The last decade has raised some pressing questions about parenting. When should children get a smartphone? What age is the right age to sign up for a social media account? How much is too much when it comes to screen time?
Not all tech needs to incite a tense family meeting, though. There’s a whole category of safe, kid-friendly pieces of tech aimed at younger audiences, including the likes of safe earphones, tracking watches, and a neat AI-powered robot. Here are some of our favourites.
A tablet made specifically for kids, the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet is designed to withstand rough treatment. Its cute, colourful and robust case protects it from knocks.
And even if the Kids Tab does get damaged, a two-year “worry-free” guarantee means you can get a replacement. Yes, even if it breaks because little Timmy throws it against the wall.
Amazon bakes plenty of parental controls into the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Tablet and it also includes a year’s subscription to Fire For Kids Unlimited. This gives your kids access to over 5,000 apps and games, plus videos, books and educational content from Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street and more.
Parents can get involved too. You can use the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Tablet just like one of the “adult” Amazon tablets simply by using a grown-up profile. Need something bigger than a 7-inch screen? There are also 8-inch and 10-inch versions.
Some laptops are made with the classroom in mind. That often means their keyboards can withstand huge spillages and—the real mindbender—that they have passed military-spec toughness trials.
The Dell Chromebook 11 3180 has passed 15 of these certifications, including long drops and physical shocks. Its screen is also topped with tough Gorilla Glass. If it doesn’t survive the sort of treatment your child will subject it too, maybe it’s too early for them to have a laptop.
There are great parental protections built into Chrome OS too. Dig into the Family Link feature and you can control installed apps and choose the websites your child can, and can’t, visit.
If you want to give your child a taste of modern tech, but don’t want to go as far as a full-on Android or iOS device, try the LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum Plus. This is a tablet with hardware and software made just for kids.
The software, and the apps, are made by LeapFrog, making this just about the safest tablet for children you can find. There are still plenty of branded apps and games, though, including tie-ins with Paw Patrol, Disney’s Frozen and Finding Dory.
There’s one snag. App prices are on average significantly higher than what you pay from Google Play or the Amazon Marketplace.
The Anki Vector is a lot of fun to play with. It’s an ultra-cute little bulldozer robot with technology similar to that found in AI assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
You can ask Vector for the weather, play cards on its screen and gaze into its surprisingly expressive OLED eyes.
The Anki Vector promises to become a more useful educational tool as Anki adds to its features over the months.
It’s already one of the best ways to teach your child about technology without exposing them to social networking or addictive games. It’s not for children under three, though, because it features small parts.
Having kids explore new music is one of the best ways to expand their creative horizons. But it’s best not to let them use conventional headphones.
A standard pair will allow them to increase volume to an unhealthy, ear-damaging level—and few four year-olds know much about the dangers of tinnitus.
Griffin’s KaZoo MyPhones include an 85dB volume limit and smaller kid-friendly cups. They’re fun too, with cup mouldings in the shape of a monkey or penguin.
Some tech isn’t just safe for kids to use, it can make them safer. The TechSixtyFour Gator watch is a GPS child tracker that looks and feels like a smartwatch, but without features like games or an app store to distract them while at school.
It’s an alternative to a phone too. Because the watch uses a SIM card and has a mic, it allows two-way calls with up to 13 preset contacts. That’s more than most adults call on a regular basis outside of work.
The watch itself is great value compared to other smartwatches, but you do have to sign up for a service plan. This costs £9 a month with a year’s contract or £11 a month without. That gets you up to 60 minutes of calls as well as GPS tracking via your phone.
A kids’ action camera won’t challenge a GoPro. However, the VTech KidiZoom Action Cam 180 is a neat piece of child-friendly tech that encourages outdoor activity, rather than sitting at home in front of a screen.
It’s a tough plastic action camera and even comes with a waterproof case that lets you take it underwater. The camera flips over to let you take selfies and you can play games using controls on the back. That should help with long car journeys.
The VTech KidiZoom Action Cam 180 is ready to ride just like a GoPro too, with an included mount that clamps onto a bike or scooter.
Read more about the best tablets for kids