They go from babies, totally and completely reliant on us, to toddlers to school children to teenagers to adults. Quickly. They grow up and we hope. We hope they grow up strong, independent, resilient, kind, good, and we do our best to make it so.
As a mother, I worry. Just as children inevitably grow up, parents inevitably worry. I never wanted to be the mother who fussed terribly over her child. Although we worry, children are strong and children are smart. The older we become, the more disconnected I think we perhaps feel to our younger selves, and to our children, to the tiny, brave, unstoppable humans who so easily became pirates and monsters and mermaids all in the space of an afternoon.
My children are eight and ten. They’re just getting to the age where I’m considering leaving them at home while I take a quick trip to the shops. They play happily, uninterrupted, for hours on end. They’re more than capable of making their own toast, playing in the park across the road, walking to school, and likely a great deal more. I know this, and still, I worry.
I want them to establish a legitimate sense of independence, to feel comfortable, safe, and supported in their day to day lives, and I want peace of mind as they do this.
The concept of a SpaceTalk watch was first introduced to me at a friend’s barbeque. We were sitting on the deck watching the kids play in the garden. My friend’s daughter came up to us and asked if they could take a walk to the park at the end of the street. The kids in the group ranged in age from eight to eleven and the park wasn’t far away but I was still a little wary and suggested perhaps they take one of our phones. My friend laughed at that, tugged at her daughter’s wrist, and showed me her SpaceTalk watch.
Essentially, the watch allows for both messaging and phone calls from a specifically allocated contact list, a ‘safe list’ if you will, and incorporates GPS tracking. My friend told me they’d had the watch a few months. Her daughter had been begging for a phone and this had been the compromise, and so far, it was a good one.
That evening when we got home, I thought why not, and purchased a SpaceTalk watch for my ten-year-old.
I can quite happily say that this was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made, for both myself and my child.
Now, when my ten-year-old heads to the park with his little sister, I can see exactly where they are. When dinner is almost ready, I can call and let them know it’s time to come home. If they’ve seen something funny or fascinating, they can call me and tell me about it.
The watch also allows for the set-up of Safe Zones, with alerts to let you know when your child arrives and leaves these zones. The park is a Safe Zone for my children. One evening, I received a message telling me they’d left that particular Safe Zone. I could see they weren’t far but I could see they weren’t on their way home.
It was a moment or two of unease before I remembered that I could call and check what they were doing. It turned out their soccer ball had bounced away and they’d had to give chase. Soon enough, they were back in the park, back in the Safe Zone, and I could see that.
The other thing I was initially worried about was my son wearing his SpaceTalk watch at school. I was keen for him to do so as he wanted to start walking there. With SpaceTalk’s GPS and messaging features I was now comfortable for him to give it a go. This is where SpaceTalk’s School Mode comes into play. School Mode basically turns the SpaceTalk watch into a wristwatch. Best of all, as soon as school finishes, you can remotely turn off School Mode so you can touch base with your kid to check in on their day or arrange pick up. I spoke to his teacher and she was absolutely fine with him wearing it to school, and mentioned she was looking into purchasing one for her daughter.
My son came home from school the first day after wearing his SpaceTalk watch looking pretty chuffed. He’d walked to and from himself (granted, we don’t live far away) and I could tell he was feeling rather grown up. About halfway through dinner, he asked me if we could add my mother, his grandmother, to his contacts list. She lives interstate and we don’t see her as much as we’d like. He told me his friend at school had said she calls her Nanna most nights before bed using her SpaceTalk watch.
He didn’t have to ask me twice. We added his grandmother to the contacts list, and I gave her a little heads up call to let her know what was happening. That night, my ten-year-old sat in his Star Wars Pyjamas in bed and called his grandmother all by himself, on his watch.
I remember standing just outside the door, not wanting to intrude on their special moment, yet desperately straining my ears to try and soak up the sweetness of it.
My mother texted me later that night saying the call had absolutely made her day.
In this digital age, technology is so often posed as poison. It’s labelled addictive, detrimental to learning, a curse of disconnection. I don’t believe that’s true of all technology. If anything, technology can be a weapon for connectivity.
If my son can call his grandma by himself from a device I know is secure, if this device can let me know that he is safe when he’s playing in the park, and can allow him to send me a message saying he saw a dog that looked like ours on his walk to school, then I’m all in.