September 01, 2020
You’ve seen the apocalyptic videos of kids in single file lines, faces obscured by oversized masks, being directed through hallways by adults in hazmat gear. Suffice to say back to school has never looked quite like this.
A top concern for parents and school officials is how kids will cope with the new rules, which would be stressful for anyone, let alone kids who have already lived through a year of incredible confusion. “Kids who normally have a little trouble separating from mom and dad will see their anxiety peak during times of stress or transition,” says Rachel Busman, clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.
Young kids who are prone to separation anxiety and who are too young for a smartphone are especially vulnerable to trauma. The overwhelming environment at school, which was already rife with bullying and disorienting social pressures, is also the one place they can’t be in contact with mom or dad.
But maybe not anymore. In 2020 the kids smartwatch market in the US saw a substantial uptick as parents weighed the back to school options. These devices, which function as GPS trackers, phones and fitness wearables are fully operational pre-cell phone alternatives.
I talked to parents who bought my company’s COSMO 4G Kids Smartwatch about their back to school experiences. Here’s what I learned.
Anything but a cell phone
Parents will make a lot of trade offs for their child’s safety and peace of mind, but increasingly, cell phones are not one. A nationwide movement to delay giving smartphones to children until they are old enough has gained significant momentum in the last couple of years. Organizations like Wait Until 8th give voice to this campaign with the slogan “Let kids be kids a little longer”.
The movement notwithstanding, parents are equally distressed that they cannot have regular contact with their youngest kids throughout the day. Kids are the last people in our society who are not in minute-by-minute contact via a connected device. When they walk out the door, they step into the unconnected void -- a place most adults haven’t been since the early 2000s.
“This year we are worried about the health situation at school, of course, but we’re also worried about how our kids are going to adjust to a much less nurturing environment,” says Beth M., mother of Jillian and Evan (ages 6 and 9). “This is the closest we came to breaking our smartphone rule, but thankfully we found an alternative and we’re excited about it.”
The kids safety smartwatch alternative checks a lot of boxes. Peace of mind for both parents and kids without most of the tradeoffs. The devices have internet and social media firewalls and are packed with parental controls. They provide instant communication between parents and kids and block threats like cyber bullying and adult content.
Anything can happen… we want to be prepared
Disasters strike; they don’t slowly unfurl and give ample notice to everyone they will affect. At least that has been the story of 2020.
Families are more concerned with being prepared for crises than at any point since the Y2K scare of 1999. And increasingly, these crises can strike when families are spread out -- parents at work, kids at school. Fires, floods, violent weather, shootings, earthquakes and yes even pandemics can trigger evacuations at a moment’s notice.
“Our entire family is on a group text thread except for our 7 year old who doesn’t have a phone,” says Sherry L., mother of Timothy. “We just sort of realized that it was crazy our entire family is connected except for our most vulnerable member. That’s when we decided we needed to find a device that would work for his needs.”
The device you choose for a young child is important. They don’t need to be inundated with news alerts about the disasters going on in the world. They don’t need Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. What they do need is a device they can’t lose, that won’t break, that does a very simple function without fail: call home, beam a location to mom and dad, and monitor basic health readings.
Anything to close the gapKids will get cell phones eventually. There is too much peer pressure to hold it off forever. But parents agree there is an age when it is appropriate (with parental controls) and an age where it’s not. The key is to close the gap.
As of 2019, 64% of 10 year olds had an internet enabled device. The average 10 year old is in 5th grade.
“Our boys were asking for smartphones very early,” says Andrew T., father of Max and James. “Their friends were getting them, obviously I have a phone, an iPad, etc. For us it became clear that we were either going to break down and try to figure out how to make smartphones safe for them or we were going to find something else. Thank god we found something they love -- the COSMO Smartwatch -- before we made the leap and got the phones.”
This story is one I hear all the time. It’s a battle to protect kids from the internet, from mass media and from all of the things that pollute childhood.
As a company, COSMO is learning every day from our customers about how they use our devices and why they buy them in the first place. Our mission is to empower our customers to keep their kids safe and to buy them just a little more childhood.
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