Kate is in Primary 3 and this year she needs to stay back after school for 2 days, one for CCA and the other for Chinese remedial. Normally, she takes the school bus but we decided not to top up for the after-hours school bus service as we work flexible hours and are able to pick her up ourselves.
What we did not expect was the huge crowd of kids being released at the same time, and it was hard to locate her and we needed a way to communicate with her, especially when it rains.
We don’t give our children a mobile phone until they start Secondary 1 so a smart watch is the next best alternative.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect as Starhub has just launched a new FamilyConnect plan at $8 and that solved the problem for us. Kate gets her own number, and there is no contract which means I can terminate it anytime. Do note that it has to tag along an existing Starhub plan, and the amount will be added to your bill. The $8 per month includes 1GB and 50 minutes talk time. That’s more than enough for her, and I find it more convenient than doing the pre-paid top up card.
I took Kate along to Starhub and she was super excited to choose her own number! She couldn’t wait to announce it to the whole family. Being the youngest of 6, she yearns to have the independence and cool stuff that her sisters have, and she can finally be included in our family group chat.
There is no physical SIM card but an e-SIM, and all I had to do was to pair her watch with my iPhone so that I can control the functions on her watch. Go to Settings, Family Sharing, and Invite People into your family.
Next step is to set up the Apple Watch using Family Setup via the Apple Watch App on my iPhone. It takes about an hour for it to sync.
In the meantime, I sat her down to discuss the rules. This is the most important part before handing over the watch to her!
For this year, she is allowed to have the watch only on the 2 days that she has to stay back in school. I explained all the restrictions that will be put in place and how Schooltime works.
She is not allowed to use her watch during school hours and if she unlocks it, I will be notified. I told her that if it happens repeatedly, she is not ready for the watch and I will have to take it away until she feels she is ready to try again.
Initially I was puzzled why there wasn’t a way to lock the watch completely, which I would have preferred. But it seems Apple is big on respecting the individual (even though they may be our children) and giving them some autonomy. I can see the positive side of this, which is for Kate to learn self-control. She needs to manage her own impulse and not check it during school hours. Hopefully, this will help her to learn the skills to be able to manage her phone responsibly when she gets her own phone in future.
She didn’t quite understand what I meant, and told me that she found a way to hack into the watch during recess! I explained again how Schooltime works, and that I had been notified, and I showed her the report which was sent to my Watch app.
I reiterated that she is to keep her watch in her bag until after her CCA ends at 4pm. Her school has a “No smartwatch” policy, which I’m not opposed to, as kids do have the tendency to constantly check their watch if it’s on their wrist.
She finally understood that being on Schooltime mode meant that the responsibility was now handed over to her, and as digital devices will be a part of her life, she needs to learn to use it responsibly and within limits.
Besides being able to call her (and vice versa), the other very useful function is the “Find my” app. This would allow her to walk to find me, in instances where I am picking her up, or where I have left her to run some errands around the mall. To access it, turn on your phone and swipe right. At the search bar on the top, enter “Find my” and the icon will pop up.
We practiced this with her, and I went to a nearby location and clicked on “Share my Location” with her. She set the guidance to “Walk” and it gave her directions to walk to me, e.g. “turn right”.
I’m big on making my kids independent from a young age and she has been going to our neighbourhood provision shop and the playground by herself after informing us. With this GPS tracker, it gives me greater peace of mind and she can call me anytime if needed.
There’s also a function where you can be notified if she leaves a location, for example an enrichment centre or wherever she is supposed to be, as well as being notified when she is adding new contacts on her watch so I know who she is communicating with.
Kate is still exploring the many other features of her watch like tracking her Move minutes (I might need to check on this during the school holidays when spends too much time on gadgets with her brother) but right now, she is mostly using the message function, navigating with the map and setting alarms to remind her to log on when zoom classes start. If she wants to download any app she needs to get my approval first.
The watch comes with a standard white buckle strap, but we found the Loop straps more suitable for kids. It is easy to don by simply pulling the stretchable band through to your wrist. Kate chose a Size 1 but found it a tad too “claustrophobic for my hand” (yes, she described it so melodramatically) so you might want to buy 1 size bigger. Simply follow the instructions to measure your child’s wrist to determine the best fit. There’s a whole range of gorgeous colours to choose from.
To change the straps, it is as simple as sliding it off and re-attaching another. Kate is really growing to like her watch and one of my older girls has taken over my Apple watch probably with no intention of returning it, while the other 3 are requesting it for their birthday gift!
My teen has her own iphone and was never keen on the Apple watch, but after borrowing it for a day to try it out, she is now hooked on it! She likes the exercise tracking functions where you can set your own goals and get rewarded with awards. These small little rah-rah badges seem to motivate her to keep on track with her fitness targets. Well, whatever works!
We’ve also discovered an app called LumiHealth where Apple has partnered with Singapore’s Health Promotion Board to encourage a healthier lifestyle and you get to earn rewards of up to $380 cash!
What started out because of practicality and necessity for me to communicate with my 8-year old has become a cool lifestyle gadget for the family! She had fun personalising her watch face with a memoji and even added freckles!
Of all the functions the watch offers, Kate loves the Walkie Talkie the most and now she’s on the look out for any Apple watch users amongst her sisters’ friends. With a simple touch, she can speak to them no matter where they are! I didn’t quite understand their excitement because can’t you do the same by dialling someone and waiting for them to answer your call?
“Oh mum, you just don’t understand” came the reply.
I guess Apple really understands their users, and it is much more than functionality which keeps them loyal.
As I was tucking Kate into bed, she said she wished she could stay up later like the big people downstairs, and could she at least say goodnight to them? She pressed the walkie talkie function and it was really cute to hear the teenagers respond so sweetly to her, and with that, she went to bed happy.
She put her watch away as it went into Downtime mode, which I have set at 7:30pm. I like that the Apple watch is more restrictive than a full fledged phone and everything is controlled via my iphone, and this would be a good transition device for her, sort of like training wheels before she gets her own phone in a few years’ time.
Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parents navigate this challenging journey. She is an Award winning blogger of Mummy Wee Blog and has been regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media.