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Best GPS Trackers for Kids

It can be a heart-stopping question for parents: "Where is my child?" In parks, at beaches or in any public setting, your kid can wander out of view in an instant. But technology can provide some peace of mind in the form of a lightweight GPS tracker that can last a day or two on a charge, and offers frequent and reliable updates on your child's whereabouts. Some of these trackers are watches, some are meant to blend in with your child's backpack and work in the background, and some even give you the power to detect possible danger in your child's vicinity.

Of the five kid-friendly GPS trackers we tested, the PocketFinder Personal GPS Locator (0) emerged as the winner, and even bested regular GPS trackers when it came to keeping tabs on a child. While all of the devices we tested have their share of shortcomings, we liked how the PocketFinder combined accurate location info with a powerful, feature-filled app and site that makes tracking your kids less like a chore.

That said, PocketFinder connects to AT&T's 2G network, which will be phased out by the end of 2016. PocketFinder says it's working on an updated version, so you may want to wait for that 3G-capable model to arrive. But if you want the best GPS tracker for your child right now, this is the device to get.

Kid-Friendly Trackers vs Regular Trackers

After comparing generic GPS trackers to ones geared specifically to kids, I determined that kid-friendly trackers are better for keeping tabs on your child. For one, kid-friendly trackers' compact size let them fit neatly in backpacks or on smaller wrists. And many offer features that put parents' minds at ease, like geofencing capabilities and SOS buttons that can ping multiple contacts. Not every mass-market tracker offers these kinds of kid-focused capabilities, so turning to a device built specifically for kids will be money well spent for moms and dads.

The Spot Gen3 (9) offers pinpoint accuracy in a durable device, but younger kids would have a hard time knowing which button was which — including an emergency button that sends location data to rescue personnel. Likewise, the Trackimo (9) has an appealing data plan and a useful geofencing feature, but it's simply too much for a young child to master.

How We Tested

We tested five kid-friendly GPS trackers alongside a trio of generic GPS trackers. I spent two weeks visiting spots in the San Francisco Peninsula with my 22-month-old son, who loves to wear his new backpack even when it's carrying several GPS trackers at once; sometimes, I tracked him from afar, and other times, I used the trackers to help me find him in a crowd. 

To see what each tracker offered, I enabled all push notifications and tested all voice features, except for ones that would trigger 911 emergency calls. I also kept an eye on how the batteries in each device held up as we traveled from spot to spot.

Here are the criteria I considered when determining which kid-friendly GPS tracker was the best. 

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's GuideFeatures: In addition to tracking location, many GPS devices offer a multitude of features, including one- and two-way calling and the ability to set up geofenced zones that alert you when your child has left a designated area. I looked at which devices went beyond the basics and how those features were implemented.

Performance: You want a GPS tracker that accurately displays a person's location, with frequent updates when he or she is on the move. I took note of how accurately each device pinpointed our location.

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Design: I considered the size of the GPS tracker and whether it was something a child could easily carry around. I also looked at durability: Could the device withstand rough-and-tumble trips to the playground? 

Ease of use: I wanted to find devices that were easy enough for a small child to use, certainly, but also ones that wouldn't give mom or dad fits during the setup and activation process. Here's one universal tip: Make sure to activate your GPS tracker in as wide of an open space as possible — not from inside a building. Trackers hate being enclosed, especially at the beginning.

Price: In addition to paying up front for a GPS tracker, there are monthly service fees. I considered what each GPS tracker will cost you on a monthly basis and whether you're required to sign a service contract. I also noted when GPS trackers included the cost of service in the initial price tag, such as offering the first year of service for free.

PocketFinder Personal GPS Locator: Best GPS Tracker for Kids

PocketFinder Personal GPS Locator

Best GPS Tracker for Kids

8/10

Totally worth it

4.16 Amazon.com

Everything about LBT's PocketFinder is funky and unorthodox — and I love it. It's lightweight, totally minimalist, gives spot-on location accuracy, and is perfect for children of any age. It fit snugly in my son's backpack, and its app and website are the best I tested.

The tracker ships with a custom charging dock powered by a mini USB wall adapter and two silicone casings in green and white. Each casing has a slot on one side to allow you to slip it onto a pet's collar or a child's backpack strap. Since the PocketFinder has no buttons, there's no need to take it out of the casing, except to place it in the dock for charging, but you only need to do that every couple of weeks.

The battery life is exceptional (each charge takes about 4 hours), but the PocketFinder literature suggest you treat it "like a cellphone" and charge it every night. Another perk is the device's low weight (1.8 ounces), which means that, while it could be susceptible to misplacement, it's certainly no burden on your kid's backpack.

The power of the PocketFinder really lies in its app and website. The unit itself has no readouts or indicator lights, but you sure know it's working once you boot up the site. You get a powerful suite of tools at your disposal. From the first time you click Locate, you get your coordinates, elevation above sea level, battery charge, signal strength, approximate address (it nailed my location on every try) and other key info.

A click here or there, and you can do all sorts of cool things. Set an alert for when the unit goes above a certain speed, from 10 to 80 mph? Check. Six different options for power management, including updates as often as every 2 minutes? Check. Sixty days of tracking history? Check. There's even a page where you can input medical info, such as blood type, a physician's name and phone number, and various allergy and medical conditions that emergency responders might need to know, as well as a template that makes it easy to print out a missing person/pet flier.

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Powered by an embedded AT&T SIM card in the unit (which you cannot remove), the PocketFinder's location accuracy impressed me; it was among the best I tested. Creating geofenced zones on the app proved a bit difficult, and the app is prone to sending out random zone alerts at odd hours, but the app worked great for sending out notifications when I was entering or exiting a zone. I usually got my push notification within a couple of minutes. (Yes, it would be ideal if those notifications arrived in seconds, but that's a limitation of the technology that affects all of the devices I tested.) You can even use the PocketFinder internationally, though that data plan will cost you a month rather than the standard .

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's GuideIf PocketFinder has a flaw, it's that the device still connects to a 2G network. That didn't present any noticeable problem in my testing, but network provider AT&T has said it will phase out 2G by the end of 2016. Some people may want to wait for PocketFinder to jump to 3G in an upcoming version, but its array of offerings — both in the app and the browser-based management tool — blew me away. Only the lack of user-initiated emergency calling or texting — something a more robust data network might help fix — keeps this tracker a tick below where it could be. PocketFinder is working on a new version of the device with 3G functionality that will also improve on battery life. That's a compelling reason to wait for the next version, thoughwe were fully satisfied with what the device has to offer right now.

What Owners Say: PocketFinder has an average rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Owners praise the accuracy of its location data. Common complaints include response time on geofencing and the device's reliance on the legacy 2G network.

Trax GPS Tracker: Runner-Up

Trax GPS Tracker

Runner-Up

8/10

Totally worth it

9.00 Traxfamily


Editor's Note:The maker of Trax has previewed an updated version of its device — now called TraxPlay — that promises improved positioning and faster signal retrieval. An update to the Trax app will allow you to adjust the frequency of updates with an eye toward extending battery life of the device. The new version will cost , but will not include two years of data service. (Service will cost a month with a two-year agreement.) We'll post an updated review when the new Trax Play ships this spring.

Though it looks like a no-frills gadget, the Trax is deceptively packed with functionality. Its small size, reasonable cost and robust app easily put it past much of its competition.

At less than 0.9 ounces, the Trax is light and the casing makes it easy to grasp, in an overstuffed bag. The companion app's interface is simple enough to use and is really just an Apple Maps interface with some Trax features overlaid atop a map indicating both your location and the Trax's. The feature that sets Trax apart from all others is the app's "augmented reality" mode, which accesses your camera to graphically indicate, in approximately real time, the direction in which your Trax is located and how far away it is. It's a nifty feature that works best at a distance of 100 feet or more and proved useful in my testing in a somewhat crowded kids' amusement park, where strollers and people were everywhere.

In addition, you can create geofenced zones through the app, but Trax lets you draw them with a finger; it's the only GPS device I tested that had that ability. I experienced a significant lag between when the tracker left a designated zone and when I was notified — about 10 minutes or so, at worst, although sometimes, it was closer to 5.

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Trax has a few shortcomings, none of which is truly a deal breaker. The company claims about 24 hours of use off a charge, and that seems to be the case, if maybe a little optimistic. A constant day of use will most definitely put a very good dent into Trax's energy reserves, knocking you down to about 33 percent battery after a good 12 hours of use. Trax's app is strictly a one-way deal; the only button is the power button, and there are no speakers or displays — so forget about one- or two-way calling. Still, Trax provides reliable enough functionality for parents and has just enough features to make it stand out from the pack.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

What Owners Say: Trax garners mixed reviews on Amazon, where it has an average rating of 2.9 out of 5 stars. Frequent complaints include the device's battery life and accuracy, though other owners like the included data plan and that the device is ideal for both kids and pets.

Amber Alert GPS Child Tracker

Amber Alert GPS Child Tracker

7/10

Very good

9.99 Amazon.com


The Amber Alert GPS Child Tracker can help you keep your child away from sex offenders and offers a handy SOS button for calling loved ones. Unfortunately, the activation process for this device proved frustrating, requiring a trip to a nearby AT&T store to sort things out. (A glance at the Amber Alert GPS reviews on Amazon suggests I'm not the first person to have trouble getting this device up and running.)

Amber Alert GPS' best feature is something no other GPS tracker that we tested can do: tap into the Megan's Law National Sex Offender Database so that when your child comes within 500 feet of a registered address, you get an email or push notification. It's a very powerful tool for parents not accustomed to always looking up who's in the neighborhood.


Amber Alert’s  app and site lets you  designate 10 users who will be called in case of an emergency. You can also enable speed alerts when the device detects it's traveling anywhere from 35 to 90 mph, and create zones with radii from 1,000 to 10,000 feet. Amber Alert's geofencing feature was reliable and fast, taking roughly a minute to push to my phone. The Amber Alert tracker will trigger a battery alert when your juice falls below 15 percent. Our tests showed about a day and a half of reliable power with medium, consistent usage, in line with Amber Alert's battery-life claims.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

What Owners Say: Amber Alert GPS has only a smattering of reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars. Owners like the device's accuracy, and praise its SOS feature, though some had difficulty activating the device.

FiLIP 2 GPS Watch

FiLIP 2 GPS Watch

7/10

Very good

2.49 Amazon.com

The FiLIP 2 doesn't have the full functionality of a smartwatch, but it’s a fun and feature-filled GPS watch that will appeal to a lot of parents. At 2 ounces, the FiLIP is light enough for even the smallest kid to wear, though you need to dip into the band extenders that come with your FiLIP 2 for the watch to fit growing wrists.

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Activation of FiLIP via AT&T’s website is relatively straightforward. The FiLIP app lets you set up your home zone and add extra SafeZones, but unless you have an actual street address for the school, park, or other area you’re zoning for, the process can be cumbersome. And the long lag — about 10 minutes for me — between when the unit enters or exits one of these zones and when you get a push notification alerting you to this was frustrating. At least the GPS was fairly accurate, usually down to just a few feet.

Two buttons on the watch allow two-way calling with multiple preprogrammed numbers. When pressed for 4 seconds, a red emergency button will initiate auto-calls to your contacts until someone answers, as well as send notifications to your phone. This easy initiation of two-way calling and SMS messages is one of the FiLIP's biggest strengths. Your kid is probably going to grow out of this device quickly enough that the 0 cost will start to feel a little prohibitive. Throw in the lag time with SafeZone notification, and it becomes easier to look elsewhere.Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

What Owners Say: At 2.3 out of 5 stars, the FiLIP 2 has the lowest average rating on Amazon of any kid-friendly GPS tracker I tested. Some owners were disappointed by the audio quality on calls and complained about unresponsive customer service. Fans of the FiLIP praised its ease of use and the two-way calling features.

Caref GPS Phone Watch for Kids

Caref GPS Phone Watch for Kids

6/10

Worth considering

9.00 Amazon.com

The Caref GPS Phone Watch offers a lot of potential that’s undermined by a complicated setup process featuring multiple user manuals and confusingly named apps. (You want the MyCaref app, not the Caref one.) The app lets you access menus for data usage, notifications and location history; you can also create geofenced zones here. No matter which of Caref’s three service plans you opt for, you can't change the 10-minute frequency for Caref logs of the watch's location. The watch uses a combination of GPS and cell tower triangulation to pinpoint location, and we were mostly impressed with the results.

Caref’s digital readout is low-res but its display is easy to understand, and two-way voice calls and texts were reliable and easy to access in a pinch. The SOS button, which automatically calls your contacts until someone answers, is a great and helpful feature. The sound quality of the contact on the other end was way better than I expected.

Unlike some of its competitors, the Caref is inconspicuous enough that it doesn't call attention to itself — except for the lullaby-type song it likes to randomly play on occasion. Battery life was excellent overall, with the device lasting more than a full day without being recharged and with moderate usage. But be careful: The watch is merely water-resistant, so don't submerge it.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

What Owners Say: Reviews on Walmart's e-commerce site are generally positive, with the Caref garnering an average rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars from a handful of reviews. Owners praised the watch's age-appropriate features and the peace of mind it provides, though some had complaints about the setup process and documentation.

New & Notable

New & Notable

GizmoPal 2

.99 Verizon

GizmoGadget

9.99 Verizon

KidGPS

.95 Amazon

Omate Wherecom K3

9 Omate

MyKronoz ZeKid

9 MyKronoz


866