There are good reasons to raise an eyebrow about smartwatches designed for kids, given how much time they already spend starting at screens. But the Mellow Watch, which comes complete with contactless payment abilities, makes a strong case for itself as a tool to help kids not only earn money, but spend it responsibly too.
Wearables for kids aren’t a new idea; companies like Garmin make fitness trackers that motivate kids to get off the couch, while electronic toy makers like VTech have camera-equipped watches for snapping selfies without all the concerns that come with a smartphone. But for being targeted at kids, the Mellow Watch is surprisingly full-featured, with 3G and 4G connectivity through a nano-SIM card, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, a 1.4-inch color touchscreen, a pedometer for step-tracking, and even NFC, which lets kids make actual contactless purchases.
The Mellow Watch is a standalone device for kids—your five-year-old doesn’t need to have a smartphone to use it—but it still connects to an accompanying app on a parent’s or guardian’s phone that provides peace of mind by letting them track the location of a child while they’re out and about, and even make two way voice calls.
But the most compelling reason to strap the Mellow Watch to a kid is that it allows them to earn money, either from an allowance or by doing assigned chores, through a virtual debit card issued by Visa or Mastercard. The card’s balance can be tracked by kids on the watch, but through the accompanying smartphone app too, allowing parents and guardians to both transfer money to it and monitor all the purchases the kids make through tap-to-pay terminals.
The piggy bank has gone the way of the Dodo, and while many banks allow kids to open accounts with an issued debit card, there’s a good chance those won’t actually exist either when today’s kids are grown up and on their own. The Mellow Watch is not just about getting kids comfortable with the payment technology, but teaching them to be responsible about money and understand what goes into earning it, which is important given the days of painstakingly counting out bills and coins to make a purchase are coming to an end.
The Mellow Watch won’t actually be available until mid-August, and even then, you won’t be able to find it on store shelves. Mellow is making the watch available through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign launching on August 16, with details about pricing and when the smartwatch is expected to ship out being revealed next month. There’s a certain irony about backing a crowdfunded product designed to teach responsible spending given how many crowdfunded products have failed and taken backers’ money with nothing in return, so the best lesson for kids might actually be pointing out that it’s a good idea to wait until the Mellow Watch is actually shipping before spending any money on it.