Will an Apple Watch get your teenager talking more?
WHEN I first heard about Apple Watch Family Setup coming to Australia, I thought of having cool walkie-talkie chats with my youngest child, sharing photos, text messages and even being able to keep an eye on where he was.
With a young child, that's now possible.
With a teenager, the reality is quite different. And yes, given his age, I was probably being pretty optimistic.
Family Setup, of course, is really pitched at children who might not have their own iPhone but who you might want to keep in contact with through their watch.
Rather than 'spying on them', it's about using technology to set some boundaries.
Apple suggests you have conversations with your kids about who they can talk to, to ensure their communications are safe.
For younger kids, this makes perfect sense.
If you are giving a child a cool bit of technology you should set some ground rules to ensure it is not misused or abused.
That means managing who they engage with, can send and receive text messages from, as well as some time limits on when they can do it. That might be a case of just limiting the number of 'safe' people in their contact list.
School time is a particularly useful feature in Family Set Up for Apple Watch.
It basically puts in a set time when they can't be chatting and texting with their friends.
Many schools around Australia already put limits on technology in the classroom.
My son, for example, can take his phone to school. But it's not to be used in the class.
Other schools are introducing blanket bans on mobile phones at schools.
For some parents, the idea of being able to contact your kids via a less obvious device like a watch is appealing. A simple text message to say you're going to be half an hour late for the school pick-up would be nice.
Family Set Up for Apple Watch basically works by setting up the watch, which must be a cellular version and one of the latest versions of the watch, through a third party carrier.
In Australia, this is through a Truphone cellular plan which costs $9.99 a month or $99 a year, which provides an Australian number for your family member, includes unlimited data, voice and SMS, and has no lock-in contract.
The setup process is reasonably simple. You open the Watch app on your phone, turn on Apple Watch and choose 'Set Up for a Family Member'.
As part of the process you use their own Apple ID, if they already have one, or create a new one.
You also need to complete your child's iCloud ID account and Family Setup, including options to enable Messages, approve contacts, and manage Screen Time and Schooltime.
Once you have everything set up you can ring them on their watch, have a Facetime audio session, send them messages, and also use location services to see if they are where they are meant to be.
If you're super organised, you could program their schedule in and let the Watch tell you if they are not where they should be, for example.
For younger children, you could also set up arrival and departure notifications, something that would give you peace of mind if they are getting the school bus, for example.
One of the requirements is that the child has to approve the notifications, so you need to have a conversation about what you are doing with Apple Watch and why.
It might be a case, that you say, sure you can go bike riding with a friend, but I need to know exactly where you are.
The watch can also be used for activity and fitness tracking with subtle changes to the kids setup so it is more about being active than burning kilojoules.
You can also share activity results among family members, to perhaps create a little bit of competition or just encouragement to do more.
Apple Watch can also be used to monitor things like handwashing, ensuring your kids are doing it for 20 seconds, not 5.
There are also some pretty fun features designed for kids, like creating their own memoji which they can share with friends or use as a watch face.
They can also create their own watch face and share it with you or a friend.
They can also load their own music onto the watch and listen via a pair of Bluetooth earphones or speakers.
There are also a series of apps designed for kids, including a dictionary.
My experience with the teenager and Apple Watch was, let's say, a little disappointing.
First he forgot to charge it overnight.
Then he didn't wear it on the first day of testing because he was working and didn't want to damage it. Fair call.
We called him, and after the initial novelty wore off, he tended not to answer.
Mum texted him to say have a great day. No reply.
We sent him pictures. No reply.
I even tried to initiate a walkie talkie conversation with him. No luck with the initial set-up.
But I did get it working with my wife on her Apple Watch and we had a ball chatting like you would in a cubby house.
My son is right into fitness so he was keen to put the watch through its paces in monitoring his output, so we had a win there.
But in my experience, this might be a device for younger kids.
Our teen is a great son, who doesn't mind a chat in the car on the way home from school, but he just wasn't into that tech. If his friends all had a watch, it might be a different story though.
APPLE WATCH FAMILY SETUP FOR SENIORS
The other big opportunity is, of course, for senior members of the family.
My mum bought an Apple Watch earlier this year because living alone she liked the idea of being able to raise the alarm if she had a fall.
She likes being able to answer a text message on her Watch or receive a photo from the family.
And she has become quite an expert at finding the right emoji to reply.
For older adults, Family Setup for Apple Watch offers an XL feature where you can dial up the size of the display and fonts used so it is easier to read.
You can also set up a medical ID with all the information someone would need if there was an emergency.
Fall detection and emergency SOS are also good features that might give family members peace of mind. Heart rate monitoring is also very good, allowing you to be notified if your heart rate is elevated or has fallen too low.
Using Calendar, you can schedule family events and set reminders, as well as share photo albums.
The full-featured, budget priced Apple SE Watch starts at $429.
Would I buy one for my teenager? No. But for a younger child or a senior member of the family, it might be worth the peace of mind.