by Daniel Neal

Three and a half years ago my wife, Heller An, and I met our now 14-year-old son, Alex, through an amazing organization: Kidsave International. Kidsave’s motto is “Because every child needs a family.” Simply put, that is why kidsave exists. It helps kids without families find them.

In their own words:

“Kidsave gives kids who are hidden from public view in foster care and orphanages the opportunity to visit with families and build relationships. We work as a catalyst for change, training social workers, orphanage workers and volunteers to help kids find permanent families, and change practices, laws and public financing to increase permanent family care for orphans and youth in foster care.”

Since 1999, more than 2700 individual children have found parents and lasting connections with adults because of Kidsave programs. Thousands more orphans and children in foster care around the globe have parents and lasting connections because of Kidsave’s training and advocacy efforts.

One of Kidsave’s most successful programs is its Summer Miracle Program.

Our family participated in this program in 2006. Yes, you probably guessed: our beloved son Alex was the child we hosted that magical summer.

Kidsave is now seeking Host Families for its 2010 Summer Miracles Program. If you know someone who may wish to learn about this program, you can find out more here .

If you want information about the Kidsave organization and its other programs, you can learn more here .

kajeet – the cell phone service made for kids

by Carol Politi

Wow.  Even those of us focused on kids and media were surprised with the recent Kaiser Family Foundation Study on kids and media use.  The study, called “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds“, indicates that kids spend more than 53 hours a week consuming media (counting a blend of TV, computers, gaming devices, cell phones, etc.).  And that count does not include multitasking – which brings the media use count up to 10 hours and 45 minutes per day.

Much of the increase is driven by the accessibility of media on mobile devices – ipods and cell phones (though the increase in social media use is also a factor).  Note that text messaging is not considered media use in this study – and that “7th-12th graders report spending an average of 1:35 a day sending or receiving texts”!

Clearly, media consumption is a fact of life.  So what’s wrong with this picture?

1.  Kids that are heavy media users report getting lower grades.

2.  Kids that are heavy media users report being less personally content.

What’s the upside here?  One bit of upside is that parents can have an impact!  The study indicates that “When parents set limits, children spend less time with media. Those young people who say their parents have some rules about their media use are exposed to an average of nearly three hours (2:52) less media content per day than those who say they don’t have rules.”

Most parents get cell phones for their kids for safety reasons.  But doing so can put more media – and another device with which to multi-task – in the hands of kids.  kajeet customers can set limits – on both the type of content/service used on the cell phone and the time spent using the cell phone.  This includes limiting access at night, during school, and during home work time.  To set these up simply login at kajeet.com or call kajeet customer care (1-866-452-5338).

Please comment here to let us know what you think of the Kaiser Family Foundation study and how you manage media access and use in your household.  We could all benefit from some good ideas!

kajeet – the cell phone service made for kids

by Carol Politi

Consumer Reports just did an analysis of the Best and Worst Cell Phone Deals. Their takeaway: “A Two Cell Phone Family Could Save $220 Per month By Going Prepaid”. They also noted that prepaid allows you to cut your expenses by decreasing usage and changing plans when you happen to need your phone less or if you want to decrease expenses any one month. Of course, I’m not unbiased – at kajeet we have always been advocates of no contract plans – especially for kids whose usage tends to be moderate.

The message is getting out – more than 45% of new mobile subscribers this year are predicted to be prepaid (Strategy Analytics). However, there is still a perception by many that the extra family plan line costs only $10 per month. The reality is that second lines cost an average of $35/month (iGr Research did a detailed analysis of this when they studied kid phone use). Why? The $10 is just the carrier service fee. It turns out that carriers actually give you fewer minutes with a family plan than they give you with an individual plan. Let’s say you have been paying $59 for your individual plan. In many contract plans you would receive 900 minutes. Move to a contract family plan and you are paying 69.99 for 700 minutes – that’s $10 more for 200 less minutes. If you really needed those minutes you would have to move up – but the next plan you can get is actually the 1400 minute plan that costs $89.99!

So families add a cell phone but actually get fewer minutes for a higher price. And contract plans encourage “supersizing” as they have overages charges that are expensive and costly. So families end up not using all their minutes every month. On top of this you incur taxes, line fees, and charges…

No wonder many people are moving to prepaid. On a prepaid plan, when the budgeted allowance is used up, the phone no longer works. This is great for budgeting and why almost 40% of parents buy prepaid phones for their kid’s first phone.

Good for budgeting, but a significant downside when you are talking about a safety phone for kids. That is why the kajeet service offers two “wallets”. One – the kid wallet – can be used to set a budget with your kids. The second – the parent wallet – can be used to pay for calls and texts to and from parent numbers so that these always go through.

Also – with kajeet there are no expensive overages and no extra fees assessed – what you see on the price plan is what you see on the bill. And if you do purchase a pak and run out of minutes, you simply pay the standard 10 cents per minute.

A bit of a sales pitch today! I am happy to see Consumer Reports assess cell phone contract plans and become a prepaid advocate. What is holding you back from considering a prepaid plan?

Smartphones Making Kids Dumb?

February 13, 2009

by Carol Politi

Advertising Age published an article tackling the issue of whether technology is making our kids dumb. There is a real fear that technology of all sorts – phones, social & gaming networks, etc. – will drive a new generation of kids that don’t read, can’t write, and that do not understand how to socially interact with other kids and adults.

Completely avoiding new technology is difficult – the world does move on. And in the case of cell phones, it is often more difficult for parents to deal with the loss of a cell phone than it is for their kids. However, I think we all struggle with how to ensure safe and appropriate limits.

One way to increase safety and set limits is through tools. I just had a discussion today about the fact that you can almost always make any technology safer by going into “settings” on the application. kajeet phones come with tools for parents and kids that are extremely useful in setting limits – and that can help keep kids away from inadvertent trouble (e.g., that phone that rings during school or friends that do think it is OK to call at 3AM).

However, these tools and controls are also useful to help drive a conversation with kids about limits and appropriate use. I think this conversation may be even more important than the controls themselves.

How much should be spent each month? Go to the kajeet WalletManager with your child and discuss budgets and allowances. When should the phone be available for use? Go to TimeManager and discuss the use of the phone during school hours and after certain hours of the night. Not ready for instant or picture messaging on the mobile? Discuss which services are appropriate (and turn off the ones that are not in FeatureManager).

The purchase of a first phone is a milestone in most kid’s lives – and they are at an age where they can collaborate with their parents to set up rules for appropriate use. We may find that most kids, if asked, will set their limits more stringently than their parents.

Let us know how you introduced limits and responsible use with your child’s first phone.

by Carol Politi

I’ve seen more and more articles recently addressing bullying by cell phones and thought it might be useful to highlight the resources available for parents on this topic.  The statistics are sobering and this topic does merit some careful thinking so we can be prepared in case our kids encounter bullying – on cell phones or in other on-line forums.

A great site addressing overall cyber bullying is the Stop Bullying Now site run by the US Department of Health and Human Services.  Cell phones are viewed as a subset of overall electronic activity by kids and bullying via electronic means is often called Cyber Bullying.

The first course of action recommended by most experts is to have a conversation with your child about cell phone safety before you give them a cell phone.  Many parents establish cell phone contracts with their child when they get their first cell phone.  This is a great vehicle to help start a conversation on the topic of the responsibility that goes with a cell phone.  It also provides a good opportunity to talk about what to do if bullied.  I like the cell phone contract on the “On Youth and Teens Today” site run by Vanessa Van Petten (this is a site written from a kid’s point of view).  And the Stop Bullying Now site has a tips sheet for kids called “What to do if I’m Bullied” that is very useful.

As a kajeet customer, you have a number of tools that will help you deal with bullying.  First, you can block calls and text messages from/to identified numbers – just login to kajeet.com and go to “Configurator”, “Contact Manager”, and input the number.  Select “no” for “allow calls and text”. This will ensure that no calls or texts come from the number in question.  In the same section of the site we offer the kajeet Feature Manager that lets you turn on and off features on the phone.  For example, you can turn off picture messaging and Instant Messaging in this section.

You can also review with your child the calls and messages they are getting each month.  We offer a detailed on-line account activity review that shows each call, text, and picture message the phone has sent and received.  This is a great way to start a conversation and perhaps get a heads up on any potential issues in case your child has not initiated the conversation themselves.

Do you have experience with this topic?  If so please comment and let us know what tools you found useful and what recommendations you might provide.

My TiVo DVR broke about 2 weeks ago.  Operating without it has driven home how much I rely on it to give my kids the freedom to choose what they want to watch among an array of good choices.  And TV is easy – delivering such freedom safely is far more complex when dealing with the other online services that are an integral part of our kid’s lives today.

How do we achieve the right balance of freedom and oversight when our kids are on-line?  At what point should our younger children be able to use protected chat modes when they play on Club Penguin and other gaming sites?  How should we approach managing their use of youtube – which is wildly popular (especially among boys today)?  When should our kids have social networking accounts, and what do we need to do to make sure their personal information is protected?

One site I believe is doing a good job in highlighting the confusing array of things we need to think about is the SafetyClicks site run by AOL.  I like the fact that the site addresses an array of devices, and that it is written to highlight concerns that would be relevant to the kids themselves.

Do you use SafetyClicks?  Post comments to let us know how you ensure your kids have the right balance of freedom and oversight online (whether they are mobile or not).

Text That Grade!

September 15, 2008

by Daniel Neal

cellular-news1

Lots of people in the US look to the UK to try and predict what cell phone trends might be coming our way. We’re among that crowd.

So it caught our eye when Cellular News reported that the UK Government’s education technology agency, Becta, conducted a survey that showed over two-thirds of parents want their schools to use texting and the Internet to communicate with them more frequently. Now there’s an idea.

It really is a sign that time marches on. Our kids keep getting older (amazingly, mine just entered 4th and 6th grades), and parents are increasingly likely to be Gen X-ers with MySpace pages (and a fondness for texting). Gen Y parents of middle-schoolers are not so far behind…

As a certified Baby Boomer, I confess that I still like getting those hard-copy school updates and reports in my kids’ “backpack mail.” But if my kids’ teachers have something important to tell me, they can text me all they want…

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