Kid-safe smartphones, now in Canada

Jun 26, 2024 | Canadian News

Pinwheel’s new kid-safe smartphone, just launched in Canada, empowers parents with remote monitoring tools.

With normal phones, kids have access to the entirety of the internet with little parental control, whereas the Pinwheel phone allows parents of eight- to 14-year-olds to adjust the settings to meet their child’s current needs.

Rajib Chatterjee, the father of an 11-year-old, said he was still skeptical about giving his son a phone.

“We moved to Canada this year, and since then, my son has been asking for a phone, saying it is a necessity, everyone has one.” Chatterjee said he completely disagrees with that notion.

“We didn’t have phones growing up, and we did fine. Why shouldn’t they?” he said.

He hadn’t heard of the Pinwheel smartphone, so he’ll wait to hear from other parents about its safety and wait for reviews before he considers it.

Pinwheel announced their smartphones for kids will be available in Canada on June 18.

“Ever since we launched Pinwheel in the U.S. a few years ago, word spread quickly among parents everywhere, including Canada,” said Pinwheel CEO Dave Witbeck, in a press release. “We heard from many people that they were so eager to get a phone they were asking friends in the US to buy them and ship them up north.” Witbeck launched the company in 2019. “That’s why we are so excited to finally be able to meet the demand for our phones here.

“We believe our phones give families a way to help kids develop healthy habits around digital device use and screen time without the negative impacts and distractions of social media and open Internet access,” Witbeck said.

The company’s press release said the phone gives kids the features and functions they want, such as texting, apps and photo-sharing but with age-appropriate guardrails.

Then a gradual unlock of features and about 1,200 apps as the child grows into an independent young adult who has learned to manage technology well.

Other features of the phone include text and call history monitoring, a contact safe list, a schedule for apps and a curated library of kid-safe apps.

Isabella Rodericks, a mother of two, said her daughters have iPhones and that she is happy with the parental controls provided by Apple’s software.

“Between the stuff I read on mom’s forums online and WhatsApp, I worry about what is out there on the internet, what my girls are exposed to.”

Rodericks said it would be difficult for her to convince her daughters to use a smartphone brand other than Apple.

“I don’t think my girls will agree to take anything other than the next iPhone model to school.”

Anand Prasad, an IT engineer and father of two, said he has heard of these smartphones.

“I think they are a great option, especially for the pre-teen to early teen-aged kids.”

He said he does think it can get expensive for parents because you have to pay for the device, the cellular plan and then the parent management piece.

As with all software, there will be room for fixes, improvement and better versions. “We need to be embracing and incorporating technology while ensuring it is safe,” Prasad said.