Cellular phones for children?! Ok, I think that I’m going to be ill. Marketing cell phones for children as young as six, for goodness sake, is just plain wrong. And I can hardly be accused of being a luddite. Just a techno-weenie and mom who doesn’t think that shoving technology into our children’s hands as early as possible is necessarily the best thing (for the children – it’s brilliant for the manufacturers’ bottom line). Of course, our child doesn’t have a GameBoy either, poor deprived thing, and the only things on our PS2 are interactive music, dance, and singing games.
But I digress, because this rant is about cell phones for kids. Meet “Firefly” and “TicTalk”, two cell phones aimed squarely at children, and coming to a store near you – if not now, then definitely in time for Christmas.
The Firefly, developed by Firefly Mobile, is just so gosh darned cute, you almost want to pick it up and hug it. The oval Firefly has just five big buttons: a button to start a call, a button to hang up, an address book button, and “call mom” and “call dad” buttons.
The Firefly site tells us that the Firefly is “the fun, glowing phone designed from a kid’s point-of-view. With just 5 keys, Firefly phones keep kids connected to the people who matter most. With lights, sounds, colors and animation, Firefly phones keep it fun.”
You can also get accessories for it, including different face plates (even a glow in the dark one), a backpack clip, and a mesh holder. And, that one accessory which every 8-year-old needs for their cellphone – a vehicle charger.
How on earth did a travesty like this happen? The Firefly site offers the backstory, which is, in part, that founder Don Deubler’s girlfriend, Lori, “has a young son, Kenton, who was 7 at the time. Like a lot of kids his age, the little guy had lots going on. He could have used a mobile phone to stay connected to the really important people in his life whenever he needed to.”
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My gosh. Those poor children who were born before cell phones were invented. How ever did they get along? How did they stay connected to the really important people in their life?
“But Lori felt that Kenton wasn’t really ready for an “adult” mobile phone. And adult phones didn’t suit the needs of kids anyway. Don soon realized that kids really need a mobile phone that’s made just for them.”
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Oh, that’s right. That’s just what kids really need.
According to news reports, the Firefly is aimed at kids as young as six. What kindergartner needs a mobile phone?? (Well, except perhaps for Lori’s disconnected son Kenton.)
Then we have the TicTalk. The TicTalk is LeapFrog’s entry into the kiddy phone market. Made for LeapFrog by Enfora, who make a darned fine compact flash form modem for PDAs, the TicTalk is also aimed at children ages 6 and up, although reports are that its size may make it a bit cumbersome for smaller hands.
The TicTalk looks more like one of those caribiner-style locks or clocks which are all the rage with kids right now than it does a phone. But it is indeed a phone, with many of the same features of the Firefly, plus a few extras (ringtones, games, and text messages, to name a few).
Both phones allow calls to and from only pre-approved (parent-approved) numbers. Both phones allow you to pre-program numbers in. And both phones allow you to recharge prepaid minutes online. And, oh yes, both phones gouge you for a whopping 25 cents per minute.
But it’s worth it to give little Biff or Muffy a cell phone, isn’t it? Don’t forget to pick up a Kinder Gadget Bag with enough space to store their other gadgets too, like their Game Boy, and their PDA.
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