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The best GPS trackers for kids: Locate your little ones with ease

We identify the top devices, plus outline what to look for when shopping.

Rob Schultz / IDG

A wearable GPS tracker could strike the right balance between giving your children increasing independence while preserving your peace of mind. You can track where your kids are, discover if they're not where they're supposed to be, keep in touch, and even get an SOS if something really bad happens.

GPS trackers come in many shapes and sizes—some are pocket-sized modules that can be fastened to bags or clothing; others are watch, pendant or necklace designs. Most of them, however, come bundled with similar bells and whistles ranging from two-way calling and text messaging to step counters and even panic buttons.

Some trackers are even designed specifically for elderly relatives in mind, though most can be used by anyone of any age. Of course, a particular model may lack a desired feature or two, and you may need to make some tweaks so that they can be carried securely, due to differences in child and adult sizing.

Read on for reviews and recommendations for the latest GPS trackers we've tested, plus tips and what to look for when shopping.

Best GPS tracker for kids

Tough, light, easy to use, and packed with features, LG GizmoGadget makes for an enticing watch-style GPS tracker for kids and parents alike. A touchscreen device available exclusively through Verizon Wireless, this watch's waterproof design and cheap monthly plan are big pluses. So are the tracker's simple calling, messaging and location features, as well as the games and activities. The limited number of location alerts is a nagging issue, though, as is the fact that younger kids might have trouble strapping the bulky GizmoGadget to their wrists. (Read our full review.)

What to look for in a GPS tracker for kids

You'll find that many GPS tracking devices are tailored for specific age ranges and lifestyles, but in general, you'll want to consider a few key features while shopping for a GPS tracker.

Two-way calling

Many GPS trackers allow for two-way voice calls between the wearer and a loved one or guardian. When it comes to GPS trackers for children, two-way calls are generally only allowed with a given number of contacts—like Mommy, Daddy, a family friend, and maybe a grandparent or two. Calls to and from strangers are blocked. In our experience, we've found that kids as young as five or six can use two-way calling features with ease, although you'll have to rein in their urge to call you every five minutes.

Waterproof design

Any type of "wearable" gadget needs to be able to withstand a certain amount of punishment, particularly on the playground. Make sure the GPS tracker you choose for your child is both reasonably tough and waterproof, or else their fancy new GPS device won't survive the next trip to the water fountain.

Location-based alerts

If your child walks to school alone, you'll understand that small feeling of relief each time you learn that your loved one has safely arrived at their destination. That's the beauty of location-based alerts, which ping your phone whenever your kid arrives (for example) at school. Look for GPS devices that can alert you when the wearer arrives at or departs a given location.

Wi-Fi support

GPS trackers often depend on a combination of cellular signals and GPS to determine the device's location, but when you head indoors, all bets are off as far as cellular and GPS reception goes. Luckily, some GPS trackers offer Wi-Fi support, which makes up for a lack of cellular or GPS signal.

Fit and comfort

The most feature-packed GPS tracker on the market won't do much good if it's a pain to wear. Don't buy a GPS watch for a little one before making sure they can wear it comfortably on their wrist.

What you should know about GPS trackers for kids

Sure, that GPS tracker you're circling seems to have all the boxes checked in terms of features, but make sure you read the fine print before plunking down your credit card. Consider these factors before snapping up a GPS wearable.

Most GPS trackers require monthly fees

All that GPS tracking and two-way calling doesn't come for free, unfortunately. Expect to pay a monthly fee for your GPS tracker use, ranging anywhere from $5 a month on the low end (generally for GPS trackers available through a cellular carrier) all the way up to $50 a month.

Frequent GPS updates come at the expense of battery life

Not all GPS trackers offer constant, real-time location tracking. There's a good reason for that: The more frequently a device checks its location, the more power it needs to expend. Generally speaking, GPS devices with true real-time tracking will need larger batteries to make it through the day, meaning the actual device might be relatively big and heavy. Users of smaller GPS trackers (watches, pendants, etc.) will often have to settle for manual location checks or periodically scheduled checks, in order to squeeze as much juice out of the diminutive battery as possible.

Schools generally allow students to use gadgets, but not during class

Though kids can usually bring their cell phones to school, they typically aren't allowed to use them in class—and the same goes for GPS watches and tracking devices. Check the gadgets policy of your child's school before you buy, and make sure the GPS tracker you pick has a "quiet hours" feature that lets you silence the device during instruction periods.

At a Glance

Tough, light, easy to use and packed with features, the touchscreen LG GizmoGadget for Verizon Wireless makes for an enticing watch-style GPS tracker for kids and parents alike.

Pros

  • Tough, lightweight and waterproof design
  • Easy setup and controls
  • Plenty of touchscreen games and activities
  • Cheap monthly plan

Cons

  • Might be too big and bulky for kindergartners or younger kids
  • Limited number of location alerts

AngelSense GPS offers some of the most comprehensive tracking and monitoring features we've seen in a GPS tracking device, and it's the one of the few designed specifically for special-needs children and their parents.

Pros

  • Tough nylon sleeve securely fastens the device onto backpacks or clothing
  • Constant and accurate location monitoring
  • Two-way "AngelCalls" let you call a special-needs child without them having to press any buttons

Cons

  • Pricey monthly plan
  • "Listen-in" feature raises privacy and legal concerns
  • Short battery life

Tough, lightweight, and easy to use, the Verizon Wireless-exclusive LG GizmoPal 2 is a relatively cheap, simple, and fun way to keep track of your kids.

Pros

  • Tough, waterproof, and lightweight design
  • Cheap monthly service fee
  • Easy two-way calling

Cons

  • Watchband may be too big for younger kids
  • Only a limited number of location alerts

The TruSense GPS Pendant makes for an easy, relatively inexpensive way to keep tabs on a elderly loved one who's living alone, but the lack (for now, anyway) of an accompanying mobile app is a frustrating omission.

Pros

  • Small and light
  • Easy setup process
  • SOS button lets pendant wearer call for help

Cons

  • No native mobile app (yet)
  • Erratic location tracking in spotty cellular coverage areas