Almost every American carries a camcorder around with them in their pocket in the form of a smartphone. In 2011, Apple released the iPhone 4, which could record video in 1080p at 30 fps. The iPhone 4 kicked off an arms race between smartphone manufacturers to create the best phone camera.

The advent of HD video on phones also caused the decline of the pocket camcorder industry, with industry leader Flip closing its doors in 2011. Sony and JVC also withdrew their entries from the pocket camcorder industry and focused instead on action camcorders.

However, pocket camcorders are still an excellent present for preteens. Many parents are not yet comfortable with their child having a smartphone, but want their child to have the ability to record video. Few toys can fire up a child's imagination like a video camera. Any place can become a stage, and they can become the characters from their favorite shows or movies.

Pocket camcorders are small video cameras designed to fit easily into a pocket or purse. Some pocket camcorders, like the GE DV1, are shock- and water-resistant. These cameras are perfect for kids who are tough on their toys. You can even take the GE DV1 to the pool and record underwater video with it.

Other camcorders are much easier to use than a smartphone. The HTC RE uses a grip sensor to power on and features a simple recording button. It doesn't have a viewfinder, but it has a huge field of view that makes it easy for kids to get their subject into the frame.

Perhaps the most important feature to look for if you're buying for a child is a rechargeable battery. Video cameras go through battery life astonishingly fast, and you don't want to have to purchase batteries several times a month. You'll also need to invest in an SD memory card. These can be found at almost any retailer and are usually less than $20.

Another reason you might want to consider a pocket camcorder for your preteen is their affordability. Many of the camcorders we reviewed had MSRPs well under $100. You can give the camcorder as a present without having to worry about losing a significant investment if it breaks.

Smartphones are wonderful tools, but there is certainly an appropriate age for a child to have one. The internet can expose children to all sorts of content, some educational and useful, and some that is harmful. Although parental controls exist for most smartphones, sometimes they don't catch all the mature material that is available on the internet.

If your kid is below the age that you feel comfortable with allowing them to use a smartphone, then consider unlocking their imagination with a pocket camcorder. You'll still enable them to have fun with a video camera, without having to worry about their well-being on the internet. And you'll be amazed at the creative ways they find to play with their new toy.

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