Do kids need a smartwatch?

When children have just started school, they have many new experiences. For example, they learn that smartwatches exist and that many other children already have one. In addition to fitness bracelets, Apple Watches also appear – and again and again the children’s smart watches from Anio and Xplora, which are particularly popular in Germany. The options of the clocks are quite different apart from indicating the time, location and messages. Fully equipped smartwatches such as those from Apple or Samsung are relatively expensive and are more casually aimed at children. Special children’s watches, on the other hand, usually allow for GPS location, can exchange messages with specified contacts and offer more or less playful additional functions.

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Dog leash on the wrist

What is done with the clocks during school hours is a more difficult question – even for those who need to know. “Nothing, really,” says a third grader who was interviewed, then after some thought, “Above all, count steps.”

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A conversation with various elementary school children in Dresden shows that counting steps is one of the most popular functions. It is noteworthy that fitness bracelets are equally popular and are also referred to as smartwatches by young technology fans.

“At the end of the day, each family decides for themselves.”

Irish Schulz

media educator

Parents might find that reassuring: the kids aren’t staring at their gadgets all day, they’re just being encouraged to exercise a little more. But adults could also take this as a hint that kids might not need a smartwatch.

Media educator Iren Schulz does not like to pass judgment on the parents: “In the end, each family decides for itself.” She is critical of the devices for children in primary school, but does not want to “talk away” parents’ need for security, fear and worries. She advises parents to think about the motives for the purchase first. Is it about “alleviating worries” via GPS tracking, SOS functions and the ability to communicate? Is it more of a control? If children get the impression of being on a “digital dog leash”, the desire for control and security can also backfire.

Parents must ensure safety

“Before buying your own device, it makes sense to play, surf or watch together on your parents’ safe smartphone and tablet to teach children to be safe,” says “Schau hin”, an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, ARD , ZDF and AOK. A separate smartphone is suitable for children between eleven and twelve, “if they already have enough experience and maturity to use the many functions responsibly”. Children should also already have learned to distinguish between appropriate websites and those that are not age-appropriate or not very trustworthy.

The constant attachment to the parents also deprives children of the opportunity to act and learn independently – if, for example, the bus breaks down and the child consults the parents instead of the timetable. In addition, according to Schulz, some schools do not like the use of smartwatches. The media educator also reminds of possible problems with data protection and hacking. However, she sees the incentive to exercise as positive.

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A quarter more movement

Xplora sells smartwatches with a special focus on movement. When asked, the company explains how the online platform Goplay works: “The steps taken are automatically counted via the pedometer on our children’s watches, which in turn can be converted into Xplora Coins.” The steps would be converted into coins and could be used online for games and contests or donated to a good cause. The producer has measured the success: “1.24 times more active than others” are the children in activity campaigns.

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Hardly more images of familiar but perfectly staged videos from influencers: Many people are annoyed by Instagram. The French trend app Bereal, on the other hand, advertises with the slogan “your real friends”. How authentic is the alternative to Instagram’s high gloss, really?

The company has sold more than 700,000 watches since its inception in 2017, with Germany being one of the most important markets. The current XGO3 smartwatch is marketed as the “perfect gateway to the digital world” recommended for children aged five and over. Not surprisingly, the group sees the issue of safety needs in a very different way than Schulz: The clocks would encourage children’s “natural urge” for independence – and parents would worry if they were too anxious “to let their children go their own way.” get it done”.

Parents and children apparently have to decide for themselves how they assess the digital connection through the smartwatch – as a safety leash or as a dog leash. This would only be easy to assess for models that offer parental eavesdropping or a monitoring function: Smartwatches with such eavesdropping functions may not be sold in Germany, the Federal Network Agency clarifies: “Parents are advised to render the watches harmless themselves and to keep evidence of destruction. “

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There is no formula

Anio wants to offer a “cautious and above all secure path to digital communication”. CEO Jan-Michael Wolff sees his company’s children’s smartwatches primarily as a solution for “secure communication” that can delay the purchase of a smartphone. It also emphasizes movement motivation with features such as a stopwatch and pedometer.

Anio recommends its smartwatch for children from six years of age following the recommendations of the well-known French psychologist Serge Tisseron. When asked about general rules, media teacher Schulz has a dry answer: “There is no such thing as a formula.” Children are different. In the end, parents have to do what they’ve always done: make tough balancing decisions—and endure the consequences.

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