I know what you’re thinking. Why would a watch website publish an article against smartwatches?
While we love smartwatches (and of course watches in general), we also want to cover both sides of the story and looking at both the pros and cons.
Secondly, we understand that different people have different perspectives. Some readers have questioned us on articles such as this list of best smartwatches for Kids or this one we published praising the benefits and recommending reasons to buy smartwatches for kids.
Most smartwatch makers will tell you their products are the answer to all your problems because that’s the nature of marketing. Good products solve bad problems. But we recognize that sometimes good things can be bad in certain situations.
One exception to any potential ban that we definitely agree to is allowing talking watches for blind or visually impaired students as these wearables are a very useful tool and necessary tool – taking them away would be out of the question.
Lastly, and more personally, I am a parent and educator who is a personal smartwatch addict. I cannot tell you the depth of my love for wearable technology.
The alluring glow of text alerts and the soft vibration of an incoming phone call on my wrist makes me warm and fuzzy inside. The feelings of connection to my friends and family bring me joy.
But I’ve never bought a smartwatch for my kids. Not because I don’t love them. I do love them. But because of at least one or more of the reasons I’m about to share with you.
Proponents for kids and smartwatches
Before I continue, I’d like to make a few things clear: We’re not claiming that parents that give children smartwatches aren’t concerned about their kids. This UK mom is not the only one who believes kids should wear smartwatches, even in schools.
Series arguments Against Kids Using Smartwatches
There are a few arguments against children having smartwatches in general, safety being at the forefront. In fact, in 2017 Germany made it illegal to sell smartwatches to and for kids, citing they could be used to illegally track and spy on children and their surroundings.
Another concern is the level of possible cancer-causing radiation.
Smartwatches in school take the concern to another level. Here are five of the reasons why.
Reasons Why Schools Should Ban Smartwatches
Many watches marketed for younger children come with built-in cameras and microphones that allow parents to monitor their children’s activities and safety.
Unfortunately, parents aren’t the only ones with access to their kids.
Hackers can also mess with the location service in your child’s smartwatch, tracking their location and even allowing them to send you false location signals. You think your watch guarantees you always have an eye on your child’s whereabouts, but such is not the case. And that is a frightening thought.
These problems arise due to a lack of proper and secure encryption—translating data into a different code that can only be accessed with a certain key or password. This means information from your child’s smartwatch can be sent to servers around the world in its original form, ripe for hackers to snag.
When looking at these safety concerns with our kids’ schools in mind, it’s clear that smartwatches in schools pose a safety risk not just for the watch wearer, but for their classmates and school staff as well.
When I send my child to school, I want to picture her safely in class, learning, having healthy associations, and developing into a quality person who will contribute to the world in a positive way.
I don’t like to think that she is vulnerable to the outside world within the walls of her school.
But she is.
Research has shown that many smartwatches are easily hackable. Unauthorized people can listen to your child’s conversations, surroundings, make calls from their number, and more. This means they can gain illegal access to phone numbers, addresses, and other information stored on the smartwatch.
I don’t want some stranger on the other side of the world, or even the other side of town, knowing my child’s school address, let alone where we live or other personal information.
In a school setting, hackers can gain information about and access to our kids by illegally listening in on classroom and recess activities. We open up our children and those around them to literal virtual Peeping Toms.
Putting safety and privacy concerns aside (hopefully not too far), smartwatches can also be a huge distraction to our kid’s learning.
There are a number of reasons our kids struggle to focus in class, external distractions being one of them. As a parent and an educator, I can tell you half the battle is getting and keeping the attention of kids and teens.
Constant notifications and the appeal of gameplay can keep a child’s focus more on his wrist than on the curriculum. Smartwatches have proven such a distraction that certain public schools in Australia are banning their use during the school day.
Cheating on tests is not a new thing, unfortunately.
In the past, students resorted to writing answers on their hands, memorizing stolen answer keys, or sneaking in test answers on slips of paper in order to cheat on tests.
Nowadays, students can cheat almost imperceptibly right from their smartwatches. In fact, some students purchase smartwatches for that very purpose.
Viewing pictures of answers and notes, internet searches, and video and audio playback features allow students to cheat on tests with ease.
The problem has become so pervasive that many schools and colleges are banning smartwatches during testing times and, in some cases, even all together.
Communication between school officials and parents has always been key to a student’s safety and success. But, with the growing number of smartwatches and cell phones on student’s wrists, schools are discovering that students often bypass the official lines of communication and contact their parents directly.
This may not sound like an issue, but for some schools it is. Circumstances such as illness should be notified by students to teachers first, who then can follow the proper protocol to engage parents if needed. This ensures that safety protocols can be taken in the classroom if necessary.
The same can be said for situations where a student is being bullied or abused. If my child is experiencing abuse or bullying at school, you can guarantee I would want to know. And I should know. However, the school should also be made aware, sometimes even before the parent in cases of acute and immediate danger.
Often kids who experience bullying or abuse are embarrassed and don’t want the school to “make a big deal out of it.” Our kids’ safety is important to educators. There are many ways they can help create a safe environment for our kids, but they can’t if they aren’t aware of the problem.
Time and Place
I personally, adore wearable technology. We believe in general the pros outweigh the cons.
However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, even good things can be bad in the wrong places. A plugged-in toaster on your counter is good. A plugged-in toaster in the bathtub is bad.
Smartwatches can provide an added layer of connectivity and richness to our lives. But, when misused in settings such as schools, they can rob our children of learning opportunities and education, as well as compromise safety and privacy. For this writer, mom, and educator, the damaging cons far outweigh the convenient pros.