Cellular Phones for Children: Firefly and Tic Talk

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  • Cellular Phones for Children:  Firefly and Tic Talk

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.”

Gag.

 

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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Cellular Phones for Children:  Firefly and Tic Talk

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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Cellular Phones for Children:  Firefly and Tic Talk

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  • Cellular Phones for Children:  Firefly and Tic Talk

12 Replies to “Cellular Phones for Children: Firefly and Tic Talk”

  1. The writer of this article is clearly thinking in the vein of “all technology is bad for my kids”…. I disagree, technology used in conjunction with good old fashioned commen sense and parental guidance is just what this modern world calls for. I have a six year old son, we live in the country and have a large piece of property in which he can roam. I want him to be able to roam it, be outdoors and explore (better than him in the house watching tv) but I worry about him. We are just allowing him to go further a little at a time but I want to keep tabs on him, so…. In our case, a cellphone seems exactly what he needs to allow him to have the childhood we want him to have, but also give us the peace of mind we need. I can see a cell phone also being used in similar ways in neighborhoods.

  2. Think about a child who is visiting a non-custodial parent who, out of vindictive jealousy will not allow the child to phone his dad, and will not pick up her phone if dad calls to speak with the child. Being seperated from a loving parent is traumatic for a child and a cell phone is a wonderful way to ensure that the leagally unprotected child caught in the middle is allowed access to his parent.

  3. Stories that may change a negative parents mind about buying cell phones for young children.

    These stories are base a real life stories.

    A young child age 7 new to the surrounding area gets off the school buss at the wrong stop. No one is around but passing cars full of strangers and possibly predators. A stranger stops to offer the child help and a ride home. The child thinks she has no choice but to go. Now let your imagination run. Scary to think about it, isn’t it? If only the child had a phone the parent would be right there. The stranger that helped her did get her home but to think what could of happen. It is a situation that WE ALL should learn from.

    Here is another story – Your at the mall and your child is not in sight. You look around the corner, up and down the isles, your stomach drops, your imagination is gone with terror. Your child is looking for you and gets further and further away. Your child was trained not to talk to strangers but has no choice but to depend on a stranger to help. He is at the mercy of a stranger that could be a predator.

    Millions of children get lost every day and now a days a predator can be right around the conner waiting for that one child to be off guard and an easy catch. I am sure all you parents watch the news and know this.

    As much as we parents THINK we can be there 100% of the time to protect our children. Well stop kidding yourself and face the facts NO one can be there 100% of the time to protect and guide your children. Our children have to learn how to protect themselves with the help of teaching and the help of tools like a cell phone. After all isn’t that why you have a cell phone. In case of an emergency on the roadside so you don’t fall victim into a helping strangers hand that could be a Crazy Sicko. Don’t you want the same safety for your child as you want for yourself?

    Some parents may say “not my kid, my kid is street wise and knows exactly what to do”. WRONG! I don’t care how much you brain wash a child on what to do in an emergency. In a real LIFE emergency situation it’s all different and everybody acts differently when they are actually nervous or scared — BOOM! — the mind is erased and forgets everything it was taught and is likely to do the wrong thing.

    Now i am not saying teaching is not important because it is VERY IMPORTANT. I am just saying in certain situations the mind plays games and freezes on what to do.

    No, a cell phone doesn’t teach the children on how to be safe or does it guarantee that the child will be safe. It is a TOOL to help in emergencies and help keep children from falling in the wrong hands of predators in emergencies.

    For all of you parents that say a cell phone is a JOKE for a young child. Think about what you are saying and wonder what will happen if YOUR child is ever in one of the above situations. If only one time a cell phone helps your child or anybody’s child in a emergency. It makes it worth everything in the world. Doesn’t your child’s safety come first no matter what. A cell phone is the best tool to reach out for help.

  4. I recently bought a cell phone for my Grandson with the stipulation that he not take it to school, (His Moms’ suggestion). Well “Mom” seems to think that I bought her a cell phone and takes it to work with her every day. I had told her that she could use it occasionally
    or in an emergency.I went ot pick him up for the weekend and she had a temper tantrum because my Grandson wanted to take “His” cell phone with him. It’ too bad that even though he followed all the rules it seems like I will have to confiscate the phone.

  5. I think this is one of the best things to ever hit the market for our children. It can be taken to school as most schools allow cell phones with the child but they have to be turned off during the day. Our children can be told to turn them on after they are let out of school and if we’re running late we can call them and tell them to go back inside the school and wait for us instead of them walking home with friends because we didn’t show up at the time we told them we would.
    My son is 4 and will be starting private school this fall. Preschool for him will be an all day deal. My ex-wife and I will have to work together each week to drop him off and pick him up, and as we all know sometimes if I’m suppose to pick him up or she is it might be vice versa. To be able to call him and let him know what’s going on would be nice.
    There are plenty of times when I’m at the park with him and other children will show up and I kind of step out of sight as children need to play together without adult interruption unless there’s a safety problem. The E-911 feature on these phones is great. Sadly in our day and age we have to worry about stranger danger more than ever, just knowing that as he gets older and goes to the park on his own and if a stranger approaches him and he feels threatened that he can call 911 is of great comfort to me, as I believe this gives him a greater sense of responsibility than what he would have without one
    My ex only has a cell phone and she doesn’t have a lot of minutes with her plan. Hers is more of an emergency only type phone than anything else. I would love to be able to call my son every day and talk to him for a half hour or so to see how his day was and what he learned in school that day. I also think it would be nice for his mother to be able to call him on his own phone when I have him so they can talk for a while. For those of you who say well that’s moms or dad’s time with the child(ren), you’re wrong. There is nothing wrong with our children staying in touch with their parents.
    At this time I’m holding off getting my son one of these phones. This is more of a these phones are too watered down and in my opinion the two that are out there are not worth their price tags. They are taking advantage of us as children.
    The biggest problems I see with cell phones for children are as follows:
    1) Only two manufactures are making them for our children right now. LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony all need to get into it.
    2) What is with theses phones? No voicemail? If Mom, grandma, grandpa, or I calls my son I want us to be able to say hey it’s me, hope you had a great day miss and love you lots.
    3) I don’t see enough things being offered with the phones for the price tags they have. It would be nice to have a decent range of learning games on them. Addition, subtraction, alphabet, shapes, and simple word games.
    4) Some people won’t agree with me on this, but I think it would be nice for the phones to have a camera on them. That way our children can take pictures of animals they see ect, ect.
    5) This goes almost hand in hand with the camera part. It would be nice if the phone showed a picture of Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, and Dad when they called. Ring tones that we can set and choose from, even if that means we have to send it to the phone from a website.

    All in all I think the concept is a great idea. A cell phone for little hands so that our children can keep in touch with us where ever they are and vice versa. We no longer live in the age of the nuclear family. Things have changed. I think the current models out there are a bit too watered down for their price tags. The parental controls are very nice features. I’ve been out with my son at the park before and he’s been playing and stopped, ran over to me and said Dad, I love you, gave me a hug and went back to playing. Imagine your child being able to do that when your not even there!

  6. Oh yes when the 10 year old looses the key to the front door for the 14th time I really do feel comfortable with her trapsing down the block knocking on doors until she finds a neighbor who will gladly let her in to use the phone to call me…. or maybe just let her in. I think you get the point. Technology is not neccesary but it is supposed to be used to make our lives better and safer. With most plans you can choose to buy minutes prepaid so there is no 1200 dollar bills to get behind on and besides if you program the thing yourself and dont put any friends numbers in it then when they hit the dial button all they can call is the number you put in yourself. So lets just admit that we are sorry that we didnt come up with it first and get in line like everybody else who would like their 5 to 12 year old to be able to dial 911 from whereever the emergency is without blaming our own disciplin problems on the company who has a great idea.

  7. I agree that giving a tween or a teen a full fledged cel is ridiculous. I’ve watched as my brother has tried to control his 15 yr. olds phone usage, from her driving up a $500 normal phone bill leading to his removal completely of his home phone, to her mother giving her a cel phone and then taking him back to court to try and get him to pay a $1200 back log from that phone. Kids these days have no respect for rules and the phone companies love it, they make it easy for kids to get phones. I like this idea only because it limits who they call. I think this is a good idea for a situation where parents are seperated and the “custodial” parent refuses to allow a developing child to call the other parent on the home phone. The child could now have a simple method to talk to the second parent.

  8. The author of this article is out of his/her mind- taking every thing you don’t particularly have a “taste” for to an extreme. Well, gosh, 100 years ago kids didn’t have electric lights or vaccines and they got along JUST FINE. Who needs these new fangled vaccines anyway – it’ll probably give them cancer. Bicycles? George Washington didn’t have a bicycle and he turned out just fine. What kid needs to go riding around the neighborhood on some expensive mechanical device anyway.
    Well, 15 years ago I didn’t have a cell phone – it was only for rich people to talk to each other in their cars. Now, I can’t run my business without it (I spend 8 hrs a day in my car). Our daughter car-pools with friends to karate practice twice a week and often needs to call us to tell us what time she is finished. The TicTalk is more than a phone as well – we can upload her weekly spelling lists to it and she can only talk on it to friends when she gets enough correct answers. She works on it in the car when traveling places. Parents have been doing “reward” systems with TV and land-line phones for decades now. Positive reinforcement of responsibility is the best way to teach kids. And if you actually did research on this, you’d see that Leapster isn’t “marketing” this to kids – they’re marketing it to PARENTS – so no one’s “shoving technology down kids’ throats”. We have a use for it as parents and it’s not doing any harm at all to our daughter. So get off your high horse and stop judging parents when you know nothing about anyone’s individual circumstances. I’m a conservative and believe in raising kids with traditional values but people like you give common-sense America a bad name.

  9. I am looking at these phones for my eight-year-old son who has been diagnosed as “probable Asperger’s Disorder.” He runs off in public places. I am an older mom who is just not physically able to run as fast as he does. However, he will come back if paged. He does not always wait to run off in places or situations where he can be paged, however. He loves technology, and would respond from parental directions from a phone.

    These phones seem like the answer to my prayers. They offer a lot of parental control. I have looked at Firefly. I can program numbers that he can call out to. I can control the numbers that can reach him. I can make sure that it is Mom, Dad, and his aide, and not friends and aquaintances.
    This technology seems like a great carrot, and also something of a stick: We can tell who called him. If he is called too many times by Mom, Dad or his aide, the minutes can come out of his allowance.

    The biggest problems that I can foresee is that 1)shopping for these phones is not easy. Firefly is sold at Target. Just try to find a 20 something associate who really knows about it. 2) What if when my son runs off my cell phone battery is run down and I have to call him from a payphone?

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