This Christmas, my 10-year-old cousin got an Apple Watch from her parents and it triggered my reportorial instincts. “What does a 10-year-old do with the latest in wearable tech?” I thought. I needed to get to the bottom of this.
On one of the days between Christmas and New Year’s, I was working out of Technical.ly’s home base in Philadelphia. My mom was babysitting my cousins, the 10-year-old and her 3-year-old sister, who live in the suburbs. I suggested they come into the city for lunch so I could interview my cousin about her new watch.
Before the big interview, I did some research. The average age for a U.S. child to get their first phone is 12.1 years old, according to Growing Wireless, a nonprofit organization that represents the communications industry. The major fears parents seem to have about their children using mobile devices seem to be that they’ll waste time and, when older, will sext each other.
We headed to the most child-friendly place we could find, Cosi, on 4th and Chestnut. I worked over the questions in my head. What would a 10-year-old need a smartphone for? What does she do with it? What does it say about society?
As it turns out, not that much, really.
For one, she shows up on time to her appointments now, the primary of those being a standing meeting with the Council Rock school bus each morning.
“I’ll definitely be on time now,” my cousin explained.
I asked how come.
“Because it tells you the time,” she explained, as if she were talking to a child. Fair enough.
I asked what else she uses it for and her answers were matter of fact. She texts her mom and her friends from school. She plays games on it.
“It’s basically like a miniature version of your phone,” she said, with some exasperation, hoping that maybe that would be what made it click for me.
I’d heard she was up late the night before because she and her friends had had an epic flame war in a group chat. After more than 200 messages and well after midnight, my cousin said, she had to power her watch and phone off and go to sleep.
“It all started with my friend, well he’s in my class, he was playing Xbox One S, which you can play through the internet,” she said. “And he got in an argument with his other friend and his other friend killed him on the TV and he was mad about it so then they started making rumors about it.”
My cousin said the reasons she asked for the Apple Watch for Christmas in the first place were “because it’s cool” and “because my friend has it.”
Still, how does one even text on such a tiny screen, I wanted to know. My cousin said she uses the predictive texts, which appear in a scroll down menu, or, if you draw each letter, the phone puts them together into a text. She showed me, texting me the word “SEe.” Doesn’t that take a long time though, I asked?
“Yeah, it does,” she said.
So does she use the preset answers more?
“I use the talking to it.”
Just talking to it and it writes it as a text?
And does that work?
There’s no revelatory insight that comes out of the lunch. My cousin has an Apple Watch and uses it for totally normal 10-year-old things and doesn’t get why I don’t get it. In fact, a recent check on the Battery app on my phone showed that by far what I spend the most time on are the Twitter app and the game Threes, which are respectively, essentially a mega group chat flame war and an iPhone game.
The only insight I would have is more relevant to me than to wider society.
Kids are born into the world at a specific time and don’t have the memory I do of what it was like before that. The first Apple Watch came out in 2015, when she was 7 and I was 25. I didn’t marvel that video games were invented before I was born and didn’t think there was anything particularly interesting about kids playing on their Game Boys either. If I’d had an older cousin who would’ve been like “It’s a videogame in your hand???” I would’ve been like, “Yeah.”
Knowledge is power!
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