In recent years, driven by the trend of healthy life of global consumers, wearable technology has developed rapidly. Smart watches and other networking devices are increasingly used to monitor health indicators.
Wearable devices are popular among adults aged 25 to 34 in the United States, with 31% using smart accessories or clothing at least once a month.
It’s no surprise that children and teenagers under 18 are also active wearable users, because today’s children are more tech savvy than their parents. According to CB insights, the global shipment of children’s smart watches has increased from 6.6 million in 2015 to 31.5 million in 2018.
However, there is controversy about children’s wearable devices. While some say wearable technology helps parents monitor their children’s health, others say it poses a serious security threat. Let’s hear from both sides.
Reasons for supporting children’s wearable devices
Tracking children is the main driving force for using children’s wearable devices: 87% of parents claim that the Internet of things wearable technology with GPS tracking helps them monitor their children and ensure their safety. Unlike smartphones, wearable devices are always worn on children, so it’s hard to lose them. Some products not only allow parents to see their children’s location on a map, but also provide geofencing. With this function, parents can set up a virtual barrier and receive an alarm immediately when the child leaves the area within the barrier.
Other features include voice / video calls and emergency call buttons to allow children to quickly contact their parents in an emergency. Most GPS watches have a dedicated mobile app that can display real-time data of the watch to reassure parents.
Health and activity tracking
Childhood obesity is an urgent problem in today’s era: one in five school-age children in the United States are overweight, and are vulnerable to diabetes, hypertension, asthma, sleep disorders and other health problems. Today’s children are less active because they spend too much time watching TV or playing video games. Children’s wearable devices can track their physical activities during the day and help them develop long-term health habits: exercise, drink water, eat right, brush their teeth and sleep well. For example, a game tracker with motion sensors and pedometers can encourage children to play more in the form of games and reward and recognize each achievement.
In addition, wearable devices can help parents monitor their children’s key biological characteristics (heart rate, body temperature, blood oxygen, sweating degree, etc.) through sensors, and detect abnormal patterns through machine learning. If problems are identified, parents will receive alerts and advice on how to deal with their child’s illness or stress. Wearable sensors on the Internet of things are particularly useful for parents with babies to ensure that their babies are safe while they sleep.
Children’s wearable devices can not only improve their health and safety, they can also be used to monitor children’s activities on the Internet. Parental control is widely used in child friendly IOT wearable devices and allows adults to:
1. Monitor incoming and outgoing calls / messages
2. Block unknown numbers to ensure that children only communicate with people they know
3. Limit play and Internet time, especially at school or during sleep
4. Block some websites
5. Manage apps for kids
6. Manage children’s purchase rights
Control functions help parents protect their children. However, parents should use it wisely to give their children enough freedom.
Game and entertainment
No entertainment function, no good children’s equipment, wearable devices are no exception. Leading edge wearable manufacturers integrate virtual reality and other technologies to make it more fun for children to use. One example is Moff band, a wearable bracelet that allows children to play pac man with their arms instead of a joystick. In addition, it will play different sound effects (such as drum, guitar, ninja sword, etc.) according to the children’s gestures.
Learning is another important function of wearable devices in the Internet of things. For example, jumpy smart watch provides many interesting and educational functions for children. It is equipped with educational game applications and audible interactive stories, which can encourage children’s learning and creativity.
Reasons against children wearing devices
Security flaws and privacy issues
Opponents claim that wearable devices designed primarily for children’s safety have weak security mechanisms. Most manufacturers strive to bring children’s wearable devices to the market at attractive prices, and invest little in network security, leaving many security loopholes.
Alan Scott, marketing director of McAfee EMEA: “many parents have introduced wearable devices such as smart watches into their children’s lives because they think it can make them more confident about their children’s whereabouts and safety. However, parents need to quickly realize that while these wearable devices have many benefits, unfortunately, they also have many security vulnerabilities that make children vulnerable to cyber criminals. “.
Children wearing such devices can easily be targeted by hackers, who can access their personal details as well as real-time and historical locations. It’s important that cybercriminals may hear what’s going on around their children and get in touch with them directly. Can people imagine the consequences for children’s safety?
Unfortunately, opponents’ concerns are not unreasonable. Last year’s report confirmed consumers’ concerns about the security of wearable devices: three quarters of children’s smart watches have serious security problems, such as transmitting personal data to remote servers without encryption（ The report also found unreliable features of some wearable devices, including ineffective geofencing and emergency call buttons, which provide parents with a false sense of security.
Childhood under control
Some parents become paranoid about using GPS trackers and other wearable devices to control their children. They want to know everything, from where every minute of their day is, to what they eat, who they talk to, and so on, so that children are not free and independent. As a result, our children will grow up to be more and more dependent on their parents, and always rely on technology to help.
If society prevents them from experiencing risks, they will never understand them. Although the use of surveillance technology for protection may be well intentioned, it deprives children of the possibility of acquiring social experience, which is essential for coping with the risks and dangers of life in the future.
Privacy advocates argue that everyone, including children, has a right to private life, but tracking technology limits that right. Children should be children and enjoy their childhood, and technology should only help keep them safe, not stifle them through constant control.
How to make children’s wearable devices helpful, not dangerous
Like any new technology, children’s wearable devices have supporters and opponents. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of wearable technology, we come to the conclusion that it has the opportunity to become a major breakthrough in child care services in the near future and an indispensable part of our life.
However, wearable device manufacturers and IOT software developers should take a responsible approach to ensure that their technology is safe for children. Big companies like apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Xiaomi have paid special attention to the security of wearable devices, and added various security mechanisms to their devices: remote erasure, data encryption, biometrics and other functions.
At the same time, when parents consider buying wearable devices for their children, they should also follow some basic safety principles:
1. Research the existing models and their functions, and choose a safe wearable device.
2. Change the default password immediately after purchasing a new device.
3. Reset your password monthly or remind your child to reset it.
4. Review the default settings, especially the privacy control section, and make changes if necessary. For example, some fitness tracking services may publicly share your data through social networks, but you can choose to keep such data absolutely confidential.
Consumers and manufacturers can work together to make the Internet secure for children in the wearable world. If the design has the right control and security mechanisms, wearable devices may become a good tool to establish a closer relationship between parents and children.