay giving a child a smartphone. Especially when they are persistent in asking.
However, It IS possible to delay giving your child a phone AND have them on board with this decision as well!
Getting Kids on Board with Delaying First Phone: Explain the Why
As parents, we know best for our children. However, they have their own worldviews and perspectives as well. I have found that the best way to limit the constant asking or negotiating for a phone is to provide my children with information.
The WHY behind my parenting decisions. Not just “because Mommy said so” but facts, statistics, research, and supporting information to help them understand why I’ve made the decision to delay smartphone ownership for kids.
There are countless articles about the dangers (not just physical but emotional, educational, developmental, etc) of cell phone use for kids.
As I find an article of interest for myself, I then print it and allow my children to read it or we review it together as a family at the dinner table.
An excellent resource is the Parenting in a Tech World Facebook Group as well as Wait Until 8th
Again, by focusing these efforts on our oldest child it has trickled down very smoothly to our younger children, and both of my daughters who are in 3rd and 5th grade this school year never ask for a phone and have mentioned many times that they do not want a phone.
When we give our kids knowledge it’s powerful. They understand the concerns and have even seen issues themselves with their friends and peers who do have phones.
As an example: My 5th-grade daughter has literally lost friends over phone ownership.
As her friends each got a phone in 5th grade they became obsessed with TikTok dances. All they wanted to do at recess time was practice their dances for TikTok while my daughter wanted to go play chase. She opted to find new friends to run and play with and was disappointed that her friends were no longer interested in playing.
Delaying First Phone for Tweens: Layout a Timeline
I’m big on clear communication with my children. I am the parent, I make the decisions. However, I have learned that when kids know the why and the when that they are more likely to support that decision.
Instead of saying “no” over and over again or “when I say so” kids know what to expect, they understand why but they also know a rough timeline of when.
Not only does establishing a timeframe for when a child will receive their first phone help them stop asking, but it also helps to teach delayed gratification.
They know the expectations and they know by waiting patiently they will enjoy that reward of phone ownership!
Our oldest son understood the why behind our decision to delay giving him a phone but he struggled a lot with not knowing the when. Once we sat down and had a conversation about a rough timeline he felt relieved and was content waiting.
You don’t have to give a firm date or an exact age. We told our son that we would see how responsible and trustworthy he was in 8th grade and would discuss it at that time.
It doesn’t mean we had to give him a phone as an 8th grader but it let him know that until he reached 8th grade, we wouldn’t even be considering it!
And, again, this may not be the same for all of our other children. But knowing that their older brother didn’t even have a conversation about smartphones until close to 8th grade helps our younger children to expect a similar conversation around that age as well.
Delaying First Phone for Kids: Earn Responsibility
Owning a phone is not a right, it is a privilege. One that comes with a lot of responsibility and trust. Once a child fully understands the why of delaying the device, the “when” helps them know a timeline to expect.
It’s also important to communicate the expectations for the child when they are given a phone. Explain the costs involved, the limitations that you will have in place, and the responsibilities that will be expected of them.
You may want to come up with milestones they need to achieve before having a phone conversation. Maybe they need to do better at not losing things. Save up money to help purchase the phone. Help parents with younger siblings or raise their grades to show their responsibility. Be given smaller freedoms to build trust.
Have some reflection time to yourself to really think through what will provide your child with the firmest foundation prior to phone ownership. This is an excellent opportunity to teach kids about personal growth and how we can better ourselves in order to be able to handle bigger responsibilities and more freedom.
Providing a phone alternative for tweens helps them to ease into that ownership without as many concerns for consequences that come with phone ownership.
Phone Alternative for Tweens
There are many cell phone alternatives for kids and tweens when delaying smartphone ownership. Some parents opt to purchase a flip phone or a “light phone.” Some opt to purchase smartwatches. Or watches and phones made specifically for kids that allow basic communication.
I did a lot of research. I had many friends recommend the Gabb Phone and I think it’s a wonderful option! However, I wanted to find the easiest path for myself and for the long term.
Using a Tablet to Ease into Phone Ownership
My husband and I both own iPhones. When our kids first asked for tablets we bought Amazon Fires for them. Not only because they were a cheaper route but because we thought they’d be easier for kids to handle.
We quickly regretted it. The Amazon Fires were so hard to set up. So complicated and confusing. And resulted in a HUGE headache for US as well as annoyance for our kids too.
That next Christmas? Santa brought them iPads and we’ve never looked back. If I could do it all over again I’d just buy an iPad for each kid from the start! (With a kid-friendly case, of course)
We are very mindful about screentime limits in our home but we also travel frequently so tablets are wonderful to have with us on long road trips and airplane travel.
Much like smartphones, tablets also require trust, responsibility, and a protective parenting watchful eye. We purchase wifi only tablets and set up parental controls on the strictest settings. No Safari. No Suri. No downloads without our permission.
We load the tablets up with age-appropriate games and family-friendly apps from the app store. Our children only really use their tablets when we travel but they occasionally ask to use them at home for screen time too.
As the kids become old enough to spend short time periods at home without a parent we set up their iPads with their own Apple ID. This allows us to remain in complete control but also allows them to be able to communicate via I-messaging with their Apple ID.
In the parental controls, we set it up where they are only able to contact Mommy and Daddy. They are then able to make phone calls as well as send texts to us via their iPads!
While this isn’t a great replacement option long-term for a phone, it is a great way to ease kids into phone ownership and begin to teach them those responsibilities and expectations. Tablets are an excellent first phone alternative for tweens and kids.
We have never sent our kids to school with their iPads, but they have taken them to their grandparent’s house when my husband and I travel and it makes it easier to stay in touch with them while we are away and gives them a way to directly contact us on their own too.
The Best Smartwatch for Tweens
Our decision to invest in a smartwatch for tweens didn’t actually come about due to our desire to delay cell phone ownership. We are big theme park people and visit Disney World on a regular basis.
Our kids know the layout of Disney World better than our own home! Once they reached an age where we felt comfortable separating a bit from them at the parks, we decided to explore options to be able to keep tabs on them and communicate with them.
It does not make sense to have the kids bring their iPads with them to Disney World…although we’ve all seen tourists carrying them around, haven’t we? Ha!
In thinking through our theme park options we decided that a smartwatch made the most sense. It would allow us to keep tabs on their location through GPS tracking, allow us to communicate with them via text messaging, and it’d be literally attached to their wrists so we wouldn’t have to worry about it getting lost.
Some theme parks, like Universal Studios, don’t even allow cell phones on rides so having a smartwatch allows the kids to keep it on them even on rollercoasters without having to place them in a locker.
On top of the theme park benefits, smart watches are also the best solution among the many smartphone alternatives! If you’re looking for a phone alternative for tweens then it’s a great time to learn about the best smartwatch for tweens.
I’m sharing the most popular smartwatches for kids as well as my pick for the best smartwatch for tweens!
Best Smartwatches for Kids and Tweens
Smart watches have become a popular smart phone alternative for tweens and kids. There are now many different options for smartwatches on the market. While it’s great to have options, it can also be very overwhelming.
VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch
If you have a child who isn’t asking for a phone but is, instead, asking for a smartwatch this may be a good fit for you. My kids have owned the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch and honestly? I wasn’t super thrilled with it.
It tells time and counts their steps (which is the main thing my kids were wanting) but it also is very bulky and has a lot of games on it. I didn’t like my kids having “video games” attached to their wrists.
In addition, the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch is NOT a phone alternative for kids. It is not an option as a tracker for location nor does it have the ability for any communication.
One fun feature is the ability to record video and take photos and they can be transferred and uploaded to a computer. Kids smartwatches can range from simple to overly complex and this one is a bit too busy for my personal taste!
Learn more about the VTech Kidizoom Smart Watch Here!
Little Tikes Tobi
I’d honestly never heard of this watch until I started doing research for this blog post! It’s a more sleek option than the VTech Kiddizoom. It also do not have the ability to do any voice calling or texting and isn’t able to be tracked.
It does, however, connect wtih other Little Tikes Tobi devices and can have a chat feature between them. It has some fun features like video and photo as well as games and it can tell time too 😉
If I were in the market for a non-communication smartwatch for kids I would opt for the Little Tikes Tobi over the VTech because the Tobi does offer parental control options which I prefer!
Learn More about the Little Tikes Tobi here!
Fitbit Activity Tracker
If you are not looking for a GPS or communication option but have a child more interested in fitness or physical activity, the fitbit fitness tracker may be a great option. It IS able to sync to a parent’s fitbit but the downside is a lot of the stats are only available to see in the parent’s app and not on the child’s fitbit.
The Fitbit Ace is made for kids and has a high waterproof rating – water resistant to 50 meters. It has the option to set up a sleep monitor as well.
I have personally owned a Fitbit for myself (the Fitbit Versa) and I just wasn’t impressed with it overall. I didn’t find it to be very accurate in the step counting and the functions just weren’t very user friendly. The Versa does allow for text and GPS but your smartphone has to be nearby and it must be synced to your phone so it would not be a good option for an alternative phone for tweens or teens.
Learn more about the Fitbit Ace here
Gizmo Smartwatch for Kids – A Phone Alternative for Tweens but is it the BEST Smartwatch for tweens?
The Gizmo smartwatch is one of the first true communication smartwatches on the market designed specifically for kids. It is a great option, but it is only available for Verison subscribers.
You CAN have a plan with Verison just for the Gizmo! If your cell phone service is through another provider you don’t have to switch to Verison in order to purchase a Gizmo smartwatch for your child.
At the time when we were looking for a smartwatch for our kids, the Gizmo was also very “clunky” in its design (as you can see, it’s greatly improved). The clunky style was more geared towards kids and, therefore, would be embarrassing for our older tween to wear.
This would be a nice option for a younger child but I do not consider it the best phone watch for tweens!
Learn more about Gizmo Watch here!
Tween Smartwatch: Is the Gabb Watch the BEST Smartwatch for Tweens?
Gabb wireless has expanded beyond its kid-friendly cell phones into the smartwatch market. At the time when we were purchasing a smartwatch, Gabb had not yet developed their version as a phone alternative for tweens.
Gabb requires you to purchase their watch as well as a monthly plan. While Gabb Watch has many features the price point is pretty high and it’s worth comparing with the options your cell phone carrier may have.
For us this just didn’t make sense when comparing to our options with our cell phone provider and the ease of set up by going a route that was more familiar to us. However if you are not an Apple kinda person you may want to explore this route. The Gabb Watch is considered one of the best smart watches for tweens and kids!
Learn more about Gabb Watch here
TickTalk Kids Smartwatch: A Phone Alternative for Tweens
Another popular, highly-reviewed smartwatch for kids is the TickTalk Smartwatch.
A wonderful thing about the TickTalk Kids Smartwatch is it has an app parents can download to easily have full control over all of the settings, usability, gps tracking and more! I do think this design would be well received by tween and teens – especially boys.
The TickTalk is a great option that includes preset texts and allows voice to text as well as voice calling. I can see this being considered the best smartwatch for tweens but I have no regrets over the smartwatch we chose for our children!
Learn more about the TickTalk Smartwatch for Kids Here
Best Smartwatch for Tweens: Using an Apple Watch for Kids Instead of a Cell Phone
While we explored and considered several options for our kids’ smartwatches, we remembered our previous lesson learned when we purchased their tablets.
In looking for a phone alternative for tweens, we not only wanted the ability to track their locations, keep in touch with them, and have the option for parental controls but we also wanted to make it as easy to set up and keep up-to-date as possible.
We discussed it with our cell phone service provider and it ended up making the most financial sense to go ahead and purchase an Apple Watch with its own phone number! The cost and ease of set up makes the Apple Watch the best smartwatch for tweens.
Yes, an Apple Watch has MANY features. Including heart rate monitor, activity tracking, music, GPS etc. But most importantly it has the ability to both track AND communicate WITH EASE. No headaches for Mom and Dad and helps your tween or teen be more acclimated with Apple products if you plan to give them an iPhone in the future.
I am not a tech-savvy sort of person whatsoever and am not an Apple Watch owner myself so I was very confused about how it would work. I was nervous that it would be complicated or confusing but it was SUPER simple.
- Check with your service provider as they may have a special deal in purchasing an Apple Watch. We bought a refurbished one directly from our local carrier. We paid cash for our watch but they do have options for leasing them as well and bundling them with your monthly bill.
- Have your service provider add an extra line to your service plan (ours is with AT&T and the additional line costs us $10 a month, be sure to ask for discounts or a promo code).
- Then they can set up the Apple Watch to use THAT phone number. Yes, a smartwatch CAN have its OWN phone number – no cell phone needed. Just make sure you’re purchasing an Apple Watch that has cellular access!
- I had to set up an Apple ID for my child who would be using the Apple Watch (at that time it was my oldest, Kye, but once he did get his own cell phone we switched the Apple Watch over to the Apple ID of the second oldest, Britt).
- When you set up a child’s Apple ID account they are automatically listed as part of your Family on your Apple ID account.
- It is VERY easy to set up parental controls, screen time limits, and more under the “Screen Time” section in your settings on your IPhone!
A large reason why I personally love having an Apple Watch for my children is that is a light phone. It may be a smartwatch but it’s far from having the same freedom as an actual smartphone.
It doesn’t require many parental controls at all. I made sure that my children’s contacts are only allowed and approved by me and that they aren’t allowed to have communication with any other contacts or phone numbers (this also helps avoid any sort of spam texts that the Apple Watch may receive).
We do not have an Apple Watch for EACH child. Instead, the Apple Watch is simply THE Apple Watch. It belongs to the family unit, not an individual.
When a situation occurs where it makes sense for someone to take the Apple Watch, they are the ones who wear it and use it. If they are in a group (like at the theme parks) the oldest child is responsible for it.
I can use the “find my” app on my phone to easily track the location of the Apple Watch. It is easy to use and comfortable for the kids to wear. The kids are able to send simple, quick texts and can also use voice texting on it as well. The battery life is impressive – they wear the watch from the time the theme parks open until closing and the watch will still be going strong!
The only thing my daughter wishes the Apple Watch could do is taking photos – otherwise, she says she’d never want a phone at all 😉
I recommend purchasing these Apple Watch covers as they help keep the watch face protected. Our Apple Watch has been worn on every thrill ride in the Orlando, Florida area and has held up flawlessly with no issues!
It has proven to be THE perfect solution as a phone alternative for our tweens and is THE best smartwatch for tweens too!
This is the Apple Watch we have here!
Apple Watch as Phone Alternative for Tweens: Frequently Asked Questions
I get asked frequently on my Instagram about our Apple Watch. I recently gave followers an opportunity to share their questions and hope these answers are helpful to other parents in making the decision as to which is the best smartwatch for their tweens!
What Age Should a Child Have a Smartwatch?
As I mentioned, we don’t GIVE the child their own smartwatch. Instead, it’s something we have as a family and it’s used by any of the children who may benefit from using it. We first purchased the Apple Watch when our oldest was in 6th grade but we’ve had times when our younger daughter, in 3rd grade, has used it as well. Our family could have benefited from it earlier but didn’t see a real need to be able to communicate with our kids until that point.
Is an Apple Watch suitable for a 10 year old? In my opinion, yes. Even my 8 year old can use it with ease and is responsible enough to take care of it!
When Do Your Kids Use the SmartWatch?
We ALWAYS use it when we go to theme parks. It’s so helpful if an older child wants to ride a different ride or needs to go to the bathroom or we split up for any reason!
We have also used it when the kids are going to a drop-off birthday party, on a field trip, playing outside, over to hang out with a friend, needing to stay after school, walking to the neighborhood playground, or for short time periods of staying home alone.
They do NOT wear the Apple Watch every day or at school (they may have it in their bookbag if they are staying after or going on a field trip etc).
It’s a great phone alternative for tweens but just like we don’t want our children walking around with a phone everywhere they go – we treat the Apple Watch the same way. It’s the best smartwatch for tweens but It stays at home unless it’s needed!
Does the Apple Watch link to an adult’s IPhone?
No. As long as you set up the Apple Watch using your child’s Apple ID it will not be synced with your personal iPhone. The Apple Watch doesn’t sync with my phone calls or my texts or my contacts. It is its own stand-alone device.
While it’s not connected directly to my iPhone I AM able to control all the settings and parental controls from my iPhone. I can make changes to those settings at any time without even needing to have the Apple Watch.
By updating the child’s Apple ID settings it makes changes to the Apple Watch as well. For example, if my child is going on a field trip and I need to add a chaperone’s contact info to their contacts I can add it on their Apple ID from MY phone and it will sync with their Apple Watch and they can then communicate with that new contact directly.
Does A Parent Need an iPhone for the child to have an Apple Watch?
I’d say yes. If you’re an Android user then this may not be the best option for you. If you have ANY Apple Product, though, you could still set up an Apple Watch for a child in all the ways I mentioned above. From your Apple Computer, Mac Book, or iPad. But I would ONLY recommend an Apple Watch as a way to delay a phone for a family who owns other Apple products.
As an Apple user though it’s a no-brainer that the Apple Watch is THE best smartwatch for tweens and kids!
The Best Smartwatch for Tweens who Don’t Use Apple Products
Not an Apple family? More of an Android kinda person?
A very similar option to the Apple Watch when looking for the best smart watch for tweens is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active.
Much like the Apple Watch, the Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch has the ability to be connected to it’s own phone line allowing for GPS functions as well as voice and text communication without being near or synced to a cellphone. It’s a great phone alternative for tweens!
Thank you for this post Emily! It’s such an important topic to talk about!