We’ve reached the point in parenting with our oldest where cellphones are becoming more common among his peers. I’m not comfortable with handing over one just yet, but we have had recent needs for contacting him that pushed me to do something. Our solution – getting him an Apple Watch.
I joked for years that his first phone would be a flip phone. Something basic just for phone calls. Maybe texting. No internet. No camera. Well, go figure, even the flip phones offered by our mobile carrier have internet access and camera options now. I started looking at other options and finally realized the answer was on my own wrist. Well, almost.
I’ve had an Apple Watch for a few years now that connects to my iPhone via bluetooth. If I’m out of range of my iPhone, many features don’t work (phone, texting, internet). An Apple Watch with cellular service however works independently.
In 2020 Apple introduced Family Setup. This feature allows you to setup multiple watches via a single iPhone, but they act independently. Which means you can add a Watch for your child without getting a phone too. When setting up the Watch for your child, you add their date of birth. For our tween, that mean the “under 13” option was also selected. This is great because it automatically adjusts certain settings. For example, where adults have calorie options for the Move ring in Activity, those under 13 have Minutes Moved.
There are still plenty of workout options to choose from. He has tracked everything from walks and bike rides around the neighborhood to rock climbing during track out camp.
It has definitely helped some for motivation to stay active as he can collect the awards in the app like I can. He can also view my Activity data and that of family & friends he has shared with. I tried a competition with him once and, well, let’s just say I didn’t win.
Tips and Tricks
We’ve learned a number of details since getting his Apple Watch. Small things that are different due to the fact his Watch is set up for a child and doesn’t have a base iPhone:
Contacts – Through Family Setup, I am able to manage his Contact list. This helps ensure we know who he’s communicating with.
Photos – We are able to share a photo album from my phone to his watch. I’ve specifically labeled the album with his name. Whenever he wants a photo I’ve taken (or maybe he has with my phone when we’re together), I can add that to this album so he’s able to access on his Watch. He can view, set as a watch face, or send to a friend via Messages.
Activity Name Incorrect – Somehow during setup (we think), my husband’s contact info was selected as “me” for our son’s watch. His first few Activity Awards showed they were earned by his dad instead of him. I removed his dad as a contact and re-added him. That removed the name connection, but then the Awards were blank! After online searches failed me, I finally had an Aha! moment. I logged into iCloud via my laptop browser using my son’s credentials. Opened contacts. Then I found his info and selected it. In the bottom left corner is a gear icon. A quick click there and I found the option to set that information as his Card. Since then everything has registered correctly.
Watch Faces – He was somewhat disappointed initially when it appeared the Watch only had 4 or 5 face options. The Memoji and Memoji animals weren’t exactly hits. We did quickly learn he could choose a photo to create a watch face using photos from an album I shared with him. Still, he was hoping for more. Playing around with the Watch settings in my iPhone, we started trying to see if we could add any extra. This does work, but we found an even simpler option – press and hold on the watch face on the Apple Watch itself. Now you can edit or change watch faces at a click.
An Apple Watch for our tween has been a great solution. It has given him a bit of freedom without adding extra screen time. He can text friends and family. I can find him if I need to via text, call, or using Find My to pin down his location. We also don’t have to worry about him losing or forgetting it. Unlike a phone, he doesn’t need a pocket or to remember to pick up as he leaves the house. He was already in a habit of wearing a watch daily with his Fitbit so now he just puts this one on instead.
We do plan to get him a phone in high school. I think of it like learning to drive a car – our kids need time learning and getting used to this technology while still in our home with parental guidance. But, also like learning to drive, there is no reason to rush into this. I also expect he will still continue to use his Apple Watch even after he gets a phone. It’s still far handier and easier to keep up with than a phone. If you are looking for the first step with your own tweens, I do recommend starting with an Apple Watch or similar wearable device.