Last summer, when Disney announced plans for a Disney-branded mobile phone service (MVNO), we wondered if there would be some backlash for targeting children at a young age -- when there's some controversy over how young is too young for a mobile phone. What we didn't realize is that Disney's MVNO wouldn't be targeted at children, but at parents. In fact, it almost sounds like the type of mobile phone that many kids will hate, rather than enjoy. The service allows parents to act as a manager for their kids mobile phone usage -- setting specific time limits for usage, for example. It also includes child tracking features that are likely to get most of the attention. While there will be plenty of talk about how these offerings are designed to protect children, we've pointed out plenty of downsides as well. Often they just give parents a false sense of security, while giving the parents an excuse not to teach their kids how to deal with complex situations. With the tracking, in particular, many kids are smart enough to figure out ways around the system. On top of that, they're taught that their parents don't trust them, which is a great foundation for a relationship. Yes, there are some safety aspects to such systems, but too many parents will look at such tools as an alternative to actually teaching their kids how to stay safe or how to manage their time on the phone more effectively. It may be a huge success, but it's not clear that it really makes anyone any safer in the long run.
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