Is a Smartwatch the First Step?

This year my daughter and her friends have started walking to school without their parents. A major step toward independence for her, a bit of a blow to me since I know it is the first of many occasions when she’ll be with friends, but without an adult. While I am proud of her, I find myself grappling with the best way to have her able to reach me if she needs to, especially if she is somewhere without a telephone.

When I was her age I never left the house without a few quarters in my backpack in case I needed to use a pay phone. But now that payphones are extinct, and I don’t want to get her a smartphone yet, I’m left with very few options. Several friends have suggested smartwatches. They are watches with designated phone numbers that can text or make phone calls to specific numbers programmed in by the parents. Some watches have GPS ability, and none have internet capabilities. Others have suggested pay-as-you-go phones, also without internet, though they seem clunkier to carry around and easy to misplace, and less fun than a cool watch.

The more I research watches the more it seems that they are a good final step before smartphones. But they still beg a few questions: Even if I only program in the numbers of immediate family and her best friend, who has a smartwatch, will my daughter text her friend ad nauseum? Will she become addicted to and fascinated by the cool piece of tech on her wrist? Or, is this a chance to cull bad habits before the smartphone is introduced? For example, if I notice she can’t stop fidgeting with it, do I take it away during homework time? Or restrict use on the weekend so she is outside playing, not inside hooked into a miniature screen?

I take comfort knowing that without internet capabilities, and with tight parental phone number control, I don’t have to worry about predators and cyberbullies communicating with her. Though I know once the smartphone comes my peace of mind will all but disappear. So, I wonder, is a smartwatch a good way to introduce her to managing communication and tech in general before she gets the real thing?

My husband and I are still undecided. School is less than two blocks from our house and when she walks to her friend’s houses she calls us from their landlines when she arrives and before she comes home. I know this wholesome scenario won’t last forever, so we will continue to explore our options until we find the right fit for our family.

I am interested to know if you have any experiences with smartwatches you’d like to share? I would love to hear what is and isn’t working with other families. Thank you!