While we might not see the return of Betamax, those of us who lived through the 1980s as more than infants have one skeptical eyebrow raised at the return of calculator watches. To be fair, in the 1980s our parents were also skeptical, throwing out Dick Tracy references like there was more than one. Except - unlike calculator watches - the new breed of smartwatches are closer to Dick Tracy's two-way communicator watch than ever before. In sync with our smartphones, these smartwatches are an interesting first-world addition to our digitally connected life, but can they be used to track your kids?
First off, tracking your kids is a slippery slope. There are a ton of contradictory parenting theories as to whether or not tracking your kids in any fashion is acceptable. The technology exists to do so, but that doesn't mean that it needs to be done. Yet, many parents are giving their kids trackable devices and GPS units in the car to track their teens. I know that I wasn't tracked as a kid, and I probably won't be tracking mine (maybe in car units to track driving habits) but that doesn't mean other people won't want to track theirs. No judgement, it happens and there are tools to make it easier.
While the major smartwatch players Samsung for instance, haven't boasted a child tracking feature, other companies like Qihoo 360 Technology Co. and their Qihoo 360 smartwatch are banking on it. They are touting a $32 smartwatch that enables parents to not only track their kid through GPS, but communicate directly with them through the watch. I'm not sure if this watch will be available outside China, but it indicates a trend that companies like Sony or Samsung might latch on to. In a world where parents are more worried and attached to their kids than ever before, a device like this might help parents give their kids that much needed freedom while growing up.
When I was a kid (here we go) I would wander off for hours at a time, miles away from home. Whether or not my parents worried about me, I don't know. There was no checking in, there was no calling me. Now our kids have phones and we want to know where they are at all times. Why not? The 24 hour media has created a good culture of fear for parents and they want to know where their kids are. A simple tracking device like a smartwatch might help alliviate the stress between parent and child just a little bit. If we can eliminate one phone call that results in a child expressing annoyance in being checked on their freedom while still knowing where they are, that has got to be a win right?
Whether or not you agree with tracking every step your kid takes, either on the way to school or during weekend play, the technology is on its way to making it much easier for both parties.
Smartwatches have limited capabilities and are nothing more than wearable technology very few people actually need. At the same time, they offer a quicker option for someone in trouble, or people not wanting to take their phones out of their pockets. My kids don't have smartphones, so GPS tracking them is not an option. However, with a cheap smartwatch, I'd be more apt to let them roam in a larger radius and I'd be able to tell when they were outside that radius.
A GPS enabled smartwatch won't teach them to not talk to strangers and look both ways before crossing, that is still on the parent. However, like when I was a kid, it might let them roam three miles out to the golf course to collect golf balls from the lake and sell them back to the golfers. Every kid should be able to experience that.