Modern Parent
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Modern Parent

Apple Watches for Kids

Something we’re about to see a lot of

I recently noticed this tweet from Owen Williams talking about how Apple Watches on kids feels creepy. A lot of people feel this way, but I think we’re missing out on some nuance.

Scrolling through the comments, I saw scary words like “surveillance” and pointed questions like “Why do you feel it’s necessary to monitor your child constantly?” And when you put it that way, I totally agree. A parent constantly monitoring should relax. But I’m not sure that’s the use case we, as parents, are excited about in a product like this.

When you’re a parent, schedule coordination becomes a big part of your life. Little Parker was invited to Jack’s house? Today? Can we make tomorrow work? Ok, today’s fine then. I’ll just need to pick her up a little earlier because we’re headed to the store later. Oh, true. She can stay home herself for an hour, which helps anyway because I really didn’t want to push that meeting.

Did you see that birthday party invite on the fridge? Yeah, so I guess we need to figure out when the rugby match is that day. It’ll depend on if they make it to playoffs because then we’d have to drive them to Upper Hutt. Oh, and David will probably just be out mountain biking with Max that day, but later that night, Ron and Samantha are coming by.

Think of a team at work with five people. You know how there’s a lot of time spent coordinating? Well, families are like that.

And it happens even if you don’t over-schedule. Our kids play one instrument and have nothing else scheduled except for sport, which starts in a few weeks after a year-long break. That adds up to two hours of scheduled time all week, and the rest of their time is spent playing with friends, walking to the village, riding bikes, and other kid stuff, not much different from the 70s/80s nostalgia we often refer back to when we criticize modern helicopter parenting culture.

Which is exactly why the Apple Watch is perfect for our family. It does so much less than an iPhone that it gives them a more simple digital life:

  • We can send and receive iMessages or call them
  • It’s not distracting at school because it’s just a watch
  • It’s harder to misplace
  • It’s cheaper than an iPhone
  • It doesn’t make you a screen zombie
  • And sure, sometimes we might load up Find Your Friends to see “oh they’re coming back from the village now,” just like my wife might peek to see I’m coming home from work, so I should be home soon. It’s something you might look at once a day or a few times a week. It’s not an obsession.

The counter-intuitive thing we’ve learned is that Apple Watch actually allows them to be more like kids. Slap something on their wrist, send them off into the world, and get on with your life. It’s the ultimate product for “free-range parenting,” where you trust that your kids are going to be ok. But if something does go wrong, as it did for my son a few weeks ago, I can get a text:

He ended up with stitches and a broken bike. His connectivity allowed us to comfort him, coordinate plans across parents (I was at work, and we needed to figure out who would take care of two other kids at home), and see where to pick him up. As a family, we don’t find connectivity creepy, and it’s certainly nothing we spend a lot of time thinking about. Like any great consumer technology, it’s there to help but doesn’t dictate our lives or get in the way.

Unlike a phone.



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