Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Children, their mobile habits and the new Monqi phone

It's weird to think that a mobile phone has been a major part of my communications life for the last 17 years. It's weird to look back at how I used to communicate and what my attitude was to telephony and technology. It's also weird to note how my chosen methods of communication have largely switched from voice to digital text based - email, blogging, social media, messaging. It's even weirder to think that some people have never used a 'dial' on a phone, think that it's perfectly normal to have a video call or to share photos that disappear moments after you've taken them. Nevertheless these things have happened.

I had a press release land in my inbox this morning. It's to promote a new smartphone, Monqi, aimed at children and parents being sold exclusively at Carphone Warehouse. The phone has a tracking app and parental controls. Their marketing team have put together quite a cute video showing a Granddad being taught how to use his smartphone by his grandson. It's a couple of minutes and it does give us a glimpse into the technology generation gap.

The press release goes further about their research and tells us by the age of 14, the average child will have sent more than 35k texts, 30k WhasApp messages and spent more than three sold weeks on video chat. The teenager will also have spent the equivalent of six months looking at their phone during that period, averaging 135 minutes use a day. Young people also spend over an hour a day browsing social media sites. They also expect a quick response to everything - typically within 15 minutes.

This does beg the question around what the long-term effects might be of such heavy phone use. I'm also wondering what behaviours or activities it's replacing. And for sure, parents need to be monitoring this and also their own behaviour as most of these habits are inherited by children from parents and other adults. Both adults and children in the survey said they were spending over two hours a day on their phones, with adults admitting that was too long. With children getting their first smartphone on average by the age of 10, and parents routinely using tablet devices and phones to keep their toddlers amused, these screen habits start young and die hard. I think we could all do with trying to find the right balance between screen time and other activities.

Other stats from the results revealed that 60%of  under-14s said their phone is the first thing they check in the morning and last thing at night. 40%  youngsters said they would feel 'lost' without their smartphone for a day with only 7% believing they would feel 'free' or 'relieved' without it.

Young respondents said the best thing about their smartphones was being able to stay in contact with friends and family, and playing games. That last one I have trouble with. There's not a lot of difference between some mobile games and the psychology behind a slot machine. The mindless manipulation of a screen with the reward being bright shiny lights and some noise.

Psychologist Dr Becky Spelman commented on the findings: "The survey found that children invest a great amount of importance in the ability to stay connected – checking their smartphones before bed and as soon as they wake in the morning.“Some parents may be alarmed by this, comparing their children’s experiences to their own childhood when technology was not as prevalent.“Panic is not the solution, nor is denial. It is inevitable that your child will use technology, so it’s your job to help them navigate the digital waters safely, and set boundaries."

"The survey also found that there are benefits to kids having a smartphone - parents can track their child’s location and have peace of mind knowing that they can be contacted if a problem arises.“This gives the youngster a new found independence – which is so important in an age of cotton-wool-parenting.”

Hmm, I'm not sure about the tracking and the cotton wool parenting thing. Kids will be able to outsmart a grown up trying to track them on a phone. But hey, maybe this generation is different in that their attitudes to being tracked has changed. Maybe the phone tracking thing has finally found its time and place in Monqi? A parent of today's 10 year old may be in their mid thirties and has spent most of their life with digital tools of some kind so their attitudes will be different from my generation.

I've written about a previous service doing something similar back in 2012 and prior to that, there were a number of devices and phones trying to do a very similar thing but in a less sophisticated mobile media world. I didn't think much of any of them if I'm honest.

Will Monqi do any better as they can offset the tracking element with access to games and communication channels to connect with their friends? I think they may have cracked it finally. The phone looks quite snazzy. We're in different digital culture with a new generation of parents and our phones can do a lot more than 5, 10 or even 15 years ago when the whole 'child tracking' thing started. Time will tell.

Sample size 1000. Research was commissioned by Monqi Smartphone. Source of information, and additional findings is here.

Day 7/30 #NaBloPoMo done

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