A Phone For All Ages


So I read in today’s papers that there is a new mobile phone being released, designed for 4 year olds, called the Firefly.  A nice pink colour, with 5 simple buttons.  Not much different from some of the ‘idiot-phones’ available already for those whose minds can’t comprehend anything beyond calling and basic texting.  This doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me is the way all of the articles (possibly written by the same freelance reporter?) have described the phone as being ‘targetted’ or ‘aimed’ at 4 year olds.  The same articles also ask the oh-so-clever question “Does a 4 year old need a mobile phone?”.  And some even invoke the old trope “Children need to be children” (which in Simpsons-speak would translate as “Won’t somebody think of the children!”)

Let’s get this straight…the mobile phone is not targetted or aimed at 4 years olds, it is DESIGNED for 4 year olds.  There is no point in targetting a product at 4 year olds, THEY HAVE NO MONEY! Also, and this is a rather major also, 4 year olds CANNOT SIGN AIRTIME AGREEMENTS! You have to be over 18 to sign an agreement and have a bank account and credit rating.  Not many 4 year olds have this.

This phone is targetted at one group only…idiotic, gullible, moronic, selfish, lazy parents who will buy and use anything to avoid doing the job of a parent.  I have to ask…just WHERE do they think their 4 year old will be that they need to call them on a mobile to have a chat?  Why is the 4 year old not with the parent? And what sort of chat will they be having anyway?

Now, some unctuous parent will no doubt say “But Neil, we send our dearest little <insert name here> to playschool every day for xxx hours.  What if he/she/it needs to reach us in an emergency?”  Erm…won’t the playschool be doing that? And should, for whatever reason, the apocalypse occur at the playschool and your precious little mite is the only one left staggering forth from the burning building a la Die Hard, will they have the cognitive ability to [a] have their new pink playmobile phone with them, [b] know that now would be the time to call Mummy or Daddy for a chat, and [c] not be a gibbering wreck in the rubble crying their eyes out waiting for an adult to come rescue them?

I have no problem with the phone, or the phone’s manufacturers, they are merely responding to a growing trend for children to be ‘mobiled-up’!  There is some spurious factoid doing the rounds about how 6 year olds are staying up late at night having text-sessions – just what are they texting, it fascinates me…and if your little one HAS to have a mobile, just lock the damn thing so it can only call 999, Mum and Dad!

I have a problem with the parents who buy the damn things…parents have been inculcating their kids with nonsense since year dot (just consider religion!)  It would be nice to see a story in a year or two saying that the phone failed because parents simply wouldn’t buy it, but sadly anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of walking through Clapham, or Barnes, or Sloane Square, or a hundred other similar locales, will know that there is already a demographic of annoying parents just salivating at the thought of little Sebastian or Candice owning the latest mobile tech before any other child in the school district!  In the words of Dan Ashcroft, “The idiots are winning!”

What has really got my goat about this story is the terrible reporting of it.  Come on written press, dig a little deeper, write a little more carefully and stop with the headline grabbing misdirection.  Try a little journalism, and practice what you preach.  You’d be all over the BBC if they ran such an ill-conceived story! Consider more than the ‘Are mobiles safe’ old rope, and look deeper at why society deems mobiles for kids acceptable and required.  Is this yet more jumping at non-existent paedophile shadows? Has mobile telephony evolved into more than a tool for communication and become something much more sociologically fascinating? You could even ask why is the phone pink?  Why not yellow, or blue, or a variety of colours?  Good Dawkins, there is so much more to this story!

But I guess, like TV news coverage, the written press is less about investigative journalism than it is about sensationalism and repetition.  How sad.

Now, I wonder if Apple will release an iPhone 3GS Junior version…hmmm?

A plea – are you a parent of a toddler?  Please don’t buy your kid a phone.  Wait until they are at least 10 years old.  Buy them lots of Lego, or take them out at weekends, or teach them a musical instrument.  It is activity and fun children crave, NOT digital communications with text capabilities, 3G and WiFi and integrated bluetooth stereo connectivity!

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About hokusbloke
30-something radio producer/director/writer, owner & MD of Ladbroke Productions (the UK's oldest independent radio production company). Lover of far fetched fiction, scifi and fantasy, my cats and all thinks tech. I am also the Chair of the Radio Independents Group, a former Trustee of the Radio Academy, and a Fellow of the RSA. I co-wrote, produced and directed Robert Rankin's "The Brightonomicon" audio series, produce Dr Who audiobooks for the BBC, and directed several sci-fi radio plays for BBC Radio 4 in 2009. I am a strong advocate for more SF audio and radio...keep watching this space for upcoming news!

2 Responses to A Phone For All Ages

  1. It’s myself and my huband everyone is talking about!! I have to say it is refreshing to see someone being realistic about the story. I agree with you children shouldn’t have mobile phones (as we know them) but what is wrong with a child having a device that allows parents to stay in touch with their child when they are out and about. Parents don’t buy phones for 4 year olds! well certainly none I have ever met. The facts are that 1 million children under the age of 10 have mobile phones today in the UK isn’t it about time that parents had a say and a choice if they have a need to get their child a phone! As a company and parents we are proud to offer parents choice.

    • hokusbloke says:

      Thanks for your message Frances. First off, let me wish you and your husband much success with your range of products. I have no problem with you targetting a market that is clearly already there. I also don’t have a problem with parents having the right and need to stay in touch with their young children. There are, as you know, many GPS based devices that offer similar functionality for parents, and many daycare and primary schools now offer parents access to web-based solutions to keep an eye on their kids. I believe your product will fit the already massive market for mobile phones for older kids (10 yrs old for example). As I said in the blog, it was the reporting of the story that bugged me. As someone who works extensively in the media, I find myself more and more annoyed by sloppy journalism, particularly by the print media, who take every opportunity to attack the broadcast media! Choice of products (and services) is a wonderful thing…I do not know, but I am sure you are looking at the ways your product can enable parents to communicate with their kids, without pandering to the mobile networks desire to make even more money from impoverished families. A mobile phone that allows parents to control the way the child uses it is a very good development. I hope you were able to find some positives in the various newspaper articles…and I can tell you from long experience that no matter how negative some of them were, they would have raised awareness of the Firefly no end. And like you, I haven’t met a parent who has bought a mobile for a 4 yr old yet, but I certainly fear the way things are going. It will only be a matter of time before the McLaren 3 wheel buggy (already a nightmare on the high street!) has a built in mobile connection and ipod speakers 🙂

      Good luck with your business and do stay in touch. As a fellow business owner I wish you every success in these tough times.

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