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 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


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…

Cell Phones In School

May 18, 2008

The issue of kids being allowed to have cell phones in school is one with which school boards coast to coast are having to confront.

Here at kajeet, we feel we’ve found a pretty good solution to the issue by developing a service that enables parents to limit phone use during school hours while still being able to get in touch with their child in an emergency.

Of course, there are pros and cons to this issue, many of which we’ve addressed in this article: “Cell Phones In School: Pros and Cons.”

Kids want cell phones. Duh. Beyond being cool and fitting in, though, there are some good reasons for your kid to have a phone … if, of course, they’re ready and it fits your own family’s specific situation. Check out this article: “Three Reasons Why Kids Need Cell Phones.”


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