Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kid Friendly Technology

When Sprout was a wee thing in first grade, she was picked up by the bus for aftercare program two days each week while I was far away working in a real live office. Except for the one day they forgot her.

Well, they didn't forget - some other kid said she wasn't coming on the bus (wrong!) and the bus left without her.

So not cool.

And I had no way to contact her to tell her it was going to be OK and someone was coming to get her. And she had no way to contact me to say "Where the heck is the bus?"

So I decided it would be a good idea for her to have an "emergencies only" cell phone. So that if she was stranded somewhere, she could call for help.

At that time, we got her the Migo - a cute little kid-friendly phone that allowed only 4 numbers (plus 911) to be programmed in, so she could call for help, but couldn't chat up her little friends or prank call them, or whatever it is 6-year-olds might do on the phone.

Then she got older and wanted a "real" cell phone. Although she still doesn't actually call anyone, and I don't really like the idea of her chatting away during the day.

And then I found Kajeet - a cell phone service just for kids - with LOTS of controls for parents. Even a control-freak like myself can find very little to argue with at Kajeet.

We are signed up for a $5 per month basic service and can control the hours that the phone can be used, who she can call, who can call her, etc. There are two payment accounts, so we can foot the bill for calls home, and she can be on the hook for calls to friends. AND if we wanted to, we could activate a GPS chip in the phone and actually know where she (or at least the phone) is during the day.

So cool.

We even got Tater one, because he shouldn't be stranded anywhere either.

Then the next communication frontier - my old friend and master e-mail - reared its head. Sprout wants to e-mail.

Immediately I think of all of the generous offers for Viagra and other interesting and not-kid-appropriate things that I get on a daily basis and

But then I searched Google for "e-mail for kids" and found Zoobuh. This is the e-mail version of Kajeet. Yay!

I signed both Sprout and Tater up for their own accounts. We have a free 30-day trial and then it is $1 per month for ad-free, kid-safe e-mail.

You set up the contact list for the kids and then control whether they can receive e-mail from people outside of the contact list, or send to them. I have it set to send me a copy of each e-mail that they send or receive (just to make sure nothing inappropriate is going on). As they get older, I could turn that feature off if I want to.

The kid pages are ad-free, the parent pages have some minimal advertising. So far, it seems like just the right thing.

So now the kids are only the people they should be connected to. They are happily e-mailing their grandparents about camp and newly missing teeth.

And they still don't know anything about Viagra. Whew.

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