My wife and I were debating whether to buy our pre-teen kids smartphones, as recommended by their primary school for safety reasons.
Then one day, we lost track of our daughter on Wynyard Quarter (yes, I had my face buried in my own smartphone at the time of her disappearance).
We found her again a few minutes later after security guards at a neighbouring boat show volunteered to perform a grid search of the wharf (and, helpfully, I was able to show them a photo I had taken of my daughter just a few minutes earlier – see, my smartphone obsession is good for something).
But it was still case-closed. We went out and bought smartphones for our kids the next day.
Now Spark is releasing an alternative: “Spacetalk“, a kids all-in-one smartphone, watch and GPS that will sell for $399 from November 14, with a 24-month interest-free payment option.
To locate your tykes and track where they've been via an app called All My Tribe, you'll have to pay $6.99 a month (for two watches) or $9.99 a month (for up to five watches) via Apple or Google's app store. Data and calls are an additional $7.99 a month per watch via Spark's SmartPlan.
The Spacetrack has limited features. It offers no open internet access and doesn't support any social media apps. But Spark talks that up as a virtue, and many parents of young kids will agree.
And it does feature an SOS button, plus smarts such as the ability to alert you if your child strays beyond a pre-defined geographical area.
A child's calling contacts are stored on a parent's phone, and you can restrict which contacts a child can call from their Spacetalk.
Asked about privacy concerns, Spark spokeswoman said, “All of the server data associated with the kids watch is stored locally in Australia by Spacetalk. Data traffic between Spacetalk, the All My Tribe app, and their servers are encrypted. They also utilise two-factor authentication in the device pairing process.”
A Spacetalk watch is not cheap given you can pick up a decent Android smartphone for $100 to $200 and use that to track your tykes via a “find my phone” feature or the All My Tribe app, which is also sold separately via Google and Apple's app stores. But if you're after a simple solution, it seems worth a look.