As the wearables market matures and consumers become more comfortable tracking and measuring their own data, manufacturers are shifting attention to the youth market to develop wearable technology that’s best for them. It’s no surprise! As adults, we are constantly connected through the devices we carry and the platforms we engage each other on. In contrast, with only about 25 percent of children younger than five owning a smartphone, and the fact that children spend so much time away from their parents while in school, daycare, or with nannies, the idea that we can’t have the same level of constant connection with our children can be unnerving. Wearable tech has provided not just a way to measure a child’s health, but also a way to give guardians assurance that their children are doing well, particularly when the caretakers are not there to check for themselves.
Unlike wearables for adults, which attempt to provide as much value as possible, wearable devices for kids have so far been designed with very specific, and even limiting, purposes. For babies, Sensible Baby sells a newborn’s onesie made with a tiny embedded sensor in a front pocket; it can alert the parent when her baby stops sleeping on his back, moving, or breathing, or when the room temperature is not ideal. The Huggies TweetPee device clips onto a diaper and sends parents a message when their child’s diaper is wet. For kids 4-11, FiLIP is a smart locator that focuses on tracking and transmitting a child’s location. And for children of all ages, WatchMinder allows parents to create discreet cues throughout the day, which remind children to perform specific tasks and modify or reinforce specific behaviors, something that’s particularly helpful in schools for kids with behavioral disorders.
The possibilities for wearables devices for the youth market are endless, but there are two key areas of improvement that can help the space grow:
Considering that elementary-grade students spend more time in school than they do in any other location, the educational environment has to be open to students wearing and engaging with wearable technology throughout the day. But since engagement with personal technology is generally frowned upon already, this might prove a challenge in the short term. It’s also just the first step; schools can help encourage habitual usage of these wearables by integrating them into lesson plans and subjects.
Kids play hard – which can make it easy for them to lose a wearable device. They also tend to have interests that shift quickly. They could easily lose interest in or just plain lose a wearable, making it more difficult to sell parents on the idea of spending money on wearables for them as opposed to for a more responsible adult. The cost of this technology needs to be a lot cheaper, particularly the technology that suits a specific developmental stage of a child, like toddlers, or hase a way to trade in, upgrade, and easily replace the hardware when lost or outgrown.