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Ask Slashdot: Suitable Phone For a 4-Year Old? 682

blogologue writes "I have a kid that's turning 4-years old soon, and I'm not able to be with him as often as I want to. To remedy this, I'm looking into whether or not getting him a phone could be a good idea to keep in touch. Being able to have a video chat is important, and as it is rare that a 4-year old has a mobile phone, and because he's got other things to do, it would be good to be able to turn off for example games and so on during time in the kindergarten. So other kids don't go around asking their parents for a smartphone. The main reason for getting the phone is keeping in touch, and as a bonus it can function as a device for games and so on during allowed times. Are there any phones that are suitable for such use? I don't mind if it's Android, iOS or something else, as long as it can be used to make video calls to other Android/iOS phones, and if it features other applications such as games, have limited, pre-defined functionality during certain periods of the day."
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Ask Slashdot: Suitable Phone For a 4-Year Old?

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  • Are you serious? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:50PM (#44988867)

    Are you serious?

    The most "suitable" phone for a 4 year old is one without a battery.

    Really, you need to focus on more important things for your child at that age.

    • by rwven ( 663186 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:51PM (#44988887)

      Sounds like the parent and child are separated. Nothing wrong with trying to stay connected at a distance...assuming whoever is with the kiddo is aware/approving.

      • Re:Are you serious? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:56PM (#44988937)

        Sounds like the parent and child are separated. Nothing wrong with trying to stay connected at a distance...

        Giving a 4 year old a phone is not the solution to that problem.

        By the way, my wife and I Skype three times a week with our grandchildren who are about that age. Works much better than handing them a phone.

        • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:00PM (#44988969)

          Exactly. If you can't be there, skype or some other solution while they're at home is a much better solution than giving them an expensive electronic device that will serve as a distraction to them at school. Not to mention any 4 year old I've ever known will quickly break or lose it. Buy a webcam, attach it to the PC, and call every evening. Or get a tablet, but make it stay at home. There's no advantages to the cell phone, and a lot of negatives.

      • by PsychoSlashDot ( 207849 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:01PM (#44988975)

        Sounds like the parent and child are separated. Nothing wrong with trying to stay connected at a distance...assuming whoever is with the kiddo is aware/approving.

        Whoever is with the kiddo is insanely likely to have at least one cell phone which they can hand to the kid once a phone call has been made.

        This whole question smells very, very bad. It's made clear that this phone will go to kindergarten with the kid. Really? Because a four-year-old might possibly just need to "stay in touch" while at school? Really?

        Then let's pay attention that the OS doesn't matter as long as it can do video chat to other IO/Android devices. Note that it's not phrased as "I have an X, so I need it to be able to video chat with that." No. Options. Because the four-year-old needs to be able to video chat with anyone. Now, sure, maybe they're just being proactive and they know they can't predict what phone they'll have in two years, six months, or fifteen minutes, but that's still shady.

        Oh, but wait. Where's the bit about "how do I make sure this phone isn't lost, stolen, or used inapropriately?" Where's the usual questions about parental controls? Mmmm?

        Right. Because this question is probably bunk. Or very, very ill-thought-out.

      • I know a number of children of divorce, and others whose parents are traveling overseas for work. I know one colleague who schedules a voice or video call with their child every day. The child's parents have agreed should have a phone in their school bag to "call mom or dad" in case they anything happens. It's a very limited, very cheap, used phone, so there are no complex games on it: the child is 8. The child also has a lot of allergies and a very strict diet, so the parents have had several heated argume

  • No hone is suitable for a 4 year old.

  • yeah no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by puto ( 533470 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:50PM (#44988873) Homepage
    buy him a book, an erector set, lincoln logs. Do not get him hooked on the electronic teat at such a young age. My father was an engineer and even though he worked late hours, he still would take me to the ice cream shop at night and help me with my homework and have dad and son time. The time he spent was quality.
    • Did you even read the summary, or did you just comment based on the title? The poster doesn't want a phone to keep his child occupied, he wants it so his kid can contact him if needed - he explicitly says he wants to be able to disable entertainment functionality.

      • by Tr3vin ( 1220548 )
        When is this kid going to actually need the phone? I'd assume that if something came up the kid could use a landline. Schools have them, any reputable child care place is going to have them. There really is no reason for kids to be carrying around phones. I was just fine without one when I was a kid. So were all of the other kids. Instead of trying to find the right technology to solve a problem, first ask yourself if there is really a problem here that needs to be solved.
  • by rwven ( 663186 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:50PM (#44988875) [] Looks like it's a device administrator app or something like that. Worth looking at...?

    Direct store link: [] Looks like it's got pretty good reviews.

    In other words: Maybe get a super cheap android phone and stick this on it...

  • by 12WTF$ ( 979066 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:50PM (#44988877)

    64GB iPhone 5 with gold plating plus $10,000 iTunes credit.
    Get that over-reaching sense of entitlement embedded early.

  • At four (Score:5, Funny)

    by Master Moose ( 1243274 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:52PM (#44988893) Homepage

    The best phones are the plastic ones you buy at the local bric-a-brac store. Sometimes these phones even let you call Elmo who will say "Hello", sing a song and wait for you to call the next person

    • by Sylak ( 1611137 )
      I wish so hard i had mod points to mod you up for this.
    • Re:At four (Score:5, Funny)

      by I'm New Around Here ( 1154723 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:11PM (#44989049)

      My daughter had one at that age. Every so often it rang, and Barbie talked to my daughter. Usually something along the lines of, "Let's go ... to a party ... today," or "Do you want to go ... to the beach ... this weekend?" So, basically, three part sentences, randomized. My daughter was just 3 or 4, and knew it wasn't really Barbie, but she would talk to her each time Barbie called.

      One day, after the phone rang and Barbie and my daughter had a chat, my mother-in-law asked is a very confused and exasperated voice "Who keeps calling her?"

      She actually thought it was a real phone. She was in her 80s at the time, so it wasn't very surprising. But it was hilarious. :^)

    • Actually, you don't even need one of those, when you can pick up, at your local grocery store, a bananaphone [].

  • Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax ( 1541065 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:52PM (#44988899)
    Dude, just don't. I understand you want to speak and see your son, but the reason 4yo don't have phones is because they are not ready for their use. Let the kid play with playmobil and later lego. Let him be a child and when he's ready for a mobile, he'll tell you by putting it on his christmas-list. I wish you wisdom with your decission and hopefully you'll find a beter way to keep in touch with your kid.
  • by cookYourDog ( 3030961 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:52PM (#44988903)
    Eventually your capillaries will merge and you will form one all-knowing toddler-adult hybrid. I, for one, bow down to you, Todd-lor.
  • If you aren't looking to make an immediate purchase, the Omate TrueSmart watch works out very well.
    Still a few bugs to get sorted out with the current developer edition, but it is a phone with GPS and a few other niceties in a watch form factor making it difficult for a child of that age to lose.
  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:56PM (#44988941)
    Speaking as the parent of a former 4-year-old, I don't think this is going to work the way you imagine. You're better off getting an adult to help your son initiate a Skype call on a computer or tablet. A preschooler simply doesn't have the cognitive ability to read and respond appropriately to error messages and prompts, nor will he have the attention span to carry the phone everywhere on the off chance that you'll call. And, once the call comes through, it will be hit and miss as to whether he would actually respond the way you hope (it's not unusual to see a child of that age say "Hi!" to a close relative over Skype and wander off - they don't mean to be offensive, it's just that it's hard for 4" screen to compete with whatever draws their attention in the real world). That said, I understand your desire to be in touch as much as possible and hope you can figure something out.
    • [I]t's just that it's hard for 4" screen to compete with whatever draws their attention in the real world [...]

      And here I thought you were arguing that a four-year-old's cognitive abilities were not as advanced as an adult's. Looks like you meant they weren't as degraded.

  • No (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:01PM (#44988973)
    If you need to get in touch with him, call his sitter or day care and ask if they will put him on the phone. No way in hell a 4 year old needs a phone.
  • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:04PM (#44989007) Homepage Journal

    You need technology to free up more of your time so you can spend it with him.

    Perhaps automation can help?

  • by Derec01 ( 1668942 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:04PM (#44989011)

    I understand you want to keep in touch, but I'm at a loss for why this needs to be a mobile device, particularly one that a 4 (!) year old is likely to use, and that's not even approaching the problems with having a 4 year old use a multipurpose device like this.

    Perhaps it would help to clarify why this has to be mobile? Why do you need to bug him at school? If he's at a home, why is Skype insufficient? Why is using a mobile device required? He will forget to charge it, lose it, and be unable to use for anything else if you lock it down.

  • by SocietyoftheFist ( 316444 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:18PM (#44989115)

    I have a 4 year old that knows how to FaceTime, knows where to look at in contacts and knows who is who. You can lock the phone down. I'm assuming you are traveling or getting divorced and reserving judgment unlike most on here.

  • don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:19PM (#44989125)
    A 4 year old shouldnt have a phone, a 14 year old shouldn't have a phone. We really need as a society to get off the cell phone kick. Very few of the people who have a phone need one.
  • by MagicM ( 85041 )

    If you read the comments on Facebook you will see it has it's share of problems, however:

    The Nabi is an Android tablet aimed at kids including 4-year-olds. It has age-appropriate software and parental controls that let you lock it down and install Skype. All the child needs is a wi-fi connection and a parent to help set up and explain.

    (Flame war tags: Facebook, Android, lock down, child, age-appropriate, parent, Skype)

  • I don't have a concrete recommendation on what to buy but want to offset the attacks you're getting with some encouragement. I am a well-adjusted father with a six year old daughter and an eight year old son. I spend lots of time with my kids every day, and don't ever feel like video chatting with them while we're not together, but have no issues with them having their own phones. I'm only 28 so I still remember what it was like to be four years old. I would have loved to have had such a device and wish I d
    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      The moral of this story? If your kid needs mobile LTE internet, better give him a phone

      Why would a 4 year old ever "need" mobile LTE internet, especially to the point where they need their own device?

    • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @02:48AM (#44989855)

      I would have loved to have had such a device and wish I did have one at that age.

      The thing is, its the job of the parent to say no to things that the kid wants that wont be beneficial. Instant gratification taught to the child @ 4 is not a good start to life.

      If your kid needs mobile LTE internet, better give him a phone. Otherwise, he's going to get an early start on subversive behavior, perhaps stealing other people's phones.

      "If I dont spoil my child he will do bad things" is a terrible justification. If your child does "subversive behavior", you use discipline, and he becomes a better person.

  • Fisher Price (Score:4, Informative)

    by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:21PM (#44989137)
    Fisher Price is the only maker of a phone you should give to a 4-year old.
  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:26PM (#44989157)

    If you mean you can't keep in touch because you're a business traveller or divorced or something, get a laptop with a webcam, or a tablet, and have him leave it at home. If you want video games, get a DS or something... It's better at games than the phone will ever be, and the times when he's not allowed to game are easily managed by not letting him have it (or open it, or whatever) during those times.

    If you mean to keep in touch during the day... Please don't. At this stage in his development he needs to learn how to live without his parents a couple hours at a time.

  • The kind that takes 14 years to deliver. You know, like when your kid is old enough to legally enter into a contract with a cell phone provider.

  • by bedroll ( 806612 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:33PM (#44989183) Journal

    When my son was 4 I gave him my Droid Incredible, which was deactivated when I upgraded. He liked it, and would play angry birds sometimes. He also took pictures (the camera isn't great but it's better than pretty much any kid's camera available) and listened to music on it. It was pretty impressive the way he customized the device, too.

    My friend gave his son, who is a little younger, an iPod Touch and an iPad around the same time. I know his son uses his devices more than mine.

    Contrary to the bulk of these responses, both children were up to the task of having and caring for a modern touchscreen device. You'll want to slap on a good case, and you need to know you can trust your child with it, but they're fine.

    As for the recommendation... Well, this is an area where Android is playing catch-up with iOS. iOS has lots of parental controls so you can lock down default apps and prevent installation of unauthorized apps. I don't think either OS is particularly easier to learn, but the ability to control some aspects of the OS might make this an easier sell to the child's other parent, or just easier to monitor for you. If you get an Android device, I suggest you get one that can use the user profile features in Android 4.3 (it was added in 4.2 but there's more control in 4.3.)

    However, I'm not sure a phone is really necessary. In fact, I think a phone would be more likely to be dragged around when not needed and more easily lost. It's more likely to become a nuisance. Since your son won't be with you, you have to consider the people he will be with. You don't want the device to become a problem and be taken away.

    I would suggest an older device, this way it's less of a loss if it's broken or lost. At this point, you could easily get an older iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. A first generation Nexus 7 isn't a bad choice either. I'd go with one of the tablets, personally. They're better for video chats.

  • An actual answer (Score:4, Informative)

    by tom229 ( 1640685 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:41PM (#44989227)
    To answer your questiong in lieu of judging you, giving you parenting advice, and prying into your personal life (as everyone else seems to be doing) I would suggest this []. LG Migo VX1000 is very robust, can dial 4 pre-programmed numbers, and also 911.

    Smart phone and video chat is probably out of the question for a few years. At 4 years old I would be concerned he's too young to even handle a device like a Migo. Be prepared for lots of accidental calls to 911 :)

    Best of luck with everything!
    • Sometimes in life someone will ask you a bad question whose only purpose is to make a terrible mistake. Like, "Im thinking of going for a joyride in a blizzard. Should I use 3rd gear, or second?"

      When that happens, the best thing you can do is to tell the person that they are headed down a terrible path. Telling them "I dont want to pry into your life, so use second gear" shows that you dont give a hoot about them.

      In this case, the question is sufficiently wrong that the only considerate and caring thing

  • iOS works fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by ff1324 ( 783953 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:43PM (#44989239)

    I'm a firefighter, my wife's a paramedic...we're away from our kids (not simultaneously) for 24 hours each shift.

    Facetime is a wonderful thing for when one of them needs, well, a little facetime with whatever parent is at work. They get to chat with grandparents as well.

    We bought a couple of refurbed iPod touches, put them in otterboxes, threw a few apps on them, and handed them over. They can facetime us as long as they have wifi (at our house, family, close friends), their texting is limited to iMessage and locked down to the existing contacts...this way they have an opportunity to learn proper etiquette and manners about the phone and texting and pictures.

    They're 7 and 8, have had this for two years, and they're not little tech junkies. Also, I'm not paying an extra $40 per month per kid for connectivity that's only occasionally necessary.

    • Re:iOS works fine (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheSeatOfMyPants ( 2645007 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @03:57AM (#44990073) Journal

      It may seem harmful or scary from an adult perspective for a kid to go without seeing one parent for 24+ hours on a regular basis, but a lot of today's adults were actually raised under shared custody -- and speaking from firsthand experience that did the 24-hour approach with a sibling, it was in many ways a *good* thing.

      My brother and I started shuttling between homes when we were around 4 & 9 years old (now 31 & 36): Dad had M&W nights plus alternated Friday night & weekends, Mom took us after school plus T/Th & alternating Friday & weekends. We knew we'd see the non-custodial parent within 24 hours, were kept busy being kids & following household routine, and so all we did was look forward to telling him/her any interesting news the next time we were there, just like we'd do with friends. We ended up being extremely close to both parents all through our childhood & onwards.

      Something from experience to seriously consider: there are developmental stages where a kid's instincts tell them to pull away emotionally/communicatively, and what starts out as a nice way to keep in touch when you're needed can eventually turn into them feeling uncomfortably obligated to reach out to avoid hurting your feelings. When I went through that to a limited degree with my parents, making myself ignore the growing instinctive need to pull away from them for years made it harder on all of us and had a lot of unpleasant repercussions.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:57PM (#44989297) Homepage Journal

    Uh. The kid is like...FOUR!
    Not saying they're too stupid to use a phone or too irresponsible to keep/maintain one.
    But they're four years old.
    Try to remember back to the time when YOU were four.
    Remember how adult and responsible and totally "with it" you were?
    Kinda tough eh?

    If you want to keep in touch with your rugrat, talk with his care provider and look at possibly setting up a computer with Skype or something.
    But a phone at that age is just way too much, way too soon.

  • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @12:01AM (#44989313)

    Your 4-year old will stick around the home most of the time anyway. Get him a WiFi iPad. Lock it down, put some games on it, call through Facetime.
    Avoid that Android stuff, it is way too hackable and not nearly as easy to lock down. 4-year olds are crafty IT demi-gods.

  • I really don't see the purpose in giving a mobile phone to a kid who cannot read; just getting them to use it properly and be able to interpret problems with it in a coherent manner would be a huge barrier. Besides you don't want him using it while in school; so why not get him a tablet to keep at home for your videoconferencing?
  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @12:22AM (#44989401)

    As others have mentioned, arrange a time and have an adult help your child use Skype (or something along those lines). After all, you need to keep in touch with your child. You don't need to be able to contact them 24/7, nor do they need to contact you 24/7.

    The benefits of this approach are enormous. It is much less expensive. You don't have to worry about the phone being lost or broken. You don't have to fret about them using it at inappropriate times since it is much easier to monitor a computer (or livingroom game console if you let them play video games). It will be easier to encourage them to get out and play with friends, or to play with toys that they manipulate physically. That's important, since toys encourage more imagination than games (or videos, or books for that matter). Scheduled calls also help to establish routines, rather than impulsive behaviours.

    Think about it.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @12:28AM (#44989421) Homepage Journal

    Don't get HIM a phone. If you must, get a phone that you hand off to his teachers/day-care/babysitters when you aren't around, so you can call in an emergency and so they can call you from a number you recognize in an emergency.

    Once you've established that it will be adults in control of the phone, just get any old phone that can do video chat and which is on your network.

    But a 4 year old with a phone in his possession, for him to be responsible for? Unless you have very unique requirements and a very responsible almost-4-year-old kid, this is probably not a good idea.

  • by RedLeg ( 22564 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @12:48AM (#44989503) Journal
    OK, assuming you are a non-resident dad, or for whatever reason just can't get facetime with your offspring.

    Tech is not going to -fix- this. It could help, but I would recommend a more structured approach, i.e. a schedule, and another adult facilitating the connection.

    Now, as to having him be able to get in touch with you when needed, unless things have changed drastically, or are different where he lives, you will find that schools do not allow students to have phones on their persons during the school day. If you are lucky, they will permit it, powered off, in the locker, which is hardly of practical use in situations where he would NEED it, and my kids did not get lockers until grade 6 or 7. Set him up with a phone at age 4, the schools will deprive him of it at age 6 or so, defeating the purpose, and causing unneeded stress.

    Short answer, bad idea, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which it's just impractical.


  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @12:49AM (#44989511)

    And seriously, make time for him. This is not a substitute. It's a way to contact him on the weekdays.

  • by BLToday ( 1777712 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @01:32AM (#44989613)

    The only phone for a 4-yr old is full of candy.

  • by raque ( 457836 ) <jimwall AT mac DOT com> on Monday September 30, 2013 @01:47AM (#44989665)

    Just so you know, I am a Stay At Home Dad and have been nothing else for 20 years. When Marissa Miller pulled the plug on working at home it was this sort of half halfheartedness that she was shaking out of Yahoo's business model. If your are working, then work and give either your employer or customers your complete attention. If you find yourself unable to separate from your child then stay home. You can't do both. Don't lie to yourself and your child that a cellphone is a replacement for your being there. It's not. When I married my wife we decided that childcare was of paramount importance. Since she was a well paid professional and I was a struggling student (Yes, I got that lucky), I stayed home. The son went to school in the day and I went at night, or he stayed with family. Yes, Family! You didn't disturb Mommy; Auntie, or Grandma, or Uncle or me or whoever took care of what needed doing. There was somebody who's job it was, and is, to take care of my son. As more children arrived my duties - Think about that word for a moment - Duty; ... my duties have continued. And by the way, Yes, that means I finally didn't finish my degree. Instead, I am there for my children. Yes I've had to sacrifice to do that. My children are worth it.

    A 4 year old is not able to handle a phone and is too young to be allowed to make the judgement of when to call you. They need to know to call 911 in an emergency and stay on until help arrives - unless there is a fire, then they get out! Go to someone trusted and have then call for help. That is it. They should be cared for 24-7 and their caregiver will make any calls needed. If you can't trust your child's caregiver to make every fucking decision that needs to be made get another caregiver or do it yourself ! A cell phone will quickly become a stick to bully whomever is the caregiver. "If you don't give me more ice cream I'll call daddy and he'll be angry at you"

    Save your money and send your kid to a good school. I always recommend a Montessori if at all possible. You will learn that one of the first steps to raising a healthy, happy and independent adult is having them learn to separate. They start to learn this at about 4. Yes you go away, and yes you come back. At school they learn to operate as a member of a society with rules and responsibilities. With family you learn to be part of a family. A mutually dependent social structure. That means every member needs every other. This is what you want, to raise a good person.

  • by SmarterThanMe ( 1679358 ) on Monday September 30, 2013 @02:57AM (#44989875)

    I'm going to assume that this isn't just a troll post. It is a pretty freaking ignorant question.

    Wearing every single one of my hats (teacher, parent, part-time academic in linguistics (and, in particular, child language acquisition), techie, etc.), I'm going to claims some authority when I say this: DO NOT GET YOUR 4YO A PHONE. Mostly I'm adding to the chorus above, so I'm not going to bother rehashing the reasons against that everyone has already given, but I will add a couple more in dot points:

    @ We have enough problems with the social reliance on phones in adulthood, but in early adolescence it's a disaster, let alone infancy. For adolescents, phones bring with it all sorts of problems like increased risk of cyber-bullying, exposure to age-inappropriate content, and problems with Google/Apple sponsored apps^h^h^h^hscams. There is no good way to stop this for teenagers, so how are you planning to stop it for a toddler?

    @ Remote parenting does not work, and fairly consistently causes problems - you know all those parents whose Dads were at work until late at night? How did they turn out?

    @ There is no type of "play" involving a phone that isn't better done by a kid, physically, in the real world. A block sorting game on a phone? Brilliant, why not do it in real life?

"Paul Lynde to block..." -- a contestant on "Hollywood Squares"