I’ve rarely seen my favorite 11 year-old pick up her cellphone. She’s not addicted the way other children are. That’s because she uses a flip phone. I recommend it to parents who are worried about obsessive smartphone use.
When my friend was 9, I gave her an old Jitterbug phone that came to me for review at least 10 years ago but still works. Besides texts and calls, she finds it handy for taking pictures of school assignments. She also snaps photos of billboards for events her family might want to attend. Perhaps because it’s so old, its photo-forwarding feature no longer works and its call quality is sometimes choppy. But it’s a great example of how flip phones offer the services children need, without the compulsiveness of apps like Instagram and TikTok. “It’s a great starter phone,” she says.
When she first got it two years ago, she used the built-in canned text messages, such as “how are you?” or “thank you,” until she got up to speed. She’s a speed demon when texting now, but saves it for important messages, like canceling a playdate. Our conversation has rarely been interrupted by a text.
Here’s something else: “The Jitterbug has a great battery,” she says. Like other flip phones, it goes for weeks on a single charge. It also has Bluetooth, which my friend uses to connect her earbuds when she wants a private conversation. The home screen shows the date and time, another feature she loves.
The latest version of the Jitterbug, a 4G phone called the Flip 2, is sold by Lively.com for $75, which is about twice the price of other flip phones, but comes with extra services For example, there’s an old-fashioned operator, a human Google. I’ll never forget the time she helped me find my way to a car rental place in the pouring rain. The latest Flip 2 has a human operator as well as Alexa.
The Jitterbug is touted for seniors because of its “urgent response” button and other services. Urgent response puts you in touch with doctors, nurses and caregivers round the clock. There’s also a button for “Lively rides,” which the company says are more affordable than taxis. Other senior services include fall detection and automatic notifications for designated family and friends.
Since Verizon is the Jitterbug carrier, my little friend’s phone will bite the dust when Verizon discontinues its 3G service on December 31 of this year. By then, she may be ready for her first smartphone. She says she’d enjoy Facetime video chats and easier texting.
If you’re thinking of buying a flip phone for a child, you can avoid the 3G problem by looking up “flip phones with 4G.” You’ll find a whole slew of them, starting at around $30. According to digi.com, 4G phones won’t be discontinued until sometime after 2030.
Sticking With 3G
A reader asked: “Can you still use devices that no longer work with 3G? Sure.
To make calls and send texts, use apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Signal when you’re connected to WiFi. You’ll need a live phone number during the verification process, but you could use a family member’s number. The app will send that number a code. Once you put it in, you’re good to go. It can be your free phone forever. The only downside, besides the missed calls when you’re out of WiFi range, is that the person calling you has to use the same app you do.
Better Education Digitally
If you’re dissatisfied with your child’s education, you might suggest that the school do what New Hampshire is doing. They’re using “Discovery Education” with content from the Discovery channel and many others. Partners include Reuters, the WPA Film Library, the National Science Foundation, PBS News Hour and a dozen corporations, even Pepsi. Besides using customizable lessons and virtual field trips, children get to explore careers.
A free alternative is “TED Ed,” an offshoot of TED talks. TED, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” brings some of the world’s most dazzling speakers on stage to talk for 15 minutes on their favorite topic, which can be anything, even “shyness.” TED Ed, for kids and teachers, is great too. I watched an interesting man-on-the-street poll asking Australians to explain the phases of the moon. Even the smartest among them left out some stuff, which the TED Ed expert filled in. Like Discovery Education, TED Ed lessons are customizable.
– Go to mashable.com and look up “It’s a boat, it’s a bike, it’s a house!” There’s a video showing the “Z-Triton 2.0” in action. It can fit two people in its cabin. When it’s not in the water, it becomes an electric bike with 1000 watts of power and a seven-gear internal hub. It has a solar panel roof.
– The world’s longest car joined the Guinness Book of Records recently. You can see a video of it on Mashable.com. It’s 100 feet long and has a pool, a helipad and mini golf. Let’s hope the driver doesn’t make any sharp turns.
– Justwatch.com lists options for any movie or TV show you might want to see. It told me I could get the movie I wanted from the public library with the free Hoopla app. As part of a class on documentaries, I saw “The Work,” about an intense therapy session with prisoners and outsiders inside Folsom Prison.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: On Computers: Flip phones for children is a smart alternative