About three years ago, I gave my then-eight-year-old my smartphone, and upgraded to a new phone. Nothing unusual about doing that – except that most parents try to avoid giving their kids a phone of their own for as long as possible.
But I didn’t have a choice. My son would visit his dad regularly, and he needed a reliable, independent way to be in contact with me. A mobile phone was the only solution.
I’ve been comfortable with that decision, for two reasons: firstly, the priceless peace of mind it’s given me, and secondly, because my son never seemed very interested in the phone other than to play the occasional game.
He’s 11 now – and yes, things have changed.
Now, he’s playing games on his mobile phone to connect with his friends. He’s started getting into lengthy group chats, and could watch hours of YouTube at a time if I let him.
He’s too young for all of that, and so his phone usage has become problematic – to me, not him, of course.
Which is why when I was asked to trial a smart watch that was designed for kids five to 12, with their safety in mind, I jumped at the chance.
Here’s the lowdown: the SPACETALK watch is a kids’ smartwatch that’s a 3G phone, watch and GPS. But while it’s a smartwatch, it’s doesn’t have apps on it, or games. Its core purpose is to maintain contact between kids and parents for things such as which side of the oval to meet after footy training.
It has no social media. No games. No internet browser. Not even a camera.
So basically, none of those non-essential items – those distractions that you get on smartphones. The risks that you get with smartphones, because kids are more exposed to the world beyond your control.
Just everything they need to stay safe.
Shut up and take my money.
OK, so that’s it in theory – how does the SPACETALK watch work in practice?
For the comparatively (as opposed to a smartphone) small price of $349, your child wears the watch, and it’s connected to your mobile phone via the All My Tribe app.
Your child can make and receive calls – and send and receive messages – from contacts you choose in the app. Unauthorised contacts are blocked. You can see their location at any time on your phone.
You are in control. As opposed to a mobile phone, where there’s limited parental control, and communication depends on co-operation from the child.
This means parental peace of mind is a huge feature of the SPACETALK watch. I know with my son now, on his phone, I have to pry him away from his group chats. I have to worry who’s saying what to whom – and who’s got pictorial evidence of that.