The GizmoPal is a helicopter parent's dream

GizmoPal
© Verizon Wireless

LG's new two-way communication device is designed for kids too young for cellphones so parents can keep tabs on them at all times.

There is yet another gadget on the market that makes it harder than ever for helicopter parents to teach their kids independence. LG has just introduced the GizmoPal, which provides two-way communication between parents and kids who are too young to manage their own cellphone.

It has a single button that kids can press in order to call a parent, as well as the ability to receive calls from two additional pre-approved contacts. Parents can manage their kid’s GizmoPal from their own smartphones and track it using GPS technology.

There are a whole lot of things about the GizmoPal that rub me the wrong way. First, I suspect LG didn’t consult anyone over the age of 4 when designing the GizmoPal. I doubt even the most slightly fashion-conscious kindergartner would want to be caught dead wearing such a gaudily coloured, infantile-looking piece of plastic bling. Even my five-year-old would chuck that thing right into his backpack – which leads to a second issue.

How do you guarantee a kid will keep that thing on? Many people, including myself, hate wearing watches for the way they interfere with messy activities. Kids are often wrist-deep in water tables, playdough, and fingerpaints. Imagine the ensuing hullabaloo if helicopter mama went to check her kid’s location and the GPS show him as somewhere other than in the classroom. Or – gasp – what if a kid forgot her GizmoPal at school or at a friend’s house (because, you know, kids sometimes do that)?

Third, the gadget requires a wireless network in order to function, and while I realize all schools and daycares have wireless by now, there are also many places that don’t. Are parents really going to take the time to hook up their kid’s GizmoPal to every wireless network at every friend’s home where they have a playdate? There are plenty of places in my kids’ lives that don’t have wireless, such as our home, their grandparents’ home, and the local parks, beach, and trails that my kids visit on a regular basis, either with me or their babysitter.

Fourth, and most seriously of all, think of the psychological impact on a child of being in constant communication with a parent. How is a child supposed to learn emotional independence, deal with separation anxiety, make decisions on their own, and combat boredom if, at the touch of a button, they can talk to Mommy?

My three-year-old, who has gone to nursery school three days per week for the past two years, still cries when I drop him off. He cheers up immediately once I’m out of sight and always tells me later how much fun he’s had, which is why it would be a terrible idea to give him a GizmoPal. A young homesick child can’t possibly resist the urge to call a parent, and it places childcare workers and teachers in a highly awkward situation in which they’re trying to reassure the parent that everything is actually fine with the kid and comfort the child who has been freshly distressed by the sound of his or her parent’s voice.

A better solution is simply to choose a daycare or school where a child feels safe and happy and where the parent trusts the caregivers and is able to relax following drop-off. Need I point out that that’s also called common sense?

Tags: Kids | Technology

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