An estimated 60% of parents in the United States get their pre-teens cell phones, for reasons like peace of mind and safety. The catch, however, is that those smartphones come loaded with tools that kids can abuse. It’s hard to pin down real numbers, but in recent years smartphones have been at the center of controversy surrounding the rise in cyberbullying.
FiLIP is a smartwatch for kids that navigates around that problem. The wrist-worn gadget comes with a chip carrying three radios, three tiny antennas, Wi-Fi, and GPS. It operates a bit like a fancy Walkie Talkie, in that kids get five pre-programmed numbers they can call, and can only receive calls from adults with an authorized app on their phone.
FiLIP creator Sten Kirkbak came up with the idea when he lost his son at the grocery store. “Like any parent, I panicked,” he says. He realized there wasn’t a middle-of-the-road device that could keep kids connected but still limit access to Internet and social media. “After some research, I found there was no single device that blended communication, location, ease of use, and appealing design for children,” Kirkbak says.
Besides rudimentary phone calls, FiLIP syncs to an app on the phone of an adult so they can monitor a child’s exact location. Perhaps to keep adults from indulging too much in helicopter parenting tendencies, FiLIP also lets you program safe zones, and will sound an alert if your kid goes outside those boundaries.
FiLIP is designed specifically for ages 5 to about 11–a younger demographic that might get lost in the neighborhood, forget phone numbers, and or require closer monitoring. To appeal to kids, FiLIP is oversized and water resistant. It also looks more like a toy, and has the same curvy, egg-shape as the Giga Pets and Tamagotchis that we used to obsessively care for back in the day. If FiLIP is anywhere near as addictive as those gadgets, they’ll be on kids wrists everywhere. Until, of course, those kids turn 12 and start begging for iPhones.
FiLIP is now available through AT&T stores, for $199 each.