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Stay Connected With Your Kids With This Smartphone Alternative

Did you know your kids can send and receive calls and messages, send an emergency alert and even make purchases with apple pay – all without a smartphone?

If you’re looking for a way to stay connected with your kids while limiting their access to games, video, internet and more – this idea just might be for you.

It’s called iwatch Family Setup and thousands of parents are using it.

SIDE NOTE: In this article I am only going to talk about the iWatch and iPhone setup as I am not familiar with Android. But, I may enlist a friend to help me with that side of it later down the road.

TRIGGER WARNING: We talk about teen suicide and addiction to devices in this post.


I know that this is a controversial topic, but it’s time to admit that kids just aren’t ready for the world available to them via smartphones. You may have read the meme going around the internet that says something about “The inventor that never invented, the writer that never wrote, the artist that never picked up a paint brush.” Well, that quote was in regards to kids that never found their passion through play, imagination and exploring because they were absorbed by screens. And it’s true. We allowed our young daughter to have a tablet for travel days and watched her slowly become addicted. My definition of addiction may be different, but when a child wakes up and the first thing on their mind is their iPad, there’s an issue.

Let’s deep dive a little more….


When a child is bored their imagination takes off. They figure out ways to play with what they have. They color, create, play, go outside. There’s decades of data to support that children playing is what drives creativity.

Additionally, children that are bored figure out who they are while trying to make decisions about what they want to do. What do they enjoy? What do they love? A child with an iPad always has a wide variety of things to do, so much so that Fatherly magazine says boredom itself is becoming endangered.


This sleep study from this University of Utah found that children between 6 and 15 who had a smartphone in their bedroom typically get 41% less sleep than their phoneless peers. Why? I am sure you’ve heard parents having to repeatedly tell their kids to put the device away and go to sleep. That’s just the start of it.

This article from Scientific American said that kids having a device in their room get less sleep just because they are THINKING about getting on their device and it’s not just the device calling them. If they have social media, youtube or other apps where people they know might be talking or posting, they feel like they are missing something. It’s a great article, you can read the whole thing here.


Iphones, tablets and other devices are addicting. If you have a smartphone, you most likely understand what I am talking about.

According to this Parent’s magazine article, some signs of phone addiction may be:

  • Switching between multiple devices and programs (social networking, texting, gaming, etc.)
  • Extreme reactions when separated from their device
  • Impatience, irritability, restlessness, inability to focus in school when separated from their phone
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased social challenges

I have also personally witnessed kids who have been on their devices way to much become irritable and even angry when it’s taken away, they can’t find a charger, etc.

If you aren’t sure on this one, Google it. There are SO many articles written by professionals on addiction to smartphones.


I don’t know about you, but it feels like kids just aren’t outside much these days. There are a lot of movements out there like 1000 Hours Outside that is doing a great job of educating and encouraging. There are books like Last Child in the Woods, Balanced and Barefoot and others that talk about being outside and it’s importance. Personally I feel like kids want to sit in their air conditioned home on their devices and outside doesn’t work well with that. They can’t see their screens in the sunshine. They can’t play in the rain with their phone in their hands.

Get them outside.


According to America’s Health Rankings, teen suicide has spiked in recent years. We currently lose 11 children out of every 100,000 to suicide. It’s a top 3 cause of death for kids.

While there are many reasons children commit suicide, bullying and social media harassment is among the top causes. Most of this occurs via their phones.

In 2019 our kids decided they wanted to try going back to public school after homeschooling for most of their education. Our 6′ tall gentle giant son who loves traveling and is kind to everyone was harassed via his phone the minute his phone number got out. We enrolled in August and by December a girl in his class that had a crush on him (Ethan is STILL oblivious to girls three years later) was mad he didn’t reciprocate and pretended to be a boy named Dusty. The conversation escalated to “Dusty” vaguely threatening to shoot Ethan in the locker room during gym.

This kind of harassment is not only frightening because of school shootings, but this right here is why kids harm themselves. Imagine if they have a revealing picture or video they’re using against you? It can be a lot for a kid. In our case, the school did exactly NOTHING. The response to the email I sent with these screenshots…..

I went into the office, realized they were going to do nothing and withdrew my son from school on the spot. They made her write an apology letter. In the age of school shootings and fear of it happening again in public schools, her punishment was a letter. We never got it. We never returned to retrieve his instrument, the stuff in his locker or the apology letter they forced her to write. They also couldn’t be bothered to mail it to our home. This is a small school graduating 100 students a year. Imagine schools graduating a thousand+ kids each year. There’s no way they can monitor everything that is going on and respond accordingly.

You can read about other reasons not to give a smartphone to your kids here.


There’s other things we love about the iWatch for kids.

  • You can restrict who can call and message your kids. Likewise you can restrict who they call and message.
  • Very limited app capabilities – no youtube, safari, etc.
  • You can set up Apple Cash to allow your kiddos to pay for things while they are out and about without needing to take money or a smartphone with it installed.


Parents in the Parenting in a Tech World Facebook group have reported that some watches tend to burn through their battery rather quickly. As of right now, there’s no way to charge them on the go unless you take the watch off. Your kiddo could always have a battery pack with their watch charger and put it in a backpack, but let’s be honest, that might not always be a great option.

This stand charger is a great option for night time charging. For portable charging we really like pairing this USB charger with a portable charger like this one.


You want to look for a watch with cellular data. It can work independently from your phone and you can set up Family Setup with just a few steps.

A lot of people use the SE version with cellular.

Once you have your watch, you will go to family setup on your iphone and begin pairing watches. You will pick a family member or set up a new family member. You can setup if they have to ask to buy anything via their watch. Set up cellular (this you will need to make sure your carrier supports before investing in smartwatches). From there you can set up contacts, apple cash and more.

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