LEHI — For parents, the decision of when to give their child a mobile phone can be a vexing question with the challenges of social media, potential cyberbullying and pervasiveness of online child predators.
But a Provo-based company is offering a solution that can give kids the technology they need to stay connected while also giving parents much-needed peace of mind.
Last week, Gabb Wireless introduced its second-generation kid-safe smartphone with numerous features to help keep them protected while also minimizing screen time. The Z2 Gabb Phone was developed for safe connectivity that urges children to live beyond the screen, explained Lance Black, vice president of marketing for Gabb Wireless.
“We position ourselves as the first phone. Our market or marketplaces is 8 to 15 (years old),” he said. “We’ve got data to show that kids who have Gabb phones spend 80% less time on screens. We’re a strong believer that the thief of opportunity is distraction. If we’re less distracted, we can accomplish great things. So (have) less screen time and do more cool stuff.”
The Bluetooth capable phone includes 14 essential apps that encourage freedom from distractions such as the internet, games, social media and app stores, the company says. The device retails for about $100 with monthly plans ranging from $20 to $25.
“It’s got fingerprint security, so you can touch to open your phone and GPS capabilities so a child can locate the phone if they’ve lost it and also tracking by parents (to know) where the phone is,” he said. The new device will protect against screen addiction, cyberbullying, inappropriate content and online predators, he added.
“We protect kids on a safe phone, we connect families, we empower parents and we live beyond the screen,” Black said.
The company is also unveiling other products — including a smartwatch — and services as well as establishing partnerships with local organizations that support the message that children should be living beyond the device screen, he added. Among the new partnerships will be an alliance with Defend Innocence — an organization working to eliminate child sexual abuse, and Gabb Ambassadors — young people who act as role models of what kids can accomplish when they limit their screen time.
For Sam Gordon, 17, a Gabb Ambassador and student athlete at Herriman High School, kid-safe devices can be critical tools to protect youth from the perils of virtual life in the internet age as well as helping them pursue alternative positive outlets.
“Outside of just that protecting kids from the harmful things on the internet, the Gabb phones are incredible because they give kids the necessities of everything you need on the phone, while taking away the dangerous distractions of social media and YouTube and the internet,” she said. “Kids can feel safe with their parents having communication, they can have the camera, they can have the radio, but they’ll spend so much less time on the screen and instead can go out and do cool stuff and look beyond the screen.’
She noted the prevalence of social media has become a major point of contention for young people because it can become so consuming that they lose their own sense of reality.
“Social media as a mindset is very harmful to teenagers and young kids especially because people believe what they see on their screen. They believe that other people are living these incredible lives and then they look at their own lives, and then they just get down about themselves,” Gordon said. “That’s such a toxic thing that really causes a lot of problems for kids nowadays. So social media can be great sometimes to spread a message, to create a platform and do good with it. But at the same sense, it can also be bad because kids get unrealistic expectations and it becomes a worry to see how many likes they get and how popular (they get) — it just brings everybody down.”
Correction: A previous version of this story identified Gabb Wireless as being based in Lehi. The company is based in Provo.