Wearable tech for kids

Some on the market now, others still in development

Six year-old Marc Cohen entertains himself with his dad's smartwatch all the time, so when Adam Cohen saw the Kidizoom, a child-sized version of the gadget, he got one for his son.

"It's just modeled after an adult smartwatch, but made for kids with kids apps and games. And it's pretty new, pretty fun," said Cohen, who writes for DadaRocks.com.

With educational games and a camera, experts say Marc's smartwatch is meant for fun.  But CNET's Scott Stein explains wearable tech for kids goes beyond entertainment.  Some options on the market, like the Leapband and Sqord, are designed to encourage activity.   

"Doing the stuff that Fitbit and other activity trackers like the Nike FuelBand were doing for adults. But also having them work in larger school settings to try to create some sort of group initiative," said Stein.

Others on the market and in development, including FiLIP, KizON and Tinitell, are aimed at safety, with GPS technology to locate little ones.

"Some of them make calls.  Some of them send more SOS messages. Some of them are more about simply GPS tracking," Stein explained.

But what effect can focusing on every footstep and following every movement have on kids?  Child psychiatrist Dr. Louis Kraus says activity trackers can be beneficial.

"A lot of kids really have trouble comprehending what a reasonable amount of exercise is," said Kraus. "Having a device like this could help them meet those goals." 

But Kraus has concerns about location tracking when it comes to older kids.

"The reality is that children also need private time.  Parents need to balance keeping their children safe, but also allowing them to grow and develop," he said.

Kraus says using the devices with children who are much younger is a different story, though.

"To be able to have a monitoring device so that you can make sure that they're safe, that's a great use for something like this," he added.

Even then, there are privacy issues to ponder. Federal regulations limit data collection on children under 13 without parental consent. But stein still urges caution.

"We're obviously trusting a tremendous amount of information in this day and age to various services, whatever we're using.  This is going to be one more part of that.  How secure it is remains to be seen," Stein warned.

Adam doesn't worry about that so much and says right now, he and his son Marc are getting a kick out of the novelty of the wearable tech.

"He really likes it, which means I really like it, because it's, you know, when he smiles, I smile," he said.

Stein says it's hard to track the popularity of these devices right now since they're so new. The Kidizoom Smartwatch, Leapband, Sqord, and FiLIP are on the market now. KizON is expected to be available in the US in the third quarter of 2014 and Tinitell is available for pre-order with delivery in April 2015.