Apple Watch with FamilyConnect

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.

Apple Watch Series 6

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.

Schooltime report sent to my phone

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.

Pink citrus Sport band

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.

Inverness Green Braided Solo Loop

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!

Kate wearing 40mm case size

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!

Memoji watch face

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.

Walkie-talkie function

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.

About MummyWee

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.

Discipline #7: 10 House Rules for Gadget Use

Recently, I was very disturbed by the issue of smartphones and iPad usage with my teens. I attended the Singapore Parenting Congress and learnt a lot from the speaker Chong Ee Jay. Mr Chong has been working with youths for the past 10 years and is currently the assistant manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness. He shared with us many of his experiences where youths become so addicted to gaming and their gadgets that they can’t focus in school and even stop communicating with their parents entirely. There was a lot he touched on, which I will detail in another post.

One thing he mentioned was having house rules for gadget usage. He went as far as advising us that when we give our children their first phone, we should tell them that the phone is OURS, so we have the right to take it back if need be. Personally, I think that is very wise (especially if the child is still in primary school) because otherwise, if the child feels the phone is his, he will be very resentful if you take it away from him. For my kids, we give them a phone when they are in P6. Most parents tell me that their kids start asking for a phone from the time they are in P2. Well, they can ask, but it doesn’t mean that we need to give! #4 is in P4 and she has been asking for a phone as almost all her classmates own a phone. I told her there is no need for her to have a phone now as she takes the school bus home.

I had our own rules for gadget usage, but it was verbally communicated and never written down. I guess to be clear, before you hand over a phone or iPad to your child, sit down and discuss the rules and the reasons behind it with him. And don’t forget to be consistent in enforcing the rules. Here’s a sample of our house rules, and you can adapt it to fit your own family circumstances.

1. No watching TV, playing computer or iPad on weekdays.

Last time, I did allow them to watch TV for 1 hour, but when it was time to turn it off they were unhappy. I found it easier to have a complete ban on school days.

2. On weekends, homework must be completed first.

Once they are done with homework, they can use it for 1 hour on Saturdays and 1 hour on Sundays, but it is very hard to enforce especially when I am not at home. Sigh. Haven’t figured a solution for this one.

3. Phones and ipads to be at the charging station by 8.30pm every night.

When I just gave birth to Kate and was too exhausted to check on the older ones, they kept their phones by their bedsides and it constantly beeped with texts or tweets from their friends even at midnight! It is hard for teens to regulate themselves, and they end up not having proper rest for school the next day. For my older girls who are in secondary school, I get them to leave their gadgets to charge near the front door so they can pick it up when they leave for school in the mornings.

4. No gadgets during mealtimes.

What happened with this rule was that the older ones would quickly eat then return to their rooms. When I was describing this scenario halfway to Mr Chong, he already knew what was coming and told me that’s what all teens will do! His suggestion was to set a blanket ban of 1 hour during mealtimes.

5. No gadgets in the toilets.
I heard this one from friends, where for the longest time, they thought their girls just took a long time to bathe. Finally they realised that they were hiding in the bathroom using their phones, and some kids even left the water running as a camouflage.
6. No using gadgets in the car unless urgent.
I realised that as they are sitting behind me, they could be using their phones without us noticing. Not only is it bad for the eyes as the screen is so small and the car is constantly moving, but it also ends up giving some of them a headache.
7. Stop playing within 5 minutes when asked to do so.

Without this rule, the kids will always tell you they are in the middle of a game or some other important job like harvesting fruits etc.
8. Never chat with anyone you do not know online and do not disclose personal information.

You have to constantly teach and remind the kids about internet safety as that is of utmost importance.
9. No gaming during exam periods.

The time should be used for revision or relaxing the mind with outdoor activities.

10. Gadget usage is not a MUST. It is a privilege given by parents and can be taken away.

This one I picked up from Mr Chong, which I think is very important to let the kids know so they don’t think it’s a natural entitlement, especially when almost all their friends seem to have a smartphone.

And of course with rules, there need to be consequences. The most logical consequence of breaking any of the rules is:

Sane tip: Before you give your child a phone, I seriously advice you to sit down and have a long discussion with your child about rules, limits, privacy, not believing everything they read on twitter, the internet or whatever else, and to always come back to us parents if they have any questions at all. Try to keep communication lines open with your children. That is your best bet in helping them to navigate the whole scary digital world out there.

Save tip: For their first phones, I used to give them the old type of flip phones. It is hard to get them these days, so the next best thing is to pass down your old phones to them. I see a lot of kids these days with the latest smartphones. I don’t think it is necessary at all and should be saved as an extremely valuable reward to give your child as motivation if they do well for their ‘O’ levels. If you give your kids things too easily, not only will they get a sense of entitlement, but you will have nothing left to motivate them for their major exams.
Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Discipline #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Discipline #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

Discipline #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Discipline #6: Ban books? What are you gonna do about phones?

I was reading about the saga following the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of 3 seemingly ‘unacceptable’ books regarding homosexuality. Apparently it has been confirmed that at least 6 books have recently been pulled off the shelves.

While this issue of censorship has been debated furiously on social media, I have also been facing the same issue of censorship with my teens. And the more I think about it, the more worried I’m getting.

It all began with giving them their iPhones and iPads (which by the way, was both the hub’s idea).
The 2 oldest kids got their first phones when they were 12, as a reward for doing well in their PSLE. If I had my way, I would hold out as long as possible. Unfortunately, the hubs is a huge fan of gadgets, and he enjoys buying them for the kids. His rationale? “You can’t shield them forever”. So his job was to make that 1 awesome purchase, with the kids hailing him as hero, thereafter, the onerous job of instilling limits and rules on gadget use fell on me.

As with most parents, my top 2 concerns were duration of use (not too long and not too late), and usage (the apps they were downloading).

When #1 was first given her phone, my concerns and rules were relatively straightforward.

1) Phones out in the living room at 8.30pm every night (I didn’t want them to be using their phones instead of sleeping)

2) Limit amount of talking on the phone (exorbitant phone bills)

3) Monitor their Facebook use (concerned about internet safety)

4) Limit amount of YouTube use (content and too tiny screen)

How naive I was. Fast forward 4 years later, and I have totally lost control. #1 and #2 are now 15 and 13 years old respectively, and their phones are almost like an extension of their hands. Not only are they constantly on it, but talking on their phone has now become the least of my concerns. In fact, I am happy to see them talking on the phone (the house phone, that is). These days, kids hardly even communicate verbally. They spend a large part of their time communicating digitally. Facebook is also not much of an issue, because as any ‘cool’ teen will tell you, “Who even uses Facebook? Get with the times, mum.”

So now, what is worrying me? One main thing is Twitter. Firstly, they can ‘Follow’ anyone they want to ‘Follow’, and that is where they get a lot of their information. Believe me, your hair will stand if you read some of the tweets. Your teens will be exposed to the opinions and ideology of literally any other teen or celebrity in the world. Secondly, the tweets happen every other second, so before they know it, your teens will be addicted to these tweets. Remember how in our time, we went crazy over pop stars or movie stars? Well, they have certainly taken crazy to new heights. I can accept the posters all over their bedroom walls, and their ears constantly plugged in to music. But now they also have ‘fandoms’ on Twitter, where a community of people who admire the same idol come together to discuss and rave about that celebrity. They end up getting addicted and spend a whole lot of time on Twitter sharing information about their idol. They then become friends with a whole array of teens hailing from different countries as they feel a connection with them, and move on to communicate one-to-one via Whatsapp.

Then there is Snapchat. I have been watching my teens using Snapchat for some time now. They will take fun shots of where they are or what they are doing (eating, shopping, playing) and it will be sent to their circle of friends. It is however not quite like normal photo sharing. You can allocate a certain time for your recipient to view it (1-10 seconds) and the photo will vanish after that. However, the party you have sent the image to can save it if they quickly screenshot it or use another device to take a picture of it before it disappears. It did seem relatively harmless to me, but when I was reading an article on this issue, it describes Snapchat as dangerous. Yes, now that they mention it, I can see how this can get dangerous if they start to snap indiscriminate photos of themselves, and of their locations. And what if their friends turn against them one day and start to disseminate their photos.

Needless to say, the phone is seriously one potentially dangerous piece of gadget you will be giving to your child. And the scary thing is, you will not be able to see the dangers until it is much too late. By that time, the amount of uncensored information that has entered your teen’s head is astronomical, and it is insidious. One day, you will be having a conversation with your teen and you will suddenly think to yourself “Is this my kid? The kid that I raised under my roof?” And that will be a sad, sad day for you. I just experienced that, and was disconcerted and depressed for a whole week. I couldn’t place my finger on the reason I was feeling down, but now I think I know why. You give of your best and try to bring them up well, but all comes to naught as their minds are gradually brainwashed by social media and the friends they make online.

I understand the sentiments of those parents who are fighting for the books to be kept away. That was my first response when I realised my teens were getting access to so much unregulated information on the internet via their phones and iPads. Yes, we can fight to take away 3, 6 or even 60 books. But how are you going to fight to take away all the information on the internet and on social media that goes against your values?

As I was mulling over this, not only with my mind but with my heart, and wondering how I was going to re-address the issue with my teens, yesterday’s article in The Straits Times provided me with my answer.

Dr Lim Sun Sun (associate professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the NUS) says that a ‘Cot bumper approach’ to raising kids won’t work. 

“You hold the key to building your child’s defences against perspectives that contradict the beliefs that you subscribe to, and that you want your children to subscribe to. You can interpret, moderate and mediate for your child the media content that he is confronted with…. It is an ongoing journey of trust, sharing, discussion, and debate. Rather than obliterate all opinions that you consider deleterious, embrace each alternative view as an opportunity to rationalise to your child why you disagree with it. Foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding where your child knows that she can turn to you when she encounters messages that are confusing or upsetting. Instil in your child the skills of discernment that will see him through every PG movie, First-Person shooter video game or inflammatory online comment.”

At the beginning of the year, I had a conversation about LGBT relationships with #2. I was surprised that she had such strong opinions on the issue and she felt that it doesn’t matter whether it was between heterosexuals or homosexuals, but if they loved each other, what was wrong? And why must you judge them? I went on to explain to her our values and our religious stance and finally I said that what her friends are doing or what their orientations are are not of my concern, but because all of you are my children, I expect you to get married to a person of the opposite sex and have children. Then she replied, “Oh, then what are we arguing about? I thought you were against other people being gays and lesbians.”

Times have definitely changed. For every standpoint you make, they would have heard a hundred other counter opinions of it. And trust me, they would not be as subtle as 2 male penguins raising a baby penguin. It will be direct, passionate, in-your-face statements.

I’m going to need to take a deep breath and psych myself up to face this new wave of challenges I can see heading my way. And we all thought it was tough dealing with the terrible twos.

Sane tip: Before you even hand them their very first phone, find out all the current apps that teens are using. Sit down with them and set limits on which apps you allow and explain to them why you do not allow them certain apps. Also set basic rules on time limits such as no phone use after 9pm, during mealtimes and homework time. I wish someone had enlightened me about all this before I gave #1 her phone. It is so much harder both for me and for them to re-negotiate their gadget use after they have been on those apps for so long.

The good news is that there is an app called TimeAway which was created by an American working at Google. She is now living in Singapore and noticed that the kids were glued to their gadgets. She spoke to many parents and realised that while they wanted to give their kids phones for various reasons, they also wanted to prevent addiction and social isolation. TimeAway was created to solve the problem as it allows the parents to monitor and control device usage and app downloads. It is able to pause devices, set time limits and even block apps that cause concern like Snap chat (gulp!)

Save tip: If I had my way, I’ll be giving them flip phones! Although as #1 informed me, “they are obsolete mum”.

I would love to hear from parents who have some good ideas on how you work this out with your children.

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Discipline #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Discipline #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

Discipline #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~