Safer Tech Devices for Kids of All Ages

Use these screen time tips and safer tech alternatives to help your kids build healthy screen habits.

How often do you pull out an atlas or flip through a phone book? Do you remember the last time you charged up a digital camera or camcorder? Probably not, thanks to that smartphone in your pocket.

Smartphones and handheld devices make it easy to get directions, call any contact or capture a special moment on photo or video. The convenience of tapping to pay when you forget your wallet at home or completing tasks in a few swipes and clicks has made tech an integral part of our daily lives. 

The trade-off is that these same devices can expose us to privacy concerns, sleep issues, physical and mental health problems, inappropriate content and much more. For kids who may be tech savvy but are still growing and learning, screen time and social media can have huge negative effects on their health, focus and self-esteem.

From tablets to cellphones and smartwatches, we found a few devices that allow kids to stay in contact and access educational, creative content without any of the harmful social media, bullying or other online threats. Keep reading to learn how you can keep your child safer online with these screen time tips and kid-proof tech devices. 

Screen time recommendations and tips

With so many apps and features designed to be fun and easy-to-use, scrolling and surfing the web on smart devices can easily become addicting — and even dangerous — for many children. 

When considering which devices are appropriate for your kids, first take into account how much screen time you want them to be exposed to. If you don’t already have firm rules around tech in your house, consider using these recommendations and tips from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a screen time plan for your child. 

  • Children less than 18 months should only use screens when video chatting with adults, like a grandparent who lives in another state or a parent who is out of town. 
  • Kids ages 18-24 months should only use screens for watching educational programming with their parent or caregiver.
  • Children ages 2-5 years old should limit non-educational screen time to one hour per weekday and three hours on weekend days. 
  • Children ages 6 and up should be encouraged to form healthy habits and to pursue activities that don’t involve screens. 
  • Kids ages 8-18 years should limit total screen time to one to two hours a day. This includes watching TV or YouTube, scrolling social media apps and browsing the web. This time limit does not include educational screen time at school or spent completing homework assignments. 
  • Don’t allow screens during family meals, outings or activities. 
  • Avoid using screens as a way to stop tantrums or to keep children occupied. 
  • Turn off devices at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime. 

Best devices for kids 

Photo courtesy of Pinwheel

Once you have a screen time plan for your kids, it’s time to go shopping. These devices for kids of all ages restrict access to harmful apps and online content, but offer all of the basic text and talk services they need to stay in touch with mom or dad. With the ability to unlock features like photo messaging, cameras and approved apps, many of these kid-safe cellphones can grow along with your child while they develop healthy screen habits. 

Whether you’re looking for your child’s first tablet, need to get your big kid a budget-friendly smartphone or simply want to explore alternatives to giving your kiddo a very expensive, very breakable iPhone, these devices are safer and appropriate for kids of all ages. 

Tablets

LeapFrog

  • Best for ages: 3+ 

This tech brand for toddlers to tweens offers age-appropriate tablets, toys and more. Littles can develop math, reading, writing and problem-solving skills by playing games on the kid-safe LeapPad Academy Education Tablet. The LeapFrog Epic 7 Kids Tablet comes with a durable, child-proof case and plenty of age-appropriate apps for gaming, learning and creative play. The brand also offers age-appropriate video games, learning programs and other tech toys. 

Amazon Fire 8 Kids

  • Best for ages: 3-7

Protected by a sturdy bumper case with a stand and a handle, this tablet is as kid-proof as a glass tablet can be. Built-in parental controls allow parents to filter content, set educational goals and screen time limits and decide which apps their children can use. The tablet comes loaded with age-appropriate games and educational apps. Social media and apps with in-app purchases aren’t accessible without parental permission. 

Phones

Photo courtesy of Pinwheel

VTech KidiBuzz 3

  • Best for ages: 6+

This LeapFrog-meets-smartphone device is great for little ones who enjoy games, on-the-go entertainment and taking photos. KidiBuzz 3 comes loaded with a camera and plenty of educational and interactive games. Parents can use the password-protected parental controls to set screen time limits and approve contacts and apps. 

While not a cellphone, the KidiCom Chat app allows kiddos to message other KidiBuzz devices. The device can also send text messages to iPhone or Android users like mom and dad who download the kid-friendly chat app to their phones. 

Gabb

  • Best for ages: 9-15

If you miss the days when phones were just for talking and texting, then a Gabb phone may be the right fit for your child’s first cellphone. With no internet, app store or social media, this basic cellphone is all your child needs to stay in touch. Plus, safety features like secure fingerprint scan access, GPS location services and a spam blocker will put anxious parents at ease. Kids will appreciate the front and rear cameras, as well as the option to subscribe to a clean, kid-approved music streaming service. 

Pinwheel

  • Best for ages: 9+

Pinwheel offers a selection of smartphones that are fully customizable to your child’s specific screen time needs and requirements. There’s no internet browser, social media or ad-driven games, but kids can still text and access plenty of fun, educational apps. As your child grows and learns healthy online habits, you can unlock additional features like games, music and banking apps. Parents can approve contacts, set limits on screen time that align with your child’s unique schedule, and even add to-do lists that your child can check off on their phone. 

Troomi

  • Best for ages: 9+

Parents of tech-savvy kids will love Troomi because it can adapt as your child grows older. The device looks like a smartphone, but its default mode is to only text and call. Features like group texting, picture and video sharing, and a limited selection of approved educational and creative apps can be unlocked when your child is ready — no social media apps allowed. The phone’s safe browser and approved apps can only be used with Wi-Fi. 

Smartwatches

TickTalk 4

  • Best for ages: 5-12

Not ready to give your little one a cellphone just yet? Keep your kiddo connected and safe with the TickTalk 4 smartwatch. Parents will love that they can use location tracking, video calling and messaging to keep an eye on their kids, and kids will love the watch’s camera, activity tracker and free music streaming app. 

Gabb Watch 2

  • Best for ages: 7+

Many adults wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and kids love to be just like mom and dad! Send them off in style with this sleek smartwatch that is perfect for on-the-go kids. The GPS tracker shows where your child is at all times and can send alerts when they’ve wandered a bit too far. The watch can only call and send voice texts to approved contacts, which means you don’t have to worry about receiving messages from strangers. Kids can also complete to-do lists that you create and earn coins to take care of digital pets on their watch. 

Angel Watch

  • Best for ages: 7+

Concerned parents can easily stay in touch, locate and monitor their kids with the Angel Watch. Talk and video calling allow you to keep in touch with your kids and, in case of an emergency, they can press a single button to call up to three emergency contacts. Set boundaries and get alerts when your child crosses them, and discreetly monitor their activities with remote listening and photo capture. 


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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Metro Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for metro Detroit families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.

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