Disney's Latest MVNO Perfect For Paranoid Parents

from the Mickey-Mouse-is-working-for-your-parents dept

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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Comments on “Disney's Latest MVNO Perfect For Paranoid Parents”

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justme says:

Re: disney phone

I teach my child to look out for danger, to cause a scene if he feels threatened by someone and to be able to talk to me if there is an uncomfortable situation that he is dealing with. He is 9 years old and I try to teach him right from wrong. Thats my job as his mom and I take it seriously. I trust him, it’s others I don’t trust. I am looking at getting the disney phone not only for the GPS system but also for the parental controls on talk time and messaging. He goes with friends (and their parents) to baseball games and spends the night. I would also like to call him to say goodnight or have him be able to call me to pick him up if necessary. I think that the phone is a great idea. To be used as a communication tool, not as a substitution for parenting.


Patrick Mullen says:

“Trust your kids?” My question is, do you have kids? Keep in mind that the target for a Disney phone would be young kids, because I can’t imagine that an older teen would be seen dead with a Disney phone. Young kids do stupid things, I know this is true because I did stupid things as a young kid, and I watch my kids do stupid things. Its pretty easy for someone without kids to make comments or judgements on others, but without knowing the reality, its all just talk.

Personally, a good phone for teens may be a gps phone that tracks location and velocity (with a hookup to the car to reduce speed when needed) and video, and then somehow hook up a shock collar or RFID chip inserted that can deliver an electric shock (nothing lethal, just a disabling blow) would go over well, and one for teen girls that can deliver a more serious shock to teen boys in to close proximity, in a few years, I would buy that package.

Bradley VanTreese says:

Re: Trust

Yes, “Trust your Kids”! I realize that trust is becoming a foreign concept to most Americans nowadays, but it shouldn’t be. Just because you are no longer trusted by your boss, government, family, significant other, etc, doesn’t mean that this is the best way to treat your children. I, in fact, do have children, and I can tell you that this product sends the wrong message from parents to children. Children should feel loved, trusted and protected. Not watched, spied on and distrusted. How in the world do you expect them to develop any decision making skills, let alone any self esteem?

We should concentrate more on our roles as teachers, providers and protectors of our children, and way less on our roles as policemen of them. You are a perfect example of what is wrong not only with the state of parenting today, but with the overall state of society as well. You’re an idiot.

dani says:

Re: Re: Trust

What kind of role-model, loving parent goes around name-calling?

My parents used to roll by whatever place I was supposed to be at…a good parent will ‘check-up’ on their kids, not because of lack of trust, but because they’re KIDS. Even if u do an absolutely perfect job raising them, they’re gonna do things they’re not supposed to do. Taking the time to check up (spy) on your kids is part of your job if you really want to keep them safe and teach them right from wrong.

Gary says:

Re: Re:

Patrick Love you state of mind.. LOL I think people forget a lot when technolgy grows. I believe it would be a great thing and it doesn’t have to take away from trust. What does is give you a new path of knowledge to use when an emergency arises and no one comes home after the party.

I do not see it as a way for good parents to stop parenting. And bad parents will always be bad parents until they change, with or without this phone.


dani (user link) says:

“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”

…a phone doesn’t make a child or an adult ‘safe’. A phone gives you more options in the case of an emergency, but it doesn’t stop bad things from happening…any parent hopefully has the sense to know that.

…if you give your 10 year old a phone he can talk on for 10 hours a month (then its useless until next month) – he’s getting an excellent lesson in managing his personal time on the phone.

Wolfger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…if you give your 10 year old a phone he can talk on for 10 hours a month (then its useless until next month) – he’s getting an excellent lesson in managing his personal time on the phone.

*cough* *sputter* *cough*
10 hours?!? That’s 600 minutes! I have a family of 3 with one person working out of a home office, and we barely use that much time! If your 10 year old is spending anywhere near that much time on a cell phone, something’s wrong.

Beau says:


On the flip side, if a parent informed their child of all the dangers that a parent is supposed to inform their child of and then explained to them how this phone would help both the child and the adult (which it can in many ways), this phone could make a lot of sense to both the child and the adult as well as teaching the child a valuable skill, called “understanding.”
(this is all in theory, of course)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Teaching right from wrong

You’re wrong about the name calling, and a chilld won’t learn everything at once. Ergo, my fellow human being, a child is Bound to make mistakes. And one of those mistakes could be a very dangerous mistake. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could help nullify a danger by having communication with your child when he or she is away from home? Perhaps you are in a situation where you can’t do everything and be there all the time. Perhaps this phone would be nice.
Did you like being called names?
Nobody likes being called names. That’s why it is not nice. Quote me, “Not Nice.”
I’d like my kids to be “nice.” wouldn’t you?

Grumpy Old Man says:

Re: Teaching right from wrong


I have met parents with a similar attitude to yours. Part of my job is informing parents that little Susie is pregnant, or that Johnny has a STD. Almost always I get the same response, “that is not possible, Johnny is a good boy and would never do that” followed by “I raised my child RIGHT, I know I can trust him. You must be wrong”

Get a clue, as parents we all try and teach our children right from wrong, But as children they are going to make mistakes. It is part of growing and learning. Our job is being there to help them learn from the mistakes they make.

For the record, checking up on your child is not spying. It is checking up. If my child says she is going to a friend’s house, I trust her to do so. I do on occasion call the parent of the child and make sure she is there and is acting appropriately. I do not call every time she goes. As she got older we went from walking her to the friends house, to watching her walk there, to being called when she arrived, to the current occasional check up call.

Finally if you find name calling OK, I would say only an IDIOT would trust a 12 yr old to make the right decision every time.

Eileen says:


my parents never ever trusted me growing up, even though I was a perfect angel. They were constantly accusing me of doing things I never would do (smoking, hanging out with boys, etc). And the funny thing is, sometime in highschool I got so fed up with it I just decided to start doing those things! So maybe this is an extreme example, but if you don’t trust your kids (opening their mail/email was particularly awful) then they will resent you and never be open with you, no matter how much you love them and just want them to be safe. I wish I had that kind of trusting relationship you are talking about… I would never have become a “bad kid” later.

Cell Phones for kids are pretty stupid in my opinion. Yes, I have one. I use it to make long distance calls to a short list of people, about 150 min/month. Something about the way a lot of teenagers are on it hours/day seems unhealthy to me. Let them learn to be alone and amuse themselves some of the time. It’s a very overlooked skill. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: parenting -- get real

…even though I was a perfect angel.

Yeah, right, we all were.

I would never have become a “bad kid” later.

Or maybe you would have become a “worse” kid. I’m sure it’s all your parents’ fault, though. Clearly, you were not responsible for you own behavior.

Cell Phones for kids are pretty stupid in my opinion.

What!? You wouldn’t trust your kid with a cell phone? Oh, the cycle of abuse continues!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I, for one, applaud any business that tries to provide tools for parents. It is up to each parent to decide if the tools are appropriate or necessary for their child. Every child is different, but all are curious and naive, at times. There are more ways for our children to get into trouble today than ever before.

Contrary to what some people that haunt TD seem to think, it is not possible for a parent to personally monitor every moment of radio, TV and Internet activity for each child. If we are all being honest, you will admit that your parents did not do this with you. Today, the dangers are much worse. And so, parents who *do* parent their kids welcome tools to help in that task.

Again, parents may choose which tools, if any, are appropriate for their child at what level of maturity and understanding they are at.

TD constantly chants “let the market forces decide”. If tools such as those described here are unwanted, people will not buy them and they will go away. For you to tell any parent that they should not use such tools is presumptuous.

Anonymous Coward says:


Parents arguing over what is wrong and what is right.

This discussion is no better than parents arguing over what is foul and what is not… at a soccer game.

Common mommies – learn to respect each other and try not to be so controlling. What’s wrong with letting other people do as they please. Sure, you may think that something might not be right for YOUR children – but please realise that other people’s children *CAN ALSO BE* brought up with other people’s standards of what is right and what is wrong.

Please, just you do your thing and let other people do their thing.

S M says:

It's a capitalistic world and ..

the companies will try their best to get your business by intruding into your life. As hard as it is, it’s really upto the parents to not only try and have the necessary control over the kids, but also incessantly talk to and teach the kids what is more important in day-to-day life. Kids do listen to the parents, although they don’t seem to be. So bottomline, if we let the kids own these products, try and find out what the kids are really using them for.

Concerned Parent says:

Re: Re: Lighten up, it may just be a "Guardian Angel"

I for one don’t see the problem with any of this. I’m going to look into purchasing one of these phones. God forbid, but if one of my children happened to wind up missing, I would want to know exactly where they were. I pray that it never happens, but if one of my little ones was kidnapped, the first thing the police ask is the last known location, and if they know that right away, the child is found within a few hours.

I’m ordering one NOW!

Patrick Mullen says:

Sounds like some people have some parenting issues here. Lighten up, will you? But hey, its the first time in a while anyone called me perfect, so I will take that. Before you get all worked up consider this. Would anyone older than 12 want a Disney phone? I know Disney says they are targeting the older kids, but would older kids want a Disney phone in the first place? I can’t imagine a 12 year old boy every using something from Disney. So if its a younger child, then more protection is probably a good thing. You may trust your child, but there are a lot of people besides your child that you can’t trust.

Course, that begs the question that kids should carry mobile phones in the first place, but thats a different story.

A Responsible and Caring Parent says:

Realize the gravity of the situation!

In the year 2000, just 6 years ago, 797,500 children were reported missing. That number has most likely increased with time. Maybe you adults without children will think twice when pointing out flaws in a device that would help prevent that number.

Most of you should really be ashamed!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Realize the gravity of the situation!

In the year 2000, just 6 years ago, 797,500 children were reported missing. That number has most likely increased with time. Maybe you adults without children will think twice when pointing out flaws in a device that would help prevent that number.

Meaning the first thing any reasonable kidnapper or child who wants to runaway will do is ditch this phone. How does that make anyone any safer?

Caring Parent says:

Re: Re: Realize the gravity of the situation!

“74 percent of abducted children are found within three hours of the abduction if the last known location is reported.”

A kidnapper or child can only run away from the device so fast, and road blocks or a parimeter can be set up around that last location.

Is it your first thought to think what a “reasonable kidnapper” would do???

Anonymous Coward says:

remember – these are phones made for “KIDS” and probably will look like so. Look at the history of items released by Disney, most (if not all) of those items proposed FOR KIDS looked like they should be owned BY KIDS. So if you insist that they are marketing an item to kids that will not look like it is for kids, than Disney possibly will NOT be the manufacturer of suck item.



I APPAULD Disney. Maybe my teenage daughter would be with me today instead of in the cemetary. Had this techonlogy been availabe 15 yrs ago, we may have been able to find her alive. It was not the lack of family values, or lack of responibility on our part. It was a sick individual. the ability to track my minor daughter could have prevented her assult, and death

S M says:


I think it should be considered progress as long as there are tools evolving such as this one, that can help us in our daily life. There’s so much arguing going on about how to bring up kids, that the more important point that there’s a new tool out there that can really help save lives if used right, is being missed.


nunya_bidness says:

Re: the disney phone

I am glad someone other than myself read the article, the phone looks ok for young kids. Maybe a less conspicuous model for older children will be available. The article makes a lot of sense to me, as a parent, who would have liked some of the features of the phone when my kids were younger. If wearing Mickey Mouse ears could prevent a kidnapping or other serious problems I would consider that too.

Mike (user link) says:

Guardian Angel Phones

I have 2 of the GPS devices from Guardian Angel. They sell numerous versions with the child tracking software.


My youngest, 6, has the childs device, which from what I can tell has a casing around it so the only button used is an emergency button. My oldest, 14, has the metallic blue phone that he loves! He always lets me know when I need to pick him up early, or when he’s going to be late.

It’s really put some of my nights at ease not worrying so much.

be2be says:

phones for youngsters

wow, this is more lively than parentcenter.com!

it seems poeple like to see things in black and white –good/bad kids — good/bad parents. Give me break. what a parent is all good or bad? over a phone? is this not TEChdirt? menaing you all are interested in gadgets? but it’s all back to earth when it comes to kids?

this phone is there to compete with firefly and the like which are geared to to the 6-10 age group.

as a single parent with no family backup in the region, i can totally see the use of this. my kid is 6 , she is not supposed to get on the bus one day (a one off) she forgets and is ushered onto the bus. She gets let OFF the bus even though there is no one to receive her. I get to school and NO KID. I call neighbors – NO KID. about now, while running around calling bus companies, drivers, neigbors, etc it would be nice to call HER.

turns out she was hiding because she couldn’t open the door because locks don’t always cooperate with 6 year olds. there are no public phones and no where to go. a little gadget solves these kinds of issues: you have my blessing.

Adults should have convenience and safety and kids shouldn’t? it seems you all have a set picture in your head of what the scenario will be – as if everthing always goes to plan.

dotJim says:

People without kids: refrain from the parenting ti

> too many parents will look at such tools

> as an alternative to actually teaching their kids

Whoa. This statement sounds like “advice” from childless “expert” on parenting. No thank you.

For over 3 years, I have wanted to buy a cell phone for my kid (now age 9). I need to talk to her, or she me. Plans change, etc.

Initially, the roadblock with getting her a phone was the absurdity factor (a six year old with a phone?!)

Then, the roadblock was upfront cost.

Lately it’s the replacement cost (how many retainers are thrown away every day?)

I’ll get my kid a phone, probably by the time she’s ten. I would never get her one of those phones that only dials 4 pre-programmed numbers (she made it clear she wouldn’t want one of those anyway) but I would consider a phone with GPS or other features. You know, trust but verify.

However, if I think it’s potentially too expensive to have to replace my kid’s ‘free’ phone at “retail” price, I expect that it would be more expensive to replace one of these.


Wolfger (profile) says:

Re: People without kids: refrain from the parentin

For over 3 years, I have wanted to buy a cell phone for my kid (now age 9). I need to talk to her, or she me. Plans change, etc.

WTF? I was a kid aged 6-9 once. For about 3 years, in fact. Never in all that time did anything so earth shatteringly important happen that my parents needed to get in touch with me and they couldn’t. And…. there were NO cell phones! Imagine that! How did we ever survive? I know this is TechDirt, and we’re all supposed to be ubergeeks here, but I think that technology is starting to become too invasive in our lives when we consider cell phones to be resonable, or even necessary accesories for 10 year olds.

megreen says:

cell phones for kids

I am young and not a parent. But since I was in high school just 3 years ago I think that someone who actually grew up in this technology era should say something. One: don’t refer to your childhood cuz it is a bigger badder world even since I was 10 (which was only about 11 years ago). Kids have totally different attitudes and priorities, despite how good of a job their parents do. Two: below 12 is when they are still innocent for phones to do them some good. From age 12 to 16 it’s just a way for them to contact their friends and they won’t want a phone that only lets them call their parents and emergency numbers, but they NEED it in those years. Three:After 16, tell them to get a job and pay for their own cell phone, but send one on trips with them because you don’t want some psycho picking them up to take them to the nearest tow shop. Four: my parents never opened my email or read my mail or text messages because they never suspected me of doing dangerous things. My little brother lacks common sense and drives drunk and went through a fighting stage so they invaded his privacy to insure his safety. Safety is more important than trust…period. And my brother and I are perfect examples of how two kids raised in the same exact house can make completely different decisions. When it comes down to it, the child makes the choice.

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