watchOS 7: Family Setup Features, Requirements, and Activation Steps

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Alongside the launch of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, and the new watchOS 7 software update, Apple introduced a Family Setup feature that's designed to allow parents to set up Apple Watches for their children, letting an Apple Watch be used without an iPhone.


While Family Setup is primarily aimed at families with children, it's also useful for setting up an Apple Watch for an older adult or anyone else who doesn't have an iPhone available but wants to take advantage of the fitness and health benefits provided by Apple's wrist-worn wearable.

This guide covers getting started with Family Setup and outlines the available Family Setup features.

Family Setup Requirements

Family Setup is designed to work with a GPS and Cellular enabled Apple Watch Series 4 or later that's running watchOS 7. It is not compatible with earlier Apple Watch models nor with those that do not have a cellular connection.


Cellular Apple Watch models require an accompanying cellular plan, which is generally priced at $10 per month with most carriers in the United States. Note that while a cellular Apple Watch is required to set up a watch under Family Setup, it can be activated without using a cellular plan.

The main person setting up Family Setup must have an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 14 installed, and all participants will need an Apple ID and will need to be part of a Family Sharing setup, though these last two requirements can be worked out during the setup process.

Setting Up Family Setup on iPhone

Prior to launching the Family Setup process, it's best to make sure that each child or older adult that will participate has an Apple ID. We have how tos for creating an Apple ID on iPhone or iPad or on a Mac, as well as a tutorial on using Family Sharing. Two-factor authentication is also a requirement for each Apple ID, so make sure that's turned on as well.

If you don't have an Apple ID set up for each member in the family and Family Sharing isn't enabled these can be activated during Family Setup, but it will be a faster, smoother process if the prerequisites are completed ahead of time.
  1. Turn on the Apple Watch and erase it so it can be set up as new if it hasn't been erased already and isn't already a fresh out of the box device.
  2. Open up the Apple Watch app, go to the Apple Watch setup screen, and choose Set Up For Family Member.
  3. Pair the Apple Watch with the iPhone by lining up the graphic on the watch's display with the appropriate area on the iPhone using the iPhone's camera. watchOS 7 is required.
  4. Tap Set Up Apple Watch.
  5. Agree to the Terms and Conditions, select a wrist preference, choose a text size for the Apple Watch, and then select a passcode.
  6. Select a family member from your Family Sharing setup that you prepared prior to the Apple Watch setup process. If the person is not a part of the Family Sharing group, you can choose to Add New Family Member and enter their Apple ID.
  7. If you chose the Apple ID route, you will need to go through some verification steps and enable two-factor authentication if it's not turned on. If you already had Family Sharing set up, enter the family member's Apple ID password to continue.
  8. Opt to turn on Ask to Buy or Location Sharing.
  9. Set up cellular and WiFi access. Setting up cellular access will require going through your carrier, such as Verizon or AT&T. This is a process that varies by carrier and can't be specifically demonstrated, but Apple and your carrier will walk you through the process on screen.
  10. You can also opt to set up cellular access at a later time and rely on WiFi, but cellular is required for continual connectivity without an iPhone. After setting up cellular or skipping it until later, tap to share your WiFi password with the Apple Watch.
  11. Go through the additional setup screens for Location Sharing, Siri, analytics, and more.
  12. Choose whether to set up Apple Cash Family, the feature that lets parents provide small amounts of cash to kids that can be used with Apple Pay for purchases. Parents can choose who their kids can send money to and receive money from. Agree to the Terms and Services, and confirm the legal name of your child.
  13. Continue through the setup process, enabling or disabling additional services such Messages in iCloud, Emergency SOS, Medical ID, Activity and route tracking options, Photos, trusted Contacts, Screen Time limits, Schooltime for limiting access during school hours, and a feature that lets parents view their children's health data, so daily activity can be monitored.
  14. After all of these settings are figured out, the Apple Watch will be ready to use and it will be listed under "Family Watches" in the Apple Watch app that belongs to the parent.
Available Features

There are a lot of steps necessary to get Family Setup ready to use because Apple offers parents quite a lot of control over what's enabled and how the Apple Watch functions.


Parents can choose to add Medical ID information, control Siri access, set an activity goal for daily movement, provide an allowance on Apple Watch, monitor their kids' location, control who kids can contact, and more, so plan to spend a good half hour to hour walking through all of the steps.

Apple added some unique Family Setup features that can be activated for kids, and we've outlined some of the most notable options you'll want to be aware of below. For the most part, all Apple Watch functionality is available and Apple Watches for kids work like Apple Watches for adults, but parents have more management options.

Screen Time and Contacts Monitoring

Parents are able to limit Apple Watch usage and the apps that can be accessed on the Apple Watch. Screen Time limits on Apple Watch are identical to Screen Time limits on iPhones and other devices, and can be managed by opening up the Settings app, choosing Screen Time, and selecting the child's name from the list.


For a more in-depth tutorial, check out our how tos for setting up Screen Time on an iPhone or on a Mac.

Parents can set up shared Contacts that will provide a set list of people that children can communicate with, which originate from the parent's own Contacts list.

Screen Time also includes a Communications Limits feature that lets parents dictate who a child can contact from their Contacts list and the times that those contacts can be interacted with on Apple Watch. This too is controlled through the Screen Time settings, with more info available here.

Schooltime

Schooltime is an Apple Watch-specific feature that was introduced with Family Setup. It lets parents lock down the Apple Watch during school hours with the aim of encouraging children to focus on their schoolwork.


Schooltime is different from Screen Time in that it can be deactivated by the child when the child turns the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch, which is useful for emergencies, but parents are notified in that situation.

Initiating Family Setup allows for Schooltime to be activated during the setup process, but parents can access and edit Schooltime features in the Apple Watch app on iPhone.


Schooltime can be set for specific times during school, and breaks during recess and lunchtime can be scheduled, which will let kids access their Apple Watches when school is not in session. When enabled, Schooltime blocks all apps and complications, as well as activating Do Not Disturb. Emergency calls and Notifications are able to break through the Do Not Disturb limitations, however.


Apple Cash Family

Parents can give their children "allowances" on the Apple Watch using the Apple Pay Cash feature, and kids can then use those funds to make Apple Pay purchases in stores that accept Apple Pay payments.


Apple Cash is sent through the Messages app on iPhone, and parents can send cash by typing in their kids' Apple ID email address and then using the built-in Apple Pay Messages feature to make a payment. Money sent to kids is stored in Apple Cash and can be accessed in the Apple Cash card in the Wallet app, where it can be used to make payments in stores.


Money given to kids is limited to the amount provided, and kids cannot make charges on linked credit cards or in any other way without parental permission. Kids can, however, send their available Apple Pay Cash to others, which is something to be aware of.


Purchases that kids make are displayed to parents, and parents can see what kids have bought and how their money has been used through the Wallet app on iPhone.

Health and Activity

For younger children (age 13 and under), the Activity app on the Apple Watch will show move minutes rather than a calorie-based activity goal, while older kids will still see the standard calories burned metric. Activity works the same as it does for any other Apple Watch, and kids (or older adults) are able to meet Move, Exercise, and Stand goals that are initially set up by the parent.


Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Run, and Outdoor Cycle exercises have been updated with tuning for children, and coaching notifications are tailored to kids' reading levels and enhanced with emoji.

Parents can also view their kids' data in the Health app if the feature is enabled during the setup process, with the info listed in the Health app under "Shared Health Data."

Apps

Kids can download apps and games for the Apple Watch from the Apple Watch App Store. Parents will need to approve purchases before apps can be downloaded, including those that cost money. Kids will get a prompt to "Ask" their parents for permission to download an app, which can be approved or denied. "Ask to Buy" can be turned off using Family Sharing settings in the Settings app.


Content can be controlled through the Content Restrictions feature of Screen Time.

Other Available Features

Here are some of the other things that kids can do with an LTE Apple Watch that uses Family Setup.
  • Communicate with Walkie-Talkie
  • Make phone and FaceTime audio calls
  • Send and receive Messages and emails
  • Create Memoji with the Memoji app
  • Access a family Calendar
  • View photos synced from a parent's phone
  • Access Reminders
  • Listen to Apple Music with headphones
  • Ask Siri questions
  • Ask Siri for translations
  • Use Maps for navigation
  • Access the Workouts app and receive Activity awards
  • Participate in Activity competitions with friends
  • Access Emergency SOS with the Apple Watch side button

Managing Family Setup Apple Watches

Parents can manage Family Setup Apple Watches through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. Just open it up, tap on "All Watches" at the top, and then tap on the child's Apple Watch to get to the settings options and controls.


Cellular Connectivity

To initiate Family Setup and add a family member's watch to the iPhone, the watch in question must be a Series 3 or later and it must have LTE connectivity. The LTE connection is required because GPS only Apple Watches without LTE rely on the iPhone for a connection, and with a standalone Apple Watch, there's no iPhone to connect to.


LTE Apple Watches can operate independently without any iPhone, enabling the Family Setup feature. That said, you can set up a cellular Apple Watch with Family Setup and then decline to enable cellular connectivity when prompted, and it will still work when WiFi is available.

Be aware, though, that the Apple Watch will only work with the one known WiFi network used to set it up and it won't otherwise be able to connect for communication and connectivity purposes.

Features for Older Adults

Many of the Family Setup features are aimed at parents with children, but there are also settings for people who want to manage Apple Watches for older adults that do not have an iPhone.

Older adults can take advantage of features like the X-Large watch face that's easy to see, fall detection, Emergency SOS, Medical ID, and irregular heart rhythm notifications.

Family Setup Limitations

Apple Watch Series 6 models that are set up with Family Setup are not able to access the Blood Oxygen app for blood oxygen measurements, a restriction that applies regardless of the Apple Watch owner's age.

Elderly relatives who have an Apple Watch Series 6 may want the Blood Oxygen app, so this is a limitation worth keeping in mind when deciding whether to use the Family Setup feature.

The following limitations also apply:
  • High and low heart rate notifications are only available for users aged 13 and older.
  • Irregular heart rhythm notifications and ECG are not available.
  • Sleep Tracking is not available.
  • Fall detection is only available for users aged 18 and older.
  • Apple Cash Family is limited to users under the age of 18.
  • Apple Pay with a credit, debit, or transit card is not available with Family Setup.
  • The Podcasts, Remote, News, Home, and Shortcuts apps are not available.
Battery Life

According to Apple, a watch controlled through Family Setup should last for approximately 14 hours before needing to be recharged. Apple bases that on the following estimated activities:
  • 70 time checks
  • 45 notifications
  • 20 minutes of app use
  • 5 minute phone call
  • 30 minute workout with music playback
Battery life will, of course, vary based on usage and by each device. The battery life estimates take into account LTE connectivity and operation over a cellular connection.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about Family Setup on Apple Watch or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.

Article Link: watchOS 7: Family Setup Features, Requirements, and Activation Steps
 
Last edited:

KittyKatta

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2011
735
518
SoCal
Genuinely curious, in what scenario is a Family Setup Watch a good fit?

Im not slamming the feature. But when you add up all the requirements then I’m not sure who this is for:

Age 5-11: For toddler to to big kid then a watch is a big and bulky block that offers no entertainment value

Age 12-14: For tweens then its too awkward and inefficient as a communication tool

Age 15-17: Teens most likely have a smartphone, but even a flip phone would feel more “practical” than only a watch.

Parent: Expensive hardware + monthly service for a limited feature child-tracker and a communication tool


Maybe there are practical scenarios for a kid watch that I missed, but considering how many of us have hand-me-down phones then its a shame that there arent these sort of Family Share features arent also available for a parent monitored family-shared phone.
 

gaximus

macrumors 65816
Oct 11, 2011
1,159
1,629
Genuinely curious, in what scenario is a Family Setup Watch a good fit?

Im not slamming the feature. But when you add up all the requirements then I’m not sure who this is for:

Age 5-11: For toddler to to big kid then a watch is a big and bulky block that offers no entertainment value

Age 12-14: For tweens then its too awkward and inefficient as a communication tool

Age 15-17: Teens most likely have a smartphone, but even a flip phone would feel more “practical” than only a watch.

Parent: Expensive hardware + monthly service for a limited feature child-tracker and a communication tool


Maybe there are practical scenarios for a kid watch that I missed, but considering how many of us have hand-me-down phones then its a shame that there arent these sort of Family Share features arent also available for a parent monitored family-shared phone.
We have two kids in the 5-11 age, and it's a great piece of mind knowing that I can see exactly where my kids are at any time. Also the Walkie-Talkie is pretty great for asking the kids a quick question or letting them know dinner is ready without having to yell across the house. I do wish that the solo loop had a smaller size than 1.
 

David Poninski

macrumors newbie
Aug 20, 2020
2
2
Coppell, TX
I've considered this, but a piece of tech over $200 is a hard pill to swallow for a 6 yr old. Also Apple Cash Family is somewhat of a joke. I set this up for my kiddo and she was not exactly thrilled she couldn't use it for apps or in-app purchases. I don't know how many kids 8 and below actually shop at Target or get coffee from Starbucks. I would venture to say close to none. Apple ID Funds and Apple Cash need to be merged or something. Really Apple's whole payment structure needs to be redone.
 
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yaxomoxay

macrumors demi-god
Mar 3, 2010
4,855
28,950
Texas
Genuinely curious, in what scenario is a Family Setup Watch a good fit?

Im not slamming the feature. But when you add up all the requirements then I’m not sure who this is for:

Age 5-11: For toddler to to big kid then a watch is a big and bulky block that offers no entertainment value

Age 12-14: For tweens then its too awkward and inefficient as a communication tool

Age 15-17: Teens most likely have a smartphone, but even a flip phone would feel more “practical” than only a watch.

Parent: Expensive hardware + monthly service for a limited feature child-tracker and a communication tool


Maybe there are practical scenarios for a kid watch that I missed, but considering how many of us have hand-me-down phones then its a shame that there arent these sort of Family Share features arent also available for a parent monitored family-shared phone.
I think this is a counter-reaction to what has happened so far, that is small kids (13yo and below) with iPhones, which in turn ends up being social media consumption if not worse stuff. This is the first step in saying that yes, we want to be always connected but to a point.
(and no, ScreenTime does not produce the same result).
 

trainwrecka

macrumors 6502
Apr 24, 2007
463
454
Earth
Genuinely curious, in what scenario is a Family Setup Watch a good fit?

Im not slamming the feature. But when you add up all the requirements then I’m not sure who this is for:

Age 5-11: For toddler to to big kid then a watch is a big and bulky block that offers no entertainment value

Age 12-14: For tweens then its too awkward and inefficient as a communication tool

Age 15-17: Teens most likely have a smartphone, but even a flip phone would feel more “practical” than only a watch.

Parent: Expensive hardware + monthly service for a limited feature child-tracker and a communication tool


Maybe there are practical scenarios for a kid watch that I missed, but considering how many of us have hand-me-down phones then its a shame that there arent these sort of Family Share features arent also available for a parent monitored family-shared phone.
The watch cuts all the fluff of the smartphone and gives me what I would want my kids to have a phone for (easily call, location services, emergencies, etc.).
 

Kleber20

macrumors member
Nov 21, 2013
50
61
When they announced this feature I was so excited until they mentioned that only the Apple Watch 4 and above could work with it... I own an Apple Watch 2 and wanted to give it to a person without an iPhone...
 

KittyKatta

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2011
735
518
SoCal
I think this is a counter-reaction to what has happened so far, that is small kids (13yo and below) with iPhones, which in turn ends up being social media consumption if not worse stuff. This is the first step in saying that yes, we want to be always connected but to a point.
(and no, ScreenTime does not produce the same result).
I agree that giving kids a gateway to social media is dangerous. But thats why I wish this Family Setup technology and the granular controls applied to phones also. A lot of parents hand down their old deactivated phones to their kids so I’m just thinking that these Parent-Controlled Watch options would fit better on a Parent-Controlled iPhone.
 

yaxomoxay

macrumors demi-god
Mar 3, 2010
4,855
28,950
Texas
I agree that giving kids a gateway to social media is dangerous. But thats why I wish this Family Setup technology and the granular controls applied to phones also. A lot of parents hand down their old deactivated phones to their kids so I’m just thinking that these Parent-Controlled Watch options would fit better on a Parent-Controlled iPhone.
The problem is that an iPhone is open to different functions. As a parent, I can hide them as much as I want behind Screen Time, Parental Controls, OurPact etc., but the bottom line is that an iPhone is a medium that is fundamentally different than an Apple Watch. This means that behavior will be different for both the parent and the kid. For example with an Apple Watch, there is not even the question about social media (yes, an AW has social media apps, but I dare anyone to say that they even compare to the addicting levels of social media apps on phones; they are so crappy that after a while any user would hate social media if that were to be the only tool to access them).
 

MBPnoob

macrumors regular
Sep 19, 2010
110
31
We have a 4th grader that uses my wife’s old S4 LTE now in kids mode.

it’s in school mode until school lets out, then it comes alive.
I’m often late to pickup due to traffic or meetings that last long. Usually I have to call the office and they have to sift through a hundred kids trying to find mine letting her know I’m running late.

now I just fire up walkie talkie and tell her to wait in the office instead of coming outside looking for me if I’m running late.
 

eiuro

macrumors member
Feb 28, 2013
62
17
I have family setup with Apple Cash for my 6yr old and 8yr. Both have Apple Watches/w cellular and no phone. One thing to keep in mind is. You 'MUST" have a passcode setup in order to use Apple Cash if you don't set that up first you'll get a weird error saying download apple pay from the App Store. Apple did not know how to resolve this issue so I had to figure it out via trial and error. So far this has been hugely beneficial for our kids. We let them go a little bit further since we can track their whereabouts and contact them via walkie talkie or call anytime. I've been waiting for this for 2yrs.
 

allenvanhellen

macrumors 6502
Dec 8, 2015
288
738
Walkie Talkie works, right?
Why wouldn’t Home and Remote work? Seems weird that you can give them their Apple ID and invite that ID to control Home, but then it won’t work?
Also, how does putting music on the Watch work? Or does it only stream Apple Music with the subscription?
 

trainwrecka

macrumors 6502
Apr 24, 2007
463
454
Earth
So far this has been hugely beneficial for our kids. We let them go a little bit further since we can track their whereabouts and contact them via walkie talkie or call anytime. I've been waiting for this for 2yrs.
People really don't get what a game changer this is going to be. Is it $10 a month for the watch?
 

devincentis

macrumors member
Mar 30, 2016
55
9
Very disappointed this doesn’t work with the GPS only version. My child doesn’t need LTE connectivity and doesn’t need an iPhone. Rather it would be nice to just have the watch for fun around home and function at grandparents, friends, etc where we have known wifi networks. Family sharing has value with just wifi, but unfortunately isn’t an option.
 

TheFluffyDuck

macrumors 6502a
Jul 26, 2012
596
1,625
Both my parents are old. They have had falls, and I am thinking of getting them there just for the emergency aspect if nothing else. Is anybody else using it for their older loved ones, rather than their younger loved ones?
 

UnusedLoginID

macrumors regular
Feb 28, 2012
214
196
The article is missing a big piece of family setup with is the LTE connection.
Does the watch get its own phone number and can anyone call (voice) or text (SMS, not just iMessage) that number? Basically is it just like a phone?
 

entropys

macrumors 6502a
Jan 5, 2007
686
938
Brisbane, Australia
Nice idea but by the time you have bought the LTE watches and the pin the monthly carrier service...who are they targeting for this? Rich Apple executives with large families? Certainly not most families.
and by the time a kid is fourteen, you will be imposing suicidal problems on a kid if you won’t let them get a phone.
And speaking for my elderly parents and in laws, we have bought them a phone. By the time they no longer have need for a phone, they won’t be going anywhere anyway.
 

volcanic

macrumors newbie
Mar 31, 2015
14
2
The article says in the section “features for older adults” that “irregular heart rhythm notifications” are available to older adults then a few lines down says “irregular heart rhythm notifications” are not available. Which is it, or what am I misreading ?
 
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