What is a smartwatch?

Smartwatches are worn on the wrist like a digital watch. This makes them one of the so-called wearables. 28 percent of young people in Germany now own such wearables, according to the JIM Study 2022.

Smartwatches are usually connected to a smartphone. This makes it possible, for example, to take calls or read messages without having to pick up the smartphone. Sound, image and video recordings can also be made with a smartwatch if it is equipped accordingly. A special feature of smartwatches are the built-in sensors. They can be used, for example, to measure pulse rate or record how many steps you have taken in a day. If the function is supported, you can also use a smartwatch for location tracking.

There are also smartwatches that have a SIM card integrated. These smartwatches can also be used to make phone calls and send messages without being connected to a smartphone.

How useful are smartwatches for children?

Smartwatches are now coveted accessories in the lives of children and teenagers. If your child wants a smartwatch, you should first talk to him or her to find out where this desire comes from. Is your child interested in keeping up with his or her friends because many of them have smartwatches? Or does your child only want to use a certain function of a smartwatch? It may be possible to fulfill your child's wish with another device. For example, pedometers are also built into fitness watches. If it's a matter of displaying the time and an alarm clock function, a regular digital watch may also suffice.

If you come to the conclusion that buying a smartwatch for your child makes sense, consider the following:

Many smartwatches only work when connected to a smartphone. In that case, a purchase only makes sense if your child is old enough to have their own smartphone.

Some schools don't take kindly to children coming to class equipped with electronic devices. They can be a source of distraction, especially when worn on the wrist.

Smartwatches collect data. Therefore, pay close attention to the product's privacy agreement. What data is collected? Who has access to this data? What are they used for? A smartwatch can become a potential source of danger if unauthorized persons gain access to your child's data or to the smartwatch. Therefore, before you buy, check what security options the product offers.

Tips at a glance

  • Find out why your child wants a smartwatch. Maybe there are alternatives?
  • Keep in mind that some smartwatches only work in conjunction with a smartphone.
  • Before purchasing, also ask the school if smartwatches are allowed there.
  • Keep in mind that a smartwatch will collect data from your child.

More security with smartwatch?

The tracking function of many smartwatches is particularly interesting for many parents. This allows them to see on their smartphone where the smartwatch (and thus their child) is located. Some smartwatches have a so-called geo-fencing function. This allows parents to specify the area in which their child is allowed to move. If the child leaves the permitted area, the parents are alerted via their smartphone. Another safety function is an SOS button. If this is pressed by the child, the watch automatically calls the previously stored numbers.

If you want to protect your child from a violent crime or kidnapping, consider whether a smartwatch is an effective protection. Tracking can be easily prevented by taking the smartwatch away from the child.

Some parents want to protect their child from problematic situations like getting lost on the way home. Consider whether there are other ways to get their child fit to walk to school. For example, by practicing together or by having your child walk home with other children.

If you decide to track your child via smartwatch, be sure to involve your child in the decision. Make your child understand which features of the smartwatch will be used (tracking or geo-fencing). Also take it seriously if your child may not want certain functions to be used.

Smartwatches collect data. Therefore, pay close attention to the product's privacy agreement. What data is collected? Who has access to this data? What are they used for? A smartwatch can become a potential source of danger if unauthorized persons gain access to your child's data or to the smartwatch. Therefore, before you buy, check what security options the product offers.

Tips at a glance

  • Find out why your child wants a smartwatch. Maybe there are alternatives?
  • Keep in mind that some smartwatches only work in conjunction with a smartphone.
  • Before purchasing, also ask the school if smartwatches are allowed there.
  • Keep in mind that a smartwatch will collect data from your child.

Attention. Prohibited telecommunications equipment

In Germany, devices that are capable of secretly recording sound or images are prohibited. This is the case, for example, with a smartwatch that has a listening function (also known as a monitor or baby monitor function). This function can be used to remotely activate the microphone built into the smartwatch. Before buying, find out about the functions of the smatwatch and avoid devices with a listening function. If you have already purchased a smartwatch with wiretapping function, you are obliged to destroy it. You can find more information about this on the website of the Federal Network Agency.

Can tracking be harmful to children?

There is no clear answer to this question. Each child is individual and there can certainly be good reasons why parents want to find out the location of their offspring. Children with mental disabilities and a so-called runaway tendency can put their lives in danger if they are not found quickly. In such a case, it would be very useful to be able to quickly verify the child's whereabouts. In general, parents should pay attention to how children develop autonomy and self-efficacy from a developmental psychological perspective.

It is important for children's development that they are able to develop their autonomy in a way that is appropriate to their age. This includes experiences such as being able to walk to school on their own. But also situations such as taking a detour that has not been agreed with parents. Or getting lost and being able to find the right way again independently. These experiences contribute to gradually developing more independence. Being able to call on parents at any time to solve problems, for example through the smartwatch, can be a hindrance to these natural developmental steps.

If parents want to track their child, this can be a problematic signal for children under certain circumstances. It can give the impression that the parents do not trust them to adhere to agreed rules or to master unforeseen situations on their own.