Today’s kids are growing up in a tech-centric world. While smartphones and gaming systems might seem harmless at first, they can quickly become dangerous, time-sucking distractions.
Banning your child from technology is basically impossible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t strike a balance: Why not invest in tech that helps your kid enjoy the real world, rather than removing them from it?
If you want your kid to have access to technology without it dominating their entire life, here are eight products that can help:
1. Cell phones for kids
All their friends have smartphones, but what if they’re not ready? Apps and social media can be addictive, even for otherwise responsible kids.
Still, you need a way to keep in touch with your son or daughter. Some kid-specific phones can text and call, but they’re free of risky apps and social media. And without internet access, there’s no need to worry about things like them viewing adult content.
Phones can be expensive. Fortunately, buying a kids phone doesn’t have to break the bank since some can be found for $100 or even less.
2. Learning apps
You may struggle to get your child to look away from a screen, but you can divert their attention from Facebook to something educational. Learning apps like Lumosity and Duolingo can support what they learn in school.
If you’re concerned about time on screen, even if it’s educational, limit these apps to a home computer. That way, you can keep an eye out or set timers to ensure they make time for other things.
While some of these apps are free, be prepared to pay a few bucks. Inexpensive ones often skimp on engagement systems like gamification.
3. Drones and cameras
For teens, drones can be an exciting break from the typical, sit-around-and-scroll screen experience. While amateur drones do require an associated viewing device, they’re a great way to get kids out of the house. And in order to really enjoy the product, they have to invest time in learning how to use it.
The best kids drones on the market are easy to fly and have simple controls. Expect to spend in the $200-$5000 range. Consider this tech product for a birthday, graduation, or other celebratory event.
4. Keyboard or drum pad
Music not only prevents kids from becoming tech-obsessed, but is also a great thing for kids’ developing minds. Simply introducing your child to music early can help them learn words and mathematical concepts. Beyond that, dancing to music helps children build motor skills and practice self-expression.
If you’re thinking about getting your kid a musical instrument, start with a keyboard or drum pad. Not only do they tend to be cheaper than woodwind and brass instruments, but they can plug into a computer. That way, your kid can learn to manipulate sounds and create entire songs.
Professional keyboards and drum pads can cost $1,000 or more. But until your kid is a professional musician, a device in the $100-$200 range should be plenty.
5. Digital canvas devices
If your kid is artistic, encourage her to lean into it. A tablet-based digital canvas can scratch her tech itch while nurturing a wholesome hobby. Although these devices can cost up to $1,000, look for one in the $300-$400 range to start.
The best thing about a digital canvas is its versatility. Whether your kid likes to draw, paint, or alter photos, an artistic tablet can change media with a click.
Plus, these devices are great for e-learning. Think of them as personal online whiteboards: Users can diagram, write notes, and solve math problems. In virtual classrooms, they can collaborate with classmates and get immediate feedback from teachers.
6. Smartwatches for kids
If you have a kid who loves to keep things organized and is into fashion, a smartwatch designed for kids may be the perfect gift. Like cell phones for kids, these devices are designed to include only essential, non-addictive features.
When choosing a smartwatch for your kid, look for a camera, a pedometer, a motion sensor, and texting and calling features. That way, the device is functional enough for them to wear it around without encouraging 24/7 usage.
Beware that smartwatches can get expensive. You should be able to get a decent kids’ smartwatch for $250-$350.
7. High-tech walkie talkies
Remember playing with walkie talkies when you were a kid? You probably got a lot of fun out of them, but you didn’t take them to bed with you at night like today’s kids do smartphones.
Walkie talkies encourage kids to interact with their friends. They can liven up a game of hide-and-go-seek, enable remote movie nights, and help kids keep tabs on each others’ safety.
Here, spending a little more makes sense. Kids will quickly tire of walkie talkies that can only communicate across a room. Look for those with a three-mile range and crystal-clear sound quality.
Get them something they love, and you might even lower your cell phone bill. With walkie talkies, your child won’t need to text the kid across the street.
8. Humanoid robots
While your kid’s own robot might sound like a stretch, popular models are available online for under $100. They can dance, tell jokes, wheel around, and perform basic actions like picking something up.
With these devices, durability can be an issue. Ask your kid not to use the robot on rough terrain, around curious pets, or in high-traffic areas. As with anything that has moving parts, a little sand or the wrong dog can do a lot of damage.
You can’t blame your kid for taking an interest in technology. Not only is it cool, but it can help them take their education to the next level. Some day, it could even land them a career.
While your child is still young, however, is not the time to risk a tech addiction. Be thoughtful about the devices and software you get them. You’ll give them a chance to enjoy the real world and build strong friendships. Some day, they might even say “thank you.”