Hoping to cash in on the kiddie horn industry by providing cell phones for children, which the Firefly and Tic Talk cell phones for kids figured out last year, Verizon has introduced its “Chaperone” cell phone service for children. Chaperone by Verizon joins kidConnect by T-Mobile, and Disney Mobile, also launched this month.
Cell phones and cell phone service for children is no less disgusting a phenomena now than it was when Firefly and Tic Talk launched, but it’s apparently become even more mainstream and generally accepted.
Of course, the reality is that all of these “solutions” are about electronic babysitting, and keeping tabs on your children when they aren’t with you or someone else you trust. Witness the number of “spy on your kids with GPS” services which launched in the past year, such as Wherify’s Wherifone, and CarChip and TeenArriveAlive, driving spies for your teens when they are out in the family car.
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In the entire previous year, since covering Firefly and Tic Talk’s launch, I have met precisely zero people whose children actually needed a cell phone, and precisely one who had a plausible excuse as to why they thought their child should have a cell phone.
Now, if you think that your child needs a cell phone, or that you need your child to have a cell phone, by all means – fall for the marketing hype – but please remember, it’s no panacea. Don’t get or give a false sense of security based on putting the latest electronic gizmo in your child’s hands, pocket, backpack, or back seat (heck, Verizon even capitalizes on it by calling their service a “Chaperone” – bah!). Because if somebody is going to do something bad to your child, they aren’t going to be able to get to their cell phone. And if your child wants to do something they shouldn’t, they will just ignore or turn it off, or else leave it somewhere you expect them to be (like the library) while they go off and do what they want (like necking at Lookout Point).
As industry analyst analyst Michael Gartenberg with JupiterResearch put it, “Parents often remark that giving a cell phone to their kids is one of the best presents they can give themselves. The ability to locate their child adds a comfort factor. It also differentiates wireless companies among the competition and adds another stream of revenue.”
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