Gadgets don’t tend to cause a lot of controversy. Their uses and applications may be called into question sometimes, but an actually device is usually free from any condemnation or disapproval. However you get the feeling that a mobile phone aimed at four-to-nine-year-olds would cause quite a stir…and it has.
Called the 1stFone, this back to basics cellular device is designed to connect a child with their parents or guardian in times of despair. It’s compact, screen-free design features no text or Internet capabilities but can store up to twelve contacts for every eventuality.
“In a world dominated by smart phones, parents face a difficult choice when it comes to finding a first phone for their child,” said Tom Sunderland, founder of 1stFone creator OwnFone. “We wanted to design a fun product that appeals to children but puts parents in complete control and minimises usage while still providing a vital connection between parent and child.”
According to the company, 1stFone aims to reduce the risks of text bullying or being exposed to harmful material online. It will also provide children with a vital contact to loved ones while playing outside, walking to school or at a friend’s house.
In terms of the actual device, it is actually quite a clever and well thought out design, obviously created for ease-of-use. 1stFone is also delivered pre-programmed with a parent’s desired names and numbers ready to go straight out of the box.
Needless to say, 1stFone has sparked anger and fury among parent groups and campaigners. Critics believe that OwnFone is simply trying to commercialise children and make money out of paranoid parents. Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums.com commented: “Marketing mobiles to pre-school children is wrong. No four-year-old needs their own phone as they should never be left alone or in a situation where they need to ring an adult.”
It’s somewhat difficult to take a definite stance on the subject. One certainly hopes that OwnFone’s main intention is to protect children from harm and provide essential assistance in a difficult situation rather than benefit from the commercial potential of worried parents. Regardless of personal opinion, it seems like even the youngest of children will be exposed to technology sooner rather than later.
One of the big worries for parents is what their children are doing online – what they’re viewing, who they’re talking to and so on.
Once your kids hit a certain age, even with the best will in the world it’s hard to watch them every second, which is why a new multi-device parental control system has been introduced.
Parentsaround lets parents supervise their children’s use of smartphones, PCs and Android tablets remotely via their own computer or smartphone.
The system, which is being shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month works with Windows and Android. Monitoring is carried out using parentsaround.com’s administration console. Parenst are able to track each child’s connection, filter internet use, control what time of day their children use devices and – the ultimate veto – disconnect the device from the internet!
The parental-control solution features Rapid Host Validation, an technology developed by Parentsaround that allows efficient internet filtering by analysing both words and images, as well as categorising websites.
The makers, French company Parentsaround, say that Parentsaround.com is quick to download and easy to install, as it only takes 10 seconds. The software is available from the company’s secure internet portal and from the Google Play Store.
There is also a support forum for parents on the website www.parentsaround.com. Users can use the service free for a month, and then a subscription applies. A single licence equips 10 PC and Android devices, which can be located at different addresses. The ZEN subscription costs €2.99 a month and can be cancelled at any time using the admin control, and the ECO subscription is €29 a year and is payable in full when the order is placed.
Parentsaround is also being sold as a control solution to mobile-telecoms operators who would like to offer this service to their customers.
My fridge has all kinds of magnetic things stuck on it. Everything from a bug eyed frog post card holder, to a welcome to Ibiza badge I won in a hotel raffle once. Good old fashioned post it notes decorate the rest of it in the hap hazard filing system I use to remember everything.
Imagine then my delight at learning about the new Play memo pad, perhaps the perfect solution to my often disorganised way of trying to be organised.
Play is a video memo pad that can store three minutes of video as either one full length message or in bite size chunks that you can stick on your fridge door. The possibilities are endless or the ultimate nightmare scenario depending on your perspective. On one hand you can record cute little messages to your loved ones before leaving the home or kids can create amusing vignettes for a bit of fun. Then of course there is the ultimate horror of a video chastisement from your partner or flatmate for not doing something you promised to do!
The memo pad comes with a built in microphone, speaker, camera and a 2.4 inch LCD monitor and needs just three AAA batteries. It comes with a magnetised backing and strap and a variety of colours including green, pink, blue, purple, red, white, black.
John Brunner, managing director of Play creator Native Union comments “It’s a lot more fun to leave a to-do list for your kids or a shopping list for your other half with video, but more than that, we hope that Play will encourage kids and adults alike to leave funny, heartfelt, or loving messages for each other more often”.
The Play video memo pad will be available at the end of September for £49.99.
How many Geocache enthusiasts does it take to change a lightbulb? I don’t know but it’s probably a co-ordinated effort. Non-Geocachers might not get that … but they can always look it up. Anyway, enough reference humour! Geocaching, if you are unaware, is one of the nerdist outdoor pursuits that I’ve encountered and makes for a great day of family fun for nerds who have defied all odds and managed to breed.
In basic terms, geocaching is a high tech game of hide and seek, organised through the website www.geocaching.com where you find a bunch of “caches” or hidden log books across the planet. Decipher the clues, find the notebook, write your name in and move on to the next. Like most pursuits the fun is all in the chase.
So where does technology come into all this? Well, obviously you can have a lot of fun geocaching with a regular map, or even an app, hardcore enthusiast play with dedicated GPS devices – including the brand new Magellan Explorist GC – a dedicated Geocaching GPS decive.
A fist-sized green pebble of a device, the eXplorist GC enables out of the box paperless geocaching, preloaded with some popular geocaches. You can connect to a computer via USB and load geocaches using the dedicated PC software – or as the MD assured me, simply drag and drop into the file system if you are a Mac user.
So what’s it like to use? The screen is excellent in bright sunlight and reasonably responsive to play with. The interface about as straight forward as you can imagine with simply icons and limited choices – the sort of thing I’d happily hand over to a young child as part of a family treasure hunt. All the features you’d expect in a dedicated Geocaching device are there – waypoint creation, a worldwide basemap (with an interface that resembles Shadows of the Colossus), active tracking and a trip odometer. Having all your cache info on one device is handy and lets you focus on the thrill of the hunt. If you’re like me you’re probably thinking “can’t my iPhone do all this?” And yes you are right there are apps. But the SiRRstar III GPS chipset makes GPS tracking pretty accurate and most importantly free overseas, where some amazingly free geocaches can be found. And the rugged casing and simple design of the eXplorist GC make for a fun and child-friendly experience.