Give Your Kid Your Old Mobile Phone As A Toy… But Make Sure They Don't Call 911

from the holiday-suggestions dept

It’s the time of the year for gift giving suggestions, and while we don’t do a gift guide, it did catch our eye that an education professor is suggesting that you can give your old, obsolete mobile phones to toddlers as holiday presents. Not only does it keep the phone out of a landfill somewhere, it introduces kids to the basics of the technology. A couple I know even insists that their toddler’s favorite toy is his father’s mobile phone, because of all the flashing lights and beeps it makes. However, the real reason the story got our attention was that just a few hours before, we had seen a different article about how a little kid playing with a deactivated mobile phone kept calling 911 baffling police and wasting resources for hours as they tried to track down the caller to make sure nothing was wrong. Carriers are required to provide 911 service on phones, even if they have no official phone service. So, if you must give toddlers old phones, perhaps figure out someway to block them from calling 911 first.

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Comments on “Give Your Kid Your Old Mobile Phone As A Toy… But Make Sure They Don't Call 911”

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Jo Mamma says:

No way to block it that I know of

I don’t think there is a way to block 911 access.

In fact, my Samsung will actually dial 911 when it’s locked! So if it’s in my pocket, locked, and the combination 911 is hit, and send is pressed, I get a dispatcher on the line!

This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that not only does ‘911’ dial the cops, but other obscure combinations as well, including 08, 112, and about three or four others.

When I asked the pimply faced 19 year old about this at the phone shop, he said “by law, they had to provide 911 access, even if it’s locked. Somehow I doubt that, but it might be true, I suppose. I think it was just an easy way to blow me off.

Brett says:

Re: Locked

I agree with Dan. I should think removing (and recycling) the battery should be the safest, most effective way of disabling it. It might also be wise — if one is concerned about such things — to erase/remove the memory so that the previous owner’s personal/private information is not compromised, should the child lose or get rid of the phone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Giving old mobile phones to small children seems like a great idea! After all these phones are so well constructed, and void of small objects they will certainly stand up to being banged on the table or floor!

Other great gift ideas for your toddler…

Rusty scissors
Your old refrigerator – he can make a fort!
and last but CERTAINLY not least…
used condom baloons!

Jaidev Bhola (profile) says:

I don't think that's a good idea

I don’t think giving an infant a old cellphone that is enabled is a good idea at all. The cellphones still emit radiation which could be potentially harmful to the kids. Their skulls are thin and not fully developed and as a result they’ll be more suseptible to the harmful effects of the microwave radiation.

As adults, we are a bit more resistent give our thick skulls.

smithers says:

Why not just give them them the dead phone as a toy and don’t charge the battery. It’s a friggin toddler. They are just going to use it to make “pretend” phone calls anyway.
Are you planning on getting it a long-distance plan too and just hope he doesn’t dial China?
If you want the kid to learn about technology, do you think giving it a phone with contacts and memos and all those “complicated” menus is really going to teach the kid anything. it’ll just be impressed by the lights and beeping noises.
I mean c’mon people!!!

Virdict says:

Re: Response to: smithers on Nov 22nd, 2006 @ 9:38am

Not true at all. My 3 year old brother in law can search YouTube for what he wants, call who he wants to talk to, take pictures and edit them with the camera app, and many other things all because we’ve given him the iPod to play with, he can use Samsung galaxy as well. Based on what I’ve seen, to not give your child a smart phone or tablet is to horrible handicap them. You’d be a bad parent…

smithers says:

Why not just give them them the dead phone as a toy and don’t charge the battery. It’s a friggin toddler. They are just going to use it to make “pretend” phone calls anyway.
Are you planning on getting it a long-distance plan too and just hope he doesn’t dial China?
If you want the kid to learn about technology, do you think giving it a phone with contacts and memos and all those “complicated” menus is really going to teach the kid anything. it’ll just be impressed by the lights and beeping noises.
I mean c’mon people!!!

TX CHL Instructor (user link) says:

911 service

It almost doesn’t really matter whether 911 can be dialed from a cellphone — at least, not here in the Dallas area.

Last time I called 911 on my cellphone (to report a fire), it took 22 rings before the 911 dispatcher answered — more than a minute. The time before that (to report an accident with injuries), it ‘only’ took 15 rings. I’m glad that *I* wasn’t in any personal danger either time!

BTW, that’s one reason I carry a gun. 911 simply is not reliable, nor is it fast enough in a real emergency.

Kevin F. says:


For people suggesting the removal of the battery, if the goal is to let them be entertained by sounds and lights and whatnot, that obviously wouldn’t work. And for those talking about all of the various other codes beyond just 9-1-1 that might be called, the turning off of the antenna would address that issue.

The real question is… why worry about all of this for a toddler? They have toys that mimick cell phones, anyhow. If you want to save the landfill from the extra trash, fine, but donate the phone to one of the many foundations out there who provide them to battered women or whatever.

Dan G says:

what are we doing

What happened to normal toys, the young ones has their whole life to develop a interest in technology and other stuff why can’t ppl just leave them be let them be kids and let their mind develop.

besides i think those who would carelessly and unloving of their child to think give the little ones a cell phone would shut them up for a good hr or two, should really look at yourselves and see what you are doing to your child

spoon?!?! says:

Re: what are we doing

First, mental development isn’t one dimensional. Second, sure they have their whole life to like technology, but they only have their childhood to soak up the absolute batholith of technology information that exists today before they lose the ability to soak up knowledge like water, and wind up like me, wishing we’d been introduced earlier so I wouldn’t have to work in a goddamn factory because I can barely get Windows to behave. Third, giving a toddler a toy doesn’t equate to placating them and getting them out of the way. You could give them a stick and they’d be just as happy and fascinated, and last I checked happy, fascinated kids are a lot more healthy than deprived kids coming from Spartan parents. Finally, learn English, you intolerable, useless Luddite!!!

Sorry to take the flamebait, but… just… GAAAAAHHHHH!!! What part of the brain does one poke with a cotton swab to make ^ that!?!?!?

Peet McKimmie says:

Instead of removing the battery, pop off the back and remove the antenna… Oh, wait, though – without an antenna the ‘phone would always run in “maximum power” mode, emitting nasty radiation at short distances and flattening the battery in minutes. As you were.

Here’s a radical idea – why not teach your toddler not to be reliant on a cell phone? Lets not bring up another generation constantly shouting on the train. 🙂

Larry the Arab says:

Re: Re:

I am as technologically plugged-in as the next nerd, but I have NEVER been able to figure out the fixation people have with cell phones. I live in Europe and people over here behave as if cell phones are linked to critical bodily functions like breathing. Some of the soap operas over here spend over 50% of the time showing characters talking to each other via cell phone.

What is the deal?!?!

The absolute LAST thing the world needs is a way to make toddlers more familiar with the technology; lack of such ‘infant exposure’ doesn’t seem to have been a hindrence as most kids (and adults) seem willing to have the cell phone surgically implanted if the option existed.

Dudes, it’s just a PHONE!!!

James Bond says:

Cell Phones

Just toss the old phone away and get the kid a toy gun to get used to and play with,can do more with that anyway as they get older and then get a real one for them .Calling 911 for help from an attacker is not as effective as shooting him to stop him for good when a head banger or gheto rat is after you.Kids learn gun and shooting games young these days on the computer or xbox so they are prepared for a real one with minimal training.If you have a cell phone it calls the swat team after a certain amount of time of connect/disconne to come see you also.For those who say guns are bad and kill people look at all the people who kill folks every day with their phones making useless stupid nonsese calls in their cars and most kids that have a phone or looks like a locust hanging off their ear are doing the same or making drug deals and why train them for that lifestyle

Anon says:

Re: Cell Phones

Hey James Bond, or should I call you double O run-on, try using some punctuation?

“…they are prepared for a real one with minimal training” Seriously? You want to give a kid a gun with minimal training, just assuming all those hours logged on the gaming console will prove to be sufficient training for carrying around a loaded gun?

Oh by the way, original post had absolutely nothing to do with the effectiveness of the 911 emergency system.

spoon?!?! says:

to take more flamebait

And @21, it’s not having a cell phone that makes one dependent on cell phones, it’s a social life and its augmentation by a constant link – people who have few social or business relationships have little use for cell phones, and aren’t dependent on them. I doubt you could get a toddler to get hooked on a cell phone if you tried, anyway! As for you Bond, go join your backwater fundamentalist friend @19, there are those of us who can do simple multitasking without killing everyone around us.

isabel says:

if you don't have kids, you don't know what you're

kids love to mimic adults. you can give them a cell phone that is not charged and they love to pretend to talk on it. but they’ll mimic you talking on the phone without being given a phone. so it’s not like you’re ‘teaching’ them to be rude, loud, phone talkers or anything about using a phone.
and i highly doubt the idea was to give the toddler a cell phone and a live account attached to it. i gave my kid my old phone. who cares, get over it.

Kavin says:

to be strong

hi my name is kavin i like to be a firefighter when i grow up and i want 10000belling dolers in are bank a cont and i want to grow up and be strong and eat good food but i dont and i want to i am praind to god becase i have a sezre and i am on gouten free i cant eat the thigse that have gloten on it i am on dalaenten medacashen and i love my self to strong but i am not. from one girl kavin

debdtexas says:

Kids cell phone

I agree with most of what you all are saying except the reason I was searching for something for my granddaughter is that she is so used to using her parents Iphone but not to call people. She can play multiple games & also uses the camera. She has no care about making the calls, she doesn’t even like talking on the phone. It’s all about the games (which are all learning games)& taking pictures.

Anyonmus says:


I gave my 14 month old neice my old mobile with NO SIM so know calls could be made. I hooked it up to the wifi and downloaded a load of fisher price apps for her. I then downloaded and app called kids place which means she can only acces apps that I say she can. She can’t lock it, open the notifications tab, change the volume or go home she can just play her own apps that she enjoys and decide which ones she wants to play with so I don’t have to fiddle with it making sure she dosent call anyone or anything.

ThatOne says:

No way to block it that I know of

It is by law almost in every country that a phone even without a SIM card must be able to call emergency services, such as 911, 112 (europes 911) and with smartphones you must be able to do so with it locked.

That is to make it easier to call 911 and if you are out cold and have the only phone that works, then it would be a shame if they couldnt call 911 🙂

Jester (profile) says:

Really people???

Ok so my son is 3 has a tablet that he can work and do things on it. He can count to 25 knows all basic colors and shapes. He has learned this from playing EDUCATIONAL games on the tablet. He can open and unlock me and my wife’s phone and can go onto his games and play them. He can work Hulu and Netflix on our phones. All you people saying stupid crap about giving a “toddler” a old phone must not be parents. Second. Cellphones don’t emit enough radiation to be picked up unless it is a extremely ultra sensitive detector. The FCC has regulations on how much can be put out and have stated that no harm can be done even if you had it by your head 24/7-365. Some of yall need to do some reasurch before opening your mouth(or texting with your fingers). No it is not a law that every cell phone have the 9-1-1 feature in use. It IS a law that they all have to be able to make the call without a SIM card. To the dumb youknowwhat who said let’s give the kid rusty scissors and used condom and to the other dumb you know what who said let’s give the kid a gun I hope you never become parents and if you do I fear for that child. Let’s do a little more research that shows lights and noises are great for younger kids to keep them stimulated and exposure to Teknowledge he is good for younger kids to prove this to everybody who says what happened to old toys have you ever seen a old person Use technology it is extremely hard for them and almost everything these days is ran by some form of technology. If your basis is that young kids do not need to be exposed to technology then how about we don’t teach them the ABC’s or one to threes because they can learn that when they are older how about looking up the fact that exposure to something at a younger age is More beneficial to retaining the information and being able to expand on the information. Now back to the original question yes Sam song phones can be routed through developer options to completely disable the antenna Apple can be jailbroken and me to act like a iPod touch

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