How will wearable technology affect children?
September 15, 2014
As more and more wearable technology products are being launched for children, at Fundamentally Children we’ve been taking a look at the future of this area to highlight where we think wearable technology can benefit children and parents. There are an increasing number of good tech toys on the market already although it can be hard for parents to know which are really valuable and which are simply expensive gimmicks (see our tips on getting the most from tech toys). It is easy for parents to think that wearable technology is more Sci-Fi than useful but we think there is a real opportunity for it to benefit parents and children. This includes encouraging children to be more active, supporting children with additional needs and monitoring babies and children in a helpful yet unobtrusive way.
- Wearable technology that encourages physical activity in children: one huge area we see taking off extremely fast right now is a range of technology products that encourage children to be active. Technology is often criticised for taking children away from social and active play which are so vital to their development so at Fundamentally Children we are particularly pleased to see developments in this area. Not only can these products motivate children to be active but also allow parents to track how active their children are being and in what ways, empowering them to better support and encourage their child’s development. Products like LeapBand marketed as a ‘wearable virtual pet that gets kids active!’ are going to become increasingly important and we believe they will make a real difference.
- Wearable technology that supports children with additional needs: many thousands of children have difficulties to overcome that wearable technology will in the future be able to help with. Whether a child has special needs, medical issues or is struggling with English as a foreign language wearables could help. The Babel fish concept (the fabulous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy idea) really isn’t far away, we continue to track this one but haven’t seen a winning product launched yet, particularly one pitched at children. I’ve also seen wearables that monitor heart rate, blood glucose, location etc. in prototype making a huge difference to children who are otherwise very restricted by their conditions. In future, may we also see wearables that help in the classroom and in homework? A wearable that help dyslexics learn to spell perhaps – we’ve already seen digital pens with built in spell check such as the Lernstift, however at Fundamentally Children we think the real success stories are the products that truly encourage children to develop, e.g. by helping them learn to spell for themselves rather than just fixing individual mistakes. In general, we’d love to see wearable technology level the playing field for children with additional needs leaving them free to play and enjoy their childhood alongside their peers and, where possible, helping them overcome their difficulties for later life.
- Wearable technology for monitoring babies: a huge area for wearables is rapidly emerging to support parents of babies. As a mother of two myself I am well aware of the terror and worries that go alongside being a new parent. Technology can really help to put parent’s minds at ease and, so long as they are reliable and used alongside other parenting approaches they can be incredibly valuable. We’re interested in products like Owlet Smart Sock (launching soon) and the Mimo Baby Monitor which look interesting, if pricey. We will certainly continue to track developments in this area at Fundamentally Children.
- Monitoring children’s whereabouts with wearable technology: all parents have the continuing challenge of monitoring what their children are up to! Any parents who are Harry Potter fans may remember Mrs. Weasley’s clock, indicating a series of popular locations (school, work etc) as well as danger scenarios (lost, mortal peril etc), and quite fancied the concept! At Fundamentally Children we would always encourage a dialogue with children as they grow older because developing trust and responsibility is really important and at some stage children are likely to rebel against being constantly monitored by technology (none of us like the idea of being watched). However, there is certainly a place for the right wearable technology in this area, particularly for younger children as part of a process in building trust (or where wandering has been a problem in the past) and particularly if the technology has added value for the child through games or fashion value (making them more likely to accept it). Typically products like this comprise a wrist watch, ankle bracelet or similar for the child that incorporates GPS and an app and/or web interface for parents. Fundamentally Children believe the critical part of the success of these products is the user experience of the parents interface. It’s so important that they accurately flag up potential problems (without too many false alarms) and encourage the child to have as much freedom as possible rather than simply tracking the child on a map which is likely to be too intrusive and more labour intensive for a parent to monitor. Products we’ve come across (although not tested ourselves yet) in this area include: Filip, Safety Starz Safety Watches, KizOn wristband by LG.
There are a range of other innovations in mobile accessories/wearables to support parenting, to help in the classroom and those just representing fun toys for children. However, at Fundamentally Children we see the areas above as ones to watch in the near future.
This post was written by Fundamentally Children