Smart Phones & Small Hands (Or Mouths) Don't Mix

Read the All Tech Considered blog, where Omar Gallaga, who covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman, has more on kids and hand-held electronics.

Little kids are fascinated by hand-held electronics and, if given the opportunity, they do all sorts of things with — and to — these devices.

Erin Conner had just finished a call on her cell phone when her 1-year-old niece looked up at her and her phone.

"She reaches up for it and she's saying, 'Oooh. Oooh. Oooh!' " says Conner. Conner thought it was cute that her niece wanted to play with the phone. So she turned it off and handed it to her.

That was a bad call. The cell phone went right into her niece's mouth. Then Conner tried to make another call.

"It's like I'm talking from the bottom of a well," she says. "There's almost no sound, and they can't hear me and I can't hear them."

When Jill Fondriest wasn't looking, her 18-month-old son dialed 911 on her cell phone, and the police showed up at her door.

"I pointed out my youngest and told the officer, 'There's the culprit. There he is. Take him. I need some sleep,' " she says.

Software Solutions

Marco Nelissen's 3-year-old got involved in a third category of mischief, randomly pressing the buttons on his smart phone. It kind of got in the way of business because his son deleted e-mails and randomly made phone calls.

Nelissen also happens to be a software engineer at Google, so he decided to come up with a solution called Toddler Lock, which you can download for phones that use Google's Android software.

Your toddler can use it to draw pictures, but he is locked out of everything else. There are similar kinds of applications for the iPhone.

Smart Phone Toys

"We heard a lot of horror stories about an iPhone in the toilet," says Jim Gray, a director of learning at the toy maker LeapFrog. The company is about to release a toy smart phone for kids ages 3 and up. The fake phone doesn't actually connect to the Internet, but it does have interactive features such as a dog named Scout that talks on the screen.

"Kids learn things like the qwerty keyboard," Gray says. "They learn how to navigate with arrow keys. They learn letter recognition and, at the same time, they can actually interact in a safe way with the character on the screen."

The LeapFrog toy has music and games like a real smart phone. Gray thinks kids like their parents' phones because children just want to do what the adults around them are doing. The question is whether they'll be satisfied with LeapFrog's imitation or will still want the real thing to call 911 and send e-mails to their parents' bosses.

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