At what age is it acceptable for a child to get a phone? Twelve or thirteen? When they start high school? When they get their driver's license? You want to be able to get a hold of them when they're out with friends or staying late for after-school activities. You don't want them bullied or ostracized for being the only one without a phone - or the only one with a flip phone. You want them to fit in. But most importantly, you want them to be safe. But are the phones we use today really keeping kids safe?
Parents all over the world are faced with this dilemma. Stephen Dalby, Founder of Gabb Wireless, is one of those parents. When his son turned twelve, Dalby decided it was time to get him a phone. Dalby wanted to be able to communicate with his son - to know he was okay. "I went to one major carrier and I was blown away as she pointed to this line of expensive, high-tech smartphones. She said those were all the phones they had," Dalby said.
Frustrated with the lack of phone options for his son, Dalby decided something needed to change and founded Gabb Wireless. Gabb Wireless is creating a network completely dedicated to phones providing safe content (especially for kids). The first Gabb phone is a simple, $100 touch screen phone. It looks like a regular smartphone, but has no internet browser, no social media, no games, and no app store.
Gabb Wireless believes that a kid's first phone should be a phone first. The Gabb phone has talk and text capabilities, and includes an alarm clock, calculator, FM radio, and calendar app. The phone also includes a 5-megapixel back camera and 2-megapixel front camera, but the pictures taken on the phone stay on the phone. There aren't any MMS capabilities, which means no sending or receiving pictures or videos.
Gabb Wireless knows that nothing is more important than protecting children. While the technological advancements of the past couple decades have done a lot to help society, Gabb Wireless believes that giving kids too much technology too soon is really dangerous. Research has shown excessive screen time reduces cognitive scores in children, gaming contributes to the obesity epidemic, predators use technology to lure in unsuspecting kids, and over consumption of social media causes stress, anxiety, and depression that young people are not equipped to deal with.
Gabb Wireless is not just a phone or a phone network - its a movement to protect kids by providing age-appropriate technology solutions.
"We're not anti-technology or anti-phones. We just want to give kids technology that is age appropriate," said Landon Ainge, Senior Vice President of Gabb Wireless. Ainge explained that in the future, Gabb plans to introduce more phones and features to help kids take on more responsibility with devices over time.
So what about monitoring apps or parental controls on smartphones? Can't these be used to gradually introduce new features or control what kids can and can't do on phones? Ainge outlined the issue with these:
"Mobile apps cannot control other mobile apps. Google and Apple created them as such - they're independent of each other unless they've built a relationship directly with that company that they're trying to filter. Parents are already over-scheduled and over-tired, so when they get their kid a phone they don't have the time to keep up with what their kid is doing. And most of the time kids bypass what they're trying to do to restrict it anyway."
Ainge told of a conversation he had with a father who, against his better judgment, bought his thirteen year old son an iPhone. The father said they went from having the sweetest family life to pure hell in a matter of six months. With the new phone, his son was immediately addicted to pornography. He was contacted by drug dealers and eventually became a drug dealer himself. Ainge asked the father if he had looked into using any of the filtering capabilities or protection apps, to which the father replied, "I thought I was."
"That's definitely an extreme example, but the notion that parents have no idea what's going on is common. It's common for them to not really understand what kids are doing with their phones," Ainge said.
Ainge expressed the company's goal, saying, "We really want to help kids maintain and develop passions outside of the screen. Let them be kids! Yes, we have a network and a phone, but it's already proving to be something much bigger. People are reaching out from coast to coast and it's clear there is a demand - this is a movement."