Kids' watch that I can send a signal to: does this exist?
June 5, 2017 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I don't need GPS, I don't need texting or two-way calling, just looking for a kids' watch that I can send a signal to (via app?) so I can call my kid home even if he's out of shouting range. Does this exist?

Kid is six years old, and is allowed to go around the block to friends' houses. He currently just has a cheap digital watch with an alarm set for 6:30 which is our normal dinner time, but I find that sometimes we have to track him down so we can go to the store etc. and it would be really handy to be able to press a button on a smartphone app and have an alarm go off on his watch letting him know we'd like him to come home.

There are so many tech toys that I don't think what I'm looking for exists, but I just wanted to throw this out to the hivemind in case I'm missing something.
posted by rabbitrabbit to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know it's more features than you want, but if you don't find exactly the device you're looking for, a wristband walkie-talkie might work for you.
posted by Kriesa at 8:47 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're looking for a pager. Remember those? It's a little device and it has a phone number and you call that number and the person carrying it gets an alert, no matter where they are. If you're the only one that uses it, your son will know it means to come home.

As a bonus he could potentially hand the number out to friends, so he can know if they want him to call or stop by or whatever. This is how a lot of us used pagers before ubiquitous cell phones.

Anyway, they may be seen as sort of archaic but they are cheap and they work well. Customarily they clip to a belt or ride in a pocket, but watch style ones are available.

See here for a piece on why pagers are still useful for many people, even in 2017.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:53 AM on June 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

The number of options for paging services is of course much smaller now, but at a quick skim I see handful of providers in the USA, these guys will give you a "free" good quality Motorola pager when you buy a 12-month service contract at ~$12/month. That's about the same price (inflation adjusted) as I paid in the 90s. 40 cents a day seems like a good deal to be able to ping your kid whenever you want. It's not a watch, but I imagine you could fit it to a wrist strap if you really wanted.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:12 AM on June 5, 2017

Came to say what SaltySalticid beat me to saying, a pager. Don't know, but don't think you can send a page to a watch, but I have a vague remembrance that pagers that are worn on the wrist like a watch exist. I never saw or used one.

I wore one for many years (as an adult, not a six year old) for the very purpose you describe, to contact me because I was not near a phone all day. I arranged different codes with my wife. If she texted 911, it was an emergency and call home immediately. (Only got that once.) a series of 33333333s meant one thing and 4444444s, etc another.
posted by AugustWest at 9:16 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

When thinking about why such a thing doesn't or does exist and in what form, consider how the signal would get conveyed to the device. (I was just sitting here idly considering how such a thing could be rolled on one's own with existing microcontrollers.) If your son is out of shouting distance, he's probably out of Bluetooth range as well. And no guarantees he's on a wifi network either. So really you're just left with cellular networks. So, it'd really have to be a device that hooks into a cellular network. I.e., a pager. (Smart watches mostly operate via Bluetooth connection to the wearer's smartphone, because the assumption is that the wearer and the phone-owner are the same person and the watch is at best a foot or two away from the watch at all times.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

We got a 2 mile family radio band walkie-talkie thing
posted by tilde at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2017

Response by poster: I think the wristband walkie-talkie idea might be my best bet. A pager, at $12/mo, is about what it would cost to just get one of the GPS ones that require a SIM, since I could add him to my T-mo plan for $10/mo.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:42 AM on June 5, 2017

As a note, walkie talkie range is greatly impacted by hills. If you're in a flat location, that's all well and good, but if you live at a bottom/side of a hill, range is crap. Also, consider that with a walkie talkie, your kids is now exposed to all the other people with walkie talkies. Yes, other people still have walkie talkies. After we found our youngest talking to some random dude rather than changing to an unoccupied channel, we took them away and they were only given out on request for specific outtings.

Because of the obvious reasons that soren_lorensen brings up, something that makes use of a cellular network is ultimately going to be the most useful, even if it's an ongoing cost.
posted by nobeagle at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2017

Just as a data point, pagers were real cool when I was in middle school and I don't think it would be a good option for a 6 year old as it isn't attached to your body - even at 14 or 15 I did dumb shit like accidentally flush it down the toilet. I think a wearable solution is key here.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 11:08 AM on June 5, 2017

Just wanted to note that we went with a walkie talkie for my son (not a wrist one) and it was a less than ideal result because it didn't always work in, say, friends' basements or in our ravine-laden landscape. It's still been nice for checking in on the walk to/from school.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just another data point on walkie-talkies: we use a pair of pretty cheap Midland walkie-talkies for our now-9-year-old for exactly that purpose (calling him home), and they work well within the range that he's allowed to travel unsupervised within our neighborhood. I think we started him on them when he was 7 or 8. We use the clips (surprisingly strong) to clip his to a pocket, etc. but I'm glad to hear that a wristband is a possibility. You know your neighborhood context and can judge for yourself the likelihood of someone else using a walkie-talkie on the same frequency in the same neighborhood within transmission range of your kid.
posted by spamloaf at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2017

Best answer: I've just researched this kind of thing and I think the Tinitell is the best option:

Wristband mobile phone that can make and receive calls. Also has GPS tracker. No screen. Durable.
posted by Cygnet at 5:32 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, Cygnet. We may go that route eventually, that looks like a great solution though the initial outlay is a little high. Our neighborhood is flat, his territory is small, and we know most of the neighbors so I'm going to try the walkie-talkies first.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:59 AM on June 6, 2017

I know, they're so pricy. There are cheaper ones, but they're either too large for a small child's wrist, or have a screen which can a) break and b) be very distracting. I do plan to get one for my 3yo for very particular reasons in a few months, but yeah, $$$!
posted by Cygnet at 7:14 AM on June 6, 2017

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