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The Tally Ho

Monday, June 20, 2005


No, not that one, ya geeks. Though I was Googling "Firefly" to brush up on my Mandarin. That's another post.

What is it with the idea of this glowy bug? Apparently the name and concept are marketable as a shorthand for "natural" communication. My first lightning bug of the season is always a big event (this year: June 10, in Delaware, Ohio.) and I think I'm not the only one who finds the chemical, Morse-code butts on these insects quaint and romantic. There's an internet phone service which goes by the name. (Though their PR leaves something to be desired: I'd never have found it if not for an unrelated Google search.) There's also the "mobile phone for mobile kids" made by Firefly Mobile, Inc. (Go click; I'll wait.) It is a cute looking little toy, and if you browse through the web page you will find that it comes with different backlights and different shells. It's tiny. It has five buttons. I should love it, and immediately want one for my future kids. Right?

It's also got a parental PIN so that any phone number that isn't stored in the Address Book (20 numbers) can't be received or dialed. If you're calling your little darling from a friend's cell phone, or from an emergency center, the call won't go through. There are big buttons for "Mom" and "Dad", with the international loo symbols on each button. So remember, kids, this phone is only for you if you have both a male and female parent with different phone numbers. You could, of course, program any numbers you wanted into those two hotkeys; "Mom" could be your local crisis center, "Dad" could be your financial advisor. I'm a little disheartened that it reinforces the idea that "normal" kids live in a nuclear family with lots of cell phones. I'm also disheartened at the big lack of text on the phone. I don't think it's a stretch, if I'm letting the boy out on his own with a cell phone, that he be old enough to read the words "Mom" and "Dad" on the screen.

It's small. And cute. And sturdy. And glows. It looks simple, and makes happy blinking lights. No one who is not on your "approved" list can get through.

1) "Mom, can I stay at the park a little longer?" Short answer: NO. My kid won't need a cell phone for that.
2) Since our generation doesn't have the ability to turn off the ringer, we will be physically unable to teach this skill to our kids. (This is already a problem. I was in two different seventh-grade classes this year and got interrupted by a cell phone. One poor girl was trying desperately to turn it off, and it made the Motorola-style "down the drain" noise as she was powering it down. The other incident occured during a dramatic pause in my presentation; I felt like I was the cautionary tale in the movie previews. It was even the archetypal Nokia ring. I threw her out and into the principal's office before the classroom teacher said a word.)
3) Getting unattended calls from the unlocked phone in the depths of your child's backpack, while she is playing with that disreputable friend you cannot stand. Since you're the parent, you feel compelled to listen and make sure she's not in any danger--then you start screaming into the phone, trying to get her attention so she will turn the damn thing off.

I can see the wisdom in giving tweeny kids the ability to connect with their parents, since schedules (post-cell-phone) have gotten so fluid and pay phones have become so scarce. But I'm convinced this isn't the way to do it. My kid's phone will be a full-feature device, with a "silent" option that she will learn how to use before she takes the thing to school. While we're at it, we'll put a clock on the front--analog, of course--and a built-in alarm so she'll have no trouble getting her sweet little butt home on time.

And I'll just keep that little blue toy for myself, and put the sushi delivery place on speed-dial.


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