Getting Kids in Ham Radio

So while the wife and I were out shopping with the kids, we came across something pretty cool! A kid’s walkie talkie and base station radio play set that really works! The wife said that it could be a cool way to get our youngest, Katherine, interested in Ham Radio like her awesome Dad! So I started looking into this little kit.

When I dug into the specs, it looks like it’s pretty much a set that would have been around when I was a little kid, but only different frequencies. Plus, it’s all Part 15 stuff. Now, Part 15, for those that don’t know or are not sure, is the area of the FCC rules that govern radio transmissions from non licensed devices. It says they can’t cause interference to other licensed devices and and have to receive  any interference out there to them. So if you build your own little radio in an open area of the radio spectrum, you can’t interfere with anything else. So generally, these radios are not very powerful and sophisticated.

A little history…

Back in the day, it was the 27MHz area of the 11 meter band that most walkie talkies used. It was between Citizen Band and Amateur Radio, in a non used area, except for some people that were “rebels” and didn’t follow FCC rules. They worked fine at short ranges, maybe 50-60 yards distance and that was fine. They only put out a few milliwatts.

Then baby monitors started to become popular and they were in the 49MHz area of the 6 meter band. The difference was, 11 meters is considered High Frequency or shortwave, while 6 meters is Very High Frequency or shorter, line of sight. So toy walkies made the jump to 49 MHz too because Baby Monitors are governed by Part 15 rules as well. And they could essentially recycle the same circuits into different plastic bodies and you had toy walkies.

And here we are in the 21st century. Not much has changed. 49 MHz is still the frequency of choice for toy radios for kids, for the most part. And that is where that DiscoveryKids set I mentioned above comes in. When I dug into it, it appears it’s not really what’s advertised. It barely receives and has terrible reviews on Amazon.  So as a way of getting my kid, at least, interested in Ham Radio, I think I would go another route.

In the same search for that base station, I found some of these kid colored FRS radios. Family Radio Service radios are more powerful and offer more features. But inexpensive enough to not hurt as much if they break it. The base cost about $20 but you couldn’t talk on them. With these, you can do that easily and the range is the same or better. Well, let’s say better, as the reviews spell it out on that base station.

While you don’t need to teach the kids how the radio works, you can still have fun in a park with these. Mom and one of the kids on one side of the park, Dad and the other kid on the opposite side, and talking and just having fun exploring the area. The theory and physics can come later. Get them interested first. The rest will come.

There has been talk from the President of the ARRL, Rick Roderick, about rebranding the League to start appealing to more younger demographics. This is something that is needed and we should start looking into doing this to start getting more youth into the hobby and keeping it going. While there are well over 700,000 licensed hams in the United States now, we still need a new generation to take over and keep it going. It also builds technical skills needed in the real world.

“When all else fails…”


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