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My children are not yet the age where they are asking me for a cell phone or begging for text messaging plan or anything, but I see my friends' children going through this now.  It's weird that this new generation will expect just to have a cell phone, like we did with other items (maybe the most high tech was a calculator).  What concerns me, though, is the abuse of the cell phone and it serving as a disruption during school or other times when it shouldn't be used.

The request is usually made as a "well mom, what if it is an emergency?" type attempt to obfuscate the real reason of "how am i supposed to tell julie about how mark almost kissed me?"  Just the other day I went to visit a friend and his 13 year old came out of the house, immediately flipped her Sidekick open and started texting away.  It was a weird thing to see.  My oldest is about 7 years away from that same spot (if not sooner).  This got me thinking of how cell phone companies have an opportunity here to serve the younger youth market (<18) and that of the parent population at the same time.

You see, some have tried to create family type plans and kid-friendly devices, but I think some are missing the boat here.  The best I've seen was something from Verizon which limited calling capabilities to a mom/dad/home selection type thing.  What I think might be desirable (caveat this is coming from a geek) is a full-featured phone, with the service that is controllable.  For example, I might want:

    • to define the hours of operation for the calling service
    • to define the hours of operation for texting
    • some type of logging on text messaging
    • ability to specify acceptable calls
    • ability to specify 'zone' calling (i.e., states allowed to call)

I think for me, as a parent, having this control would make me feel more comfortable about seeing a cell phone on a school ground.  If I could say the phone can't be used from 9:00 AM - 12PM and then again from 1:00 PM - 3:00PM, then it helps alleviate the abuse of the phone and the use as a disruption in unwanted situations.

But what about those emergencies?

Sure, legitimate concern.  Something is happening on school grounds or a dangerous situation.  I think maybe an effective use of a dual-PIN system is in place here.  First, for incoming calls.  If someone called the device during non-operative hours (same for texting), then the caller would have to know an "accept" PIN.  So if mom needs to get in touch with Julie, she calls, is prompted for a PIN and the call goes through.  Of course, this concept relies on mom not telling Julie what the PIN is and then all her friends know (but again, that is where tracking can come in).

For outbound operation that might get trickier.  If using a simple PIN that doesn't serve any purpose.  Julie will still call/text Susie about Mark...and just enters the pin (reporting here would show PIN abuse).  But what about some type of user-defined threshold?  Mom says the account can only use the PIN unblock for outbound calls a maximum of 2 times during non-operative blocks.  Maybe that would work.

Anyhow, just something I was noodling on late night.  I'd love to see this.  I think it would make for a great product that is flexible and give some ease and control back to parents.  A really nice online application to give the parent control to change these at any time and the effects are immediate is necessary as well.  I can see a situation where the non-operative time needs to be immediately removed.  One click, boom, phone is operational again.

Am I crazy big brother parent thinking here? 

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