Parenting is hard. Really hard.
This almost doesn’t need to be said. Acknowledging the myriad challenges of parenting just feels like rubbing it in.
On the other hand, acknowledging a challenging situation is the first step in making it more manageable. Parenting will always be difficult, sure. But a growing array of modern tech tools is taking some of the stress, strain, and physical labor out of parenting young children.
Parents everywhere are taking notice.
If you’re looking for something, anything, to make your life as a parent just a little bit easier, take a moment to review this list of six tech items designed to do just that.
1. A Kid-Friendly (And Age-Appropriate) Phone
There’s no magic age at which kids are suddenly ready for that first phone. As with other aspects of development, readiness is a spectrum.
Some seven-year-olds are mature enough to use a kid-friendly phone responsibly. Some 14-year-olds aren’t. That’s why buying phones for kids can feel overwhelming — and all too easy to put off.
The thing is, when your kid is ready, they’re going to need a phone. And you’re going to want them to have one. The benefits of being able to reach your child at a moment’s notice, and to allow them the freedom and autonomy that come with making their own plans (within reason), outweigh the downsides of letting them carry around a handheld supercomputer.
If you choose the right handheld supercomputer, that is. Your kid’s first phone shouldn’t have all the bells and whistles you expect from your own phone. You’re an adult; you use your smartphone to manage your life. Your kid isn’t and doesn’t.
Choose your kid’s phone accordingly. Look for modified devices without some of the riskier functions of “adult” phones, like photo messaging and social media access. Or use a device with strong parental controls that allow you to customize your kid’s experience. As your kid matures and demonstrates that they’re capable of using electronic devices responsibly, you can ease off these controls or upgrade to a less restrictive phone.
2. A Tablet (With a Soft-Sided Case)
Odds are, a tablet is going to be your child’s first electronic device — if they don’t have one already.
Tablets are notoriously kid-friendly. With proper parental supervision and age-appropriate apps and videos, they’re fantastic teaching devices for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school kids. For older children, they’re powerful homework helpers and creative aids.
Tablets also shine as communication devices. They’re portable yet relatively large-screened, enabling lifelike interaction via apps like Facetime and Skype. If your kid wants to chat with grandparents who live in another state or connect with a study group to discuss a particularly vexing homework problem, they know where to turn.
Just be sure to purchase a soft-sided case for younger kids’ tablets. You don’t want your tablet’s first angry toss across the room to be its last.
3. A Smart Speaker
If you don’t already have one in your home, you’ve at least thought seriously about buying a smart speaker.
For yourself, that is. What would your child do with a smart speaker? Seems creepy.
It’s not. Well, it doesn’t have to be. Smart speakers have parental controls too; Amazon’s Kids+ platform makes it easy to set time limits and ensure your kids can’t badger their speaker into the wee hours of the morning. And the audio-only experience is a welcome break from the audio-visual stimulation (more like overstimulation) of a tablet or phone.
4. A Smartwatch
A key benefit of kid-friendly smartwatches like the Verizon GizmoWatch 2 is real-time GPS tracking (location tracking). Arm your kid with a smartwatch connected to your family network and you’ll never have to worry where they are again.
Well, you might worry why they are where their watch says they are, but that’s a different story.
As with speakers, tablets, and phones, parental control is the name of the smartwatch game. Choose a watch that makes it easy to activate and modify parental controls with a few taps, or spring for a modified device that lacks “adult” functions your kid probably doesn’t need.
5. An e-Reader
Give your kid the gift of a good book or magazine with a kid-friendly e-reader. The Kindle Kids Edition is a standout choice thanks to a free year of Kids+ with every new device and a parent-friendly feature that lets the admin (that’s you) whitelist titles you’re cool with your kid reading. As your kid grows older, you can whitelist more challenging reads.
And the Kindle Kids Edition is a great study aid too. If your kid’s school allows it, they might be able to do all their assigned reading on the device and leave the bulky paper books on the shelf.
6. A Standalone Location Monitor
Not ready to trust your kid with a smartwatch, even a kid-friendly one?
No worries. Opt for a standalone location monitor instead and enjoy the most valuable feature of a kids’ smartwatch without the rest of the noise.
Most location-tracking wearables for kids also have two-way talk functions. Some, like the Relay Screenless Smartphone, play up this capability. Who doesn’t want a screenless smartphone? At the end of the day, of course, you’re paying for the ability to see where your kid is at all times and get in touch with them when you please.
Then again, getting your kid to play along and actually wear their location monitor could be challenging, especially as they get older. At some point, it’ll make sense to upgrade to a kid-friendly smartwatch or smartphone.
Don’t Make Parenting Harder Than It Has to Be
Parenting will never be a walk in the park. Kids just aren’t built that way. The good times, with all their irrepressible joy and wonder, inevitably give way to moments and days and entire weeks you’d rather just forget.
You might say it’s a package deal.
These tech items won’t break the yin-yang cycle of parenting. They won’t banish the more difficult aspects of the job for good. What they will do is make day-to-day life as the guardian of young children just a bit more manageable.
That’s something to celebrate.