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I have something to confess.
This year, on our holiday to Greece, I lost Elfie.
It’s the first time this has ever happened. I’m one of those borderline helicopter parents: I hover over my kids, know where they are at every single moment. I always tell them I have eyes in the back of my head and it’s kind of true, I have this innate and instinctive gift to automatically scan a room every three seconds to check their wellbeing and whereabouts.
But as Elfie is now seven and about to head off to big school this September – she’ll be taking the school bus into our local town rather than walking with mummy up to the village school – I’m trying to give her a little more freedom. She’s craving and ready for a little more independence, and as a sensible and intelligent girl I think she deserves it.
Which is why, when we were getting ready to leave the pool on holiday at Levante, I agreed Elfie could go 30 seconds ahead to our hotel room so she could change to meet her friends at the kid’s club, with Hux and I following right behind. Excited to be able to do something so grown-up without her mum she whizzed off and up the stairs to our room.
Only when I got there and knocked on the door there was no sign of her.
Long story short, she’d changed in approximately 30 seconds flat and taken off to meet her Kid’s Club alone, forgetting in her eagerness that we were to meet and leave together. By then the head of childcare had initiated Mark Warner’s Lost Child Procedure: the hotel was on lockdown and every member of staff was assembled ready to search. I would have been impressed with the efficiency of it all if I wasn’t trying not to have a panic attack with worry.
Within a couple of minutes we’d been reunited… I cried – she cried – we all cried. I had to have a big sit down and a bigger gin and tonic.
I can’t help thinking how different that situation would have been had she been wearing a Watchu.
The Watchu is a GPS SmartWatch and phone for kids. We’ve been trialling one for a week now and I can’t tell you how brilliant this little invention is: it’s made the whole process of me giving Elfie that little bit of independence so much easier.
Appearing like any other watch, the Watchu comes with a PAYG sim card that can be topped up online. As this is a ‘phone’ you have a number which will work in all EU countries and a pre-loaded amount of £3 credit, which you can top up online (the GPS is estimated to use approximately 30p a day).
You download an app to use in conjunction with the Watchu and the this is where the product becomes impressive.
Via the app interface you can track your child’s location using GPS, send them a voice message on their watch, listen in to what they’re doing without them knowing or make a voice call to them. On the child’s side, they have the facility to call your phone as well as an ’emergency’ feature that, once pressed, will call your phone until it’s answered and send you a message alerting you to the fact the button has been pressed.
You’re able to set administrators on the account: it’s only the numbers you specify that can communicate with the watch so no need to worry they’ll be in receipt of unwanted contact. You can also cleverly set ‘Geo-zones’ and will be alerted via the app if you child leaves the area defined by you on the app.
It also tracks footsteps which for Elfie is a huge bonus – she’s really into running and staying fit and healthy so she loves comparing her steps to mine on my Apple Watch.
The watch has really come into its own this week as the kids have gone off on holiday with their dad. I usually feel so disconnected from them when they’re away and I hate it: he lives two and a half hours away and I worry terribly about them on the long drive and despise the fact they’re so far from me. We have an agreement that he will text to let me know they’ve arrived safely but it’s usually so late when they get in that he often forgets, and I feel like a nag always texting to ask where they are.
This time I didn’t worry: as you can see in the screenshots above, the app shows you the watch’s live location. That’s Elfie on the way to their holiday with her daddy, and then when they reached the motorway in Wales. Being able to spot where they are really set my mind at ease, and made me feel like there was a little bit of me still with them :)
We haven’t used the voice message function too much apart from playing in the house but I imagine that’ll soon come into its own. I envisage myself sending her little notes when she’s at her dad’s: “don’t forget your homework this week!” or “remember to thank Auntie Josie for your birthday present!”
And of course I’ve been thinking about that time I lost Elfie, the sheer panic I felt and how, if we’d had the Watchu, the situation could have been resolved with a quick press of a button. I could have called the watch immediately, used GPS to confirm her location was still firmly in the hotel and been re-united with her much quicker. And probably drank a lot less gin that day.
At 7 years old Elfie is far too young for a phone, something I wondered if I should get her if she’s off on the school bus every day. The Watchu is the perfect interim solution: there’s no need to worry about her being the target of inappropriate communications, yet she is able to reach me in an emergency. I can track her whereabouts for peace of mind and she gets a very cool bit of wrist gear out of the deal.
I can’t recommend this product enough for parents whose children spend any period of time away from them. This helicopter parent is very happy!
Thanks to Watchu for sending Elfie a Watchu to trial. We love the watch and I’ll be purchasing one for Hux when he’s a little older.