Friday, March 17, 2006

JupiterResearch: A Second Grader's Cellphone - the Migo

Apologies for the following rant, but this post from Julie Ask at JupiterResearch really rubs me thee wrong way on several levels. Ask writes about the 7 year-old daughter of her former B-school classmate, who has a cellphone - a stripped down Migo handset that Verizon offers. The cellphone was her Christmas present.

Ask writes that the girl is an "extremely precocious and responsible second-grader. She is very well read, and she prefers reading to video games and TV." Us cynical parents in the real world can easily decipher this to mean that her over-achieving and very ambitious parents are severely limiting her fun time, and most likely believe their little angel is a borderline genius. It's also easy to see that she is the oldest or only child.

Anyway, the presentation of the dialog with the 7 year old bothers me, the father's attitude bothers me and Ask's conclusion bothers me. You can go to the post to read the dialog.

Ask writes that when her former classmate told her about the second-grader's cell phone, she said, "Why does she need a cell phone? You drop her off. You pick her up. She goes to school three blocks away from where you live. She doesn't go anywhere on her own otherwise." And here is the dad's answer:

It COSTS me NOTHING AND it makes her HAPPY. I would be an idiot not to. It's five dollars a month. It's nothing. Besides, it means my child cries five days less a year when my wife is late to pick her up from school. Why WOULDN'T I get her a cell phone?"
Now get this. He also said "it was her favorite [Christmas] present by far." I'm guessing by now you are building a nice mental picture of the Silicon Valley exec and his pampered little princess. The girl only uses the phone to call her mom immediately at the end of school everyday to see when her limo will arrive. That's it. And from what her mom says, "it gives her daughter a lot of comfort to know that she can reach her parents anytime."

Is anyone else bothered by this? When do you think the girl will start going to therapy due to her future separation anxieties?

Just to point out, the five times of the year mom is late does not mean princess is abandoned on some random street corner in the middle of the hood. She's at school that's probably in a nice neighborhood, which means she waiting in front of it with other students, parents and dismissal aides.

I know it all depends on the usage model, and in many cases it might make sense for a 7 year old to carry a cell phone for emergency purposes (i.e. both parents work, etc). However in this case, the girl is either at school or with her parents so there really is no need for one.

The last thing that bothers me is Ask's conclusion. After writing about this family, she states "our own data confirms that the scenario described above is pretty typical. Parents become interested in buying cellphones for their children and adding them to their plan in case of an emergency. The decision becomes very easy with the low price points (value proposition.)"

I call BS that this is typical for a second-grader. Maybe for kids a bit older, such as 10+, and even then it is highly dependent on the family situation. I do agree parents are interested, but for pampered little second graders? Come on now.

So why do I think Jupiter's data is off (without actually seeing it)? Because my daughter is in second grade. We live in an area where the schools are top-notch, the population is well-educated (graduate degrees outnumber bachelor's degrees), and there are a ton of over-achieving and highly ambitious parents trying to fast track their kids to the Ivies or Stanford.

And you know what? I don't know of a single second grader in my daughter's school that has a cell phone. Of course that doesn't mean they aren't out there. I'm sure a couple have managed to avoid my astute handset RADAR, but they are definitely an exception and not the norm. And let's be thankful for that....