There's now a habit-tracking smart watch for kids and it's all a bit Black Mirror

8th Jan 18 | Family

The Octopus Kids Habit Tracking Watch will help manage your child's schedule, but is it one step too far in parental monitoring?

Girl watching television

In the second episode of the new season of Black Mirror, Arkangel, screenwriter Charlie Brooker introduces us to a dystopian future where a child is given an implant that allows her mother to monitor her life through a tablet – following her location, seeing through her eyes and restricting violent and upsetting content.

Brooker’s suspenseful, stand-alone dramas have long attempted to examine the unease and unanticipated consequences new technologies could have on generations to come – but it looks as though his child-tracking possible future might not be so far off.

A newly launched wearable, the Octopus Kids Habit Tracking Watch by Joy, allows parents to plug in daily reminders that will alert children to daily tasks and chores, such as brushing their teeth, limiting screen time and getting enough exercise.

The fun and colourful watch, which was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo last year, is designed to allow parents to instil good time management skills at an early age.

Grown-ups can control the reminders through an accompanying smartphone app, where they can schedule daily recurring tasks or one-off reminders.

The device, which costs £60 ($79.99) and is designed for children aged three to eight, also helps children learn to tell the time through the use of icons. For instance, when it’s 6pm, the watch will bleep and flash a dinner symbol on its screen.

“Studies have shown that children under eight years old don’t understand the concept of time, let alone remember what to do when a certain time rolls around,” the wearable’s Kickstarter campaign page notes.

“We have designed the first watch that helps them understand how parents expect them to use their time. We believe this will help children form good habits and help them to take responsibility for their actions.”

As well as helping children develop better time management skills, the watch also has a major benefit for parents – it limits the amount of time they have to verbally coerce their children into following their commands.

“It’s a scheduler for parents who are tired of power struggles,” the Kickstarter continues. “It becomes a partner in parenting by helping to enact proven methodology. For example, kids learn better when given specific instructions.

“Octopus can help to break down tasks and go step by step. Example: ‘Put the blocks in their container, then tidy up the robots in their box, then come to dinner’.”

Octopus might sound like a revelation if it’s the first you’ve heard of kid-tracking tech, but this isn’t the first wearable to hit the market for teens and tots.

AngelSense is a device specifically designed for children with special needs, allowing parents to track the whereabouts of their child and use a ‘listen-in’ function that lets them hear how their child’s day is going, ensuring they’re not mistreated or lost.

Adult wearable brand Garmin also have a Disney-endorsed version for kids, reminding kids to stay active, monitoring their sleep and, again, allowing parents to assign chores through a smartphone app. Kids can even earn virtual coins for every task assigned.

Helpful AI assistants for frazzled parents or insidious and controlling tech?

There’s certainly an appetite for it (the Octopus Kids Habit Tracking Watch crowdfunded over $700,000, smashing its initial $50,000 goal), but a recent report compiled by the Norwegian Consumer Council and published by the European Consumer Organization leans towards the latter.

It revealed children’s wearables can be compromised in all kinds of ways, adding that anyone with the right technical acumen can hack into your children’s confidential information such as GPS whereabouts, conversations and even access a front-facing camera.

Of course, adult wearables are a huge market (around one in six of us owns one) so it’s no surprise we’re using these devices to improve our children’s health and give parental peace of mind.

But could we eventually see a backlash from centennials who are developing unhealthy attachments to tech at an early age? Anyone who’s watched the new series of Black Mirror will know how Brooker predicts a child-tracking future might spiral out of control.

For now, Big Brother is certainly watching.

© Press Association 2018