Smartphones for Kids?

Girls texting“Do you know where your children are?”

If you’re my age, you probably remember that catchy slogan from the 80’s. I don’t think I’ve heard that question in over a decade. Probably because parents have access to handy little GPS locators in every one of their kid’s pockets!

They’re called “iPhones.”

The problem is, many parents are hesitant to by their 10-year-old an iPhone when they find out exactly what young people are accessing with this little device. Other parents seem quite oblivious to their kids’ risky behaviors with mobile devices… at least until they happen to stumble upon their teen’s phone one day only to discover she wasn’t just playing angry birds.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should smash our kids’ phones. There are ways to set realistic guardrails and equip them to make good decisions. But we also might just want to think twice before buying our 5th grader a smartphone!

“So how young is too young to get a kid a smartphone?”

I hear that question after every one of my parent workshops from moms and dads who would like the benefit of being able to call, text, or locate their kids, but are apprehensive about many of the common dangers that are married to those features.GPS Locator for Kids

Innovative gadgets like the fresh new mobile device called FiLIP might be opening a new landscape for parents.

The concept is simple. FiLIP is a wearable smart locator and phone for kids. It’s a smartwatch with a GPS locator and the ability to call just a handful of people hand-selected by their parents.

Forbes writer Tony Bradley calls it, “the smartphone for kids too young to have a smartphone.”

With FiLIP, parents pre-program five phone numbers their child can call. FiLIP also has texting, but not the way your teenager enjoys it. FiLIP features one-way texting from parent to child. The FiLIP website claims, “There is plenty of time for texting when they are teenagers.”

FiLIP features all kinds of nice safety features, including a big red button kids can push in case of an emergency. (Can you say, false alarm?) But the feature parents might like the most is the FCC certified antenna, the first wearable device to earn this government certification.

It’s too early to tell if FiLIP uniquely will sell like ICEE’s in the Sahara, but the idea behind the technology might just birth a unique panorama of technologies helping parents communicate with their kids, without worrying about their 8-year-old watching Miley swinging on a wrecking ball buck naked.

How young do you think is too young for a smartphone?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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