Remember the days when our parents used to fret over our constant use of MSN Messenger and Internet Relay Chat (IRC)? Little did they know that they still relinquished some form of control—those were chat rooms we could only access with a laggy dial-up connection at home. Karma has come round in this digital age we live in: if allowed, kids have 24/7 access to the Internet, which comes with a slew of insidious problems. You never know who is going to contact them or slide into their DMs.
Apple’s latest Family Setup, which launches in Singapore today, aims to offer a brilliant option to parents that allows their kid to be connected within limits—through Apple Watch. With their own cellular plan and Apple ID, you can now set up Apple Watch for your child through your iPhone, giving them a loose leash when it comes to text messages and phone calls, maps, activity goals and the App Store. With Family Setup, parents can manage a child’s contacts, receive notifications when their kids use Apple Pay and have full access to their health and medical data.
“We wanted to support kids that want a little bit more independence and parents who want peace of mind in a device that can be responsibly managed,” says Deidre Caldbeck, Director, Product Marketing at Apple. “We have heard from parents who think their kids aren’t ready for an iPhone, yet still want that communication and safety capabilities that technology can offer. It is designed to support those needs.”
There’s no specific age range for children to be part of Family Setup—although those perplexing tweenage years might be a safe bet. Caldbeck explains that with “kids figuring out how to use devices faster than we ever would have imagined”, Family Setup could be beneficial for children as young as the age of five, but it varies with each unique individual.
A big draw of Family Setup is the Find People app on Apple Watch, where parents or guardians can receive customised location notifications based on your child’s location for one occasion or a recurring or time-based schedule. This means you will get alerted if your child makes an unplanned stop to the arcade or for a bubble tea if they are meant to be in school or on the way home.
If you’re concerned about your child staying focused in class, Schooltime ensures that kids are kept distraction-free during their learning hours. Parents can set these restricted hours where Do Not Disturb mode is on and access to apps is restricted. Teachers will start to recognise the bright yellow circle displayed on the watch face—an indicator that Schooltime is on. In an emergency or otherwise, your child is allowed to unlock Schooltime by rotating the dial—and yes, you will get notified.
Caldbeck, who has an 11-year-old daughter on Family Setup, shares that the setting up process also helps facilitate conversations between parent and child. “When I set up approved contacts for my daughter, I wanted her to understand that this is not meant for me to control who she can or cannot talk to, but to make sure she is communicating with people that she trusts as well,” she explains.
A surprising function on Family Setup that she has particularly enjoyed is the Handwashing feature, which allows parents to track how long their children have been washing their hands for—ideal in a pandemic. “I can see that my daughter is not keeping up her handwashing as much as I would have liked,” says Caldbeck with a laugh.
When it comes to having fun on Apple Watch, the Activity rings in Family Setup means kids can track Move minutes instead of calories burned, and they can also customise goals, challenge friends and receive tailored coaching notifications. With parental permission, they can also download enriching apps on their Apple Watch, similar to that of an iPhone. Apple Watch supports 14 hours of use with Family Setup, so they can rest easy that their device won’t give up on them mid-activity, as long as it’s fully charged the night before.
The sandwich generation will also be heartened by the fact that Apple has also designed Family Setup for the elderly. They have the option of adjusting text size or selecting the XL watch face for better visibility, which shows the time and a rich complication at a quick glance. Armed with seamless health and safety tools, you can receive notifications for fall detection or irregular heart rhythms, which could be crucial in getting to your loved one in time. For stubborn older parents, this could be life-changing.
Family Setup is available in Singapore with with iOS14.3 and watchOS 7.2, on cellular models of Apple Watch Series 4 or later or Apple Watch SE paired with iPhone 6s or later. Not all features will be available if Apple Watch is set up through Family Setup. A wireless service plan is required for cellular service, currently available through StarHub in Singapore.