Given the news that the World Health Organization scientists are reporting that cellphone use may increase the risk of cancer, I thought it an apt time to write about a new product about to invade our families: the Teddyfone.
It looks innocuous, almost cute actually. But I think this little guy may be the Trojan Horse in the toy box.
Teddyfone is a cellphone for very young children. It’s already available in Britain and elsewhere abroad. Beginning this fall, it’s expected to be available in the U.S. according to the U.S. distributor Mitch Mauer.
The phone is marketed to children 3 to 8 years old, but even Mauer told me that his two-year-old twins use the phone. “They fight over it. We should have gotten one for each.”
Mauer is a likable guy. He spent an afternoon with a skeptic explaining the features of Teddyfone, whose plastic body, available in pink or blue, is small and light enough for teeny hands. It also has paws and ears that light up with an incoming call.
Mauer insists that radiation exposure is not an issue with Teddyfone because the phones will be used for short, essential calls and the phones have very low radiation absorption levels.
Still, I’m not pre-ordering one. Not just because it is a cellphone for toddlers, but it’s being pushed as a necessary safety device for parents, or as Mitch called it, a “safety blanket for parents.”
Besides its programmable paws, the phone offers an “S-O-S” button that when held for five seconds will call a pre-determined number. At that point, the phone switches into child-monitor mode. The phone is also traceable.
The problem with products like this is not just that they may be physically dangerous. It’s also that they play into our bigger fears about child safety and abductions. We all see the effects our fears have wrought — childhood obesity, vitamin deficiencies from lack of sunlight, kids who playdate indoors with screens and have never heard of kick-the-can.
Even so, we just can’t seem to stop ourselves from worrying into this loss of childhood. Teddyfone pushes us even further.
I also liked that Mauer pointed out, “It’s a great tool for a mom or dad who doesn’t have full custody.”
Now here’s ust what separated parents need: a phone that can be used to not only curry favor with a child, but also as a monitor in the other parent’s home.
What do you think? Is Teddyfone as bad as I think it is? Are you concerned about kids and cellphone use?