The short series that I did on children and technology (you can read the posts here, here, and here) elicited a call from the vice president of marketing at kajeet, a cell phone service developed specifically for pre-teens, teens, and the worried parents thereof. As a result, I got to interview Daniel Neal, a founder of the company.
Kajeet is exciting because Neal and his co-conspirators wanted to make a cell phone service that was both affordable and safe. As a result, it has some pretty cool features. As a parent, for instance, you can set up “time out blocks” on line, when your children can’t use their phone — unless they need to call a parent, other designated adult, or 911. When the phone is really working, you can also manage just who is allowed to call or text your child and monitor a log of the people with whom she interacts. You can also set up a GPS, with e-mail alerts, so that you can keep track of your child (or find a lost phone). Rates start at $4.99 a month (for ten minutes of phone time) and go up to $19.99 per month (for unlimited texting and 120 talk minutes). There is no contract — it’s a pay-as-you-go service.
Plus on the Web site you can actually work out how much you’re paying for and how much your child is paying for, by setting up “wallets” with credit in them. You might pay for calls home from school or practice, for instance, while your child might be responsible for texting her best friend.
That’s all the technical stuff. What kids need to know is that these cell phones come with all the gizmos and gadgets to keep them busy — MP3 players, cameras, a variety of ring tones, wallpapers, and games.
I haven’t tried kajeet — I’m tangled up in service with one of the bigger cell phone providers. But this sounds like a good, smart deal to me. And I liked Neal’s philosophy. “We’re the last people to say that kids should have cell phones,” he told me. “We’re not cell phone pushers. What we are is people who realize that the world is going this way. Cell phones are ubiquitous. We want children to be able to communicate in a safe, affordable way.”