Protecting Your Kids
More and more parents are now getting cell phones for their teen and pre-teens in an effort to protect them and make them safer. For the most part, I do not blame the parents for this rise in cell phone usage by kids. The manner in which the industry is promoting the services is the main culprit. Companies are making cell phones in sizes and colors that appeal to young kids This article on MSNBC covers some of these phones for kids. Another promotional avenue is for cell phone carriers is to provide a family plan and also have special deals on phones like BUY ONE and GET ONE FREE. The ability to interact with TV shows and radio programs geared towards kids via SMS messaging is another way companies can get more kids to use cell phones and generates added revenue.
The problem with most phones designed for young kids is that the phones initially look exciting on the outside but are so limiting in functionality that kids will avoid using them very quickly. Phones designed for kids are limited in so many features:
- Only preset numbers can be called. Some also limit the incoming call numbers.
- No text messaging which is very popular with kids.
- Some have GPS tracking which allows parents to keep track of where their kids are. In reality, this technology tracks where the phone is and in many cases, the phone will be left at home since kids hate to be followed by their parents. If the child is old enough to be out on their own then they will feel old enough not to be followed by their parents. The GPS tracking only works when the phone is located outdoors where the satellite signal can be directly accessed.
- No ability to use a hands FREE headset or a Bluetooth headset.
- Can be more expensive to purchase over a normal cell phone.
- If friends have normal cell phones then these will have a camera, SMS text messaging, Internet access and other cool features which appeal to kids. Kids with a kids phone will feel left out and also teased for having a lame cell phone.
Parents will try to do what they can to provide the best protection for their kids but sometimes forget that in some areas, kids are as smart or smarter than their parents. One area that kids excel from a very young age is the ability to pick up on new technologies. Cell phones that limit usage like the number available for calling or received will certainly turn kids off and limit the number of occasions when they will take these phones with them. If the kids require adult supervision in public then they are too young for their own phone anyways in my opinion.
Teenagers will certainly stay away from phones geared for kids. Teenagers will certainly feel like idiots using a limited phone around their friends. Some kids will also feel embarassed to use the same phone that their parents use unless the phone is a new one with all the bells and whistles.
What are these bells and whistles?
- SMS Messaging – This allows kids to send text messages to their (BFF: Best Friend Forever).
- Bluetooth for access to wireless headsets and headphones to listen to music.
- Bluetooth access to a PC like a laptop to use Internet anywhere outside on their laptop.
- Built in music player.
- Large screen for playing games and watching videos.
- Access to an Internet browser.
- Built in camera.
- Built in keyboard for easier texting.
- Built in GPS to find the exact location of a store.
- External memory card slot for loading music, video and games.
What parents need to know about these bells and whistles:
SMS messaging and Internet browser usage means added monthly fees. In most cases, the cost will be charged per use or based on the amount of data that is transfered. Easily $100+ can be accumulated by active kids per month if you are not careful. Even if your kids do not send text messages themselves, you can be charged for text messages received by your kids. Either from friends or via services your kids have subscribed to online through their PC.
The GPS, camera and music player by themselves do not cost additionly per month but to take advantage of these features, kids will want to download the music directly on to their phones via the data service. Pictures taken will be uploaded to the kids favorite online social networking website like Facebook, My Space, and many others. GPS requires software that also is downloaded directly from the Internet. All of these activities cost the parent added usage fees monthly.
Many TV stations and cell phone carriers are now making TV shows and movies available for viewing directly on the cell phone. If you are charged per byte of data transfer, a 30 minute TV show that your kid watches on the cell phone can mean a huge phone bill that month. More and more kids are uploading pictures and videos taken on their cell phones and uploading them on to these social networking websites which are in turn shared with their friends that also download these pictures and videos to watch them directly on their cell phones. In many cases a group of kids can easily take a picture or video and share these immediately by uploading to the website. Others will access the website and view the newly uploaded pictures and videos.
There are no safe guards built into phones to prevent kids going to websites geared for adults only. The website has no direct way to verify the user is of legal age or not therefore parents must be aware that Internet access on a cell phone is totally open like it is on a regular PC.
To avoid these added service charges on an ongoing basis, you can avoid subscribing to a data plan when you have a family plan. Keep in mind that this does not prevent all data access from your phone. Some features on many phones can still access data without a data plan and without you even knowing it. This just means the carrier will charge you more per byte transfered in data. So be careful when you are considering giving your kid a cell phone for the first time. If data service is important to have for whatever reason, some carriers do have an “all you can eat data plan”. Check around and do your home work before jumping into a family plan and giving your kids their own cell phone. You can go HERE to see a good review on the various service providers.
Anyone reading unlimited minutes for a given service plan should be aware that this only refers to local phone calls only in most cases. SMS text messaging, any other data usage times are not included in this unlimited category.