Why I Built The BoringPhone For My Children

I have three children. All of them teenagers.

When I was young I spent hours on the landline phone to my friends idly talking about nothing. My children are no different, they want to do the same.

Problem is the house phone with its long cord has evolved to always connected smart devices. Smart devices – smart in that they are cleverly tuned to capture your child’s attention.

The phone of old was a social device that was limited by having to share it with the other people in the house. The modern smartphone is an isolating and antisocial device for those physically near the user. A device which hooks you in, grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.  Children don’t voice call anymore, it’s messages and posts, likes and shares – all several steps removed from the other people in space, time and context.

If we’d realized how addictive smartphones would become, would we have been so willing to incorporate them so deeply into our lives?  We slowly let them in, not really wanting to acknowledge how much time we now spend on them. Do we want to sign our children up to the same thing without thinking about it?

Once a child has a smartphone, there is almost no way to go back. The  simple answer of “just take it away from them” leads to looks of horror: “We couldn’t possibly do that”. Why not? We all know why. Because a smartphone is so addictive that to remove it would induce the rage and fury usually associated with withdrawal from a physically addictive substance.

Yet we live in a world where if the child does not have a cell phone she cannot call home about the bus she has missed, cannot arrange with her friends to catch up on the weekend, where she is isolated by the reality that most children past a certain age have smartphones.

I have looked at cheap dumb phones from the supermarket, yet they are too flimsy, have too many games, and are generally as action packed as they can be in their tiny form factors. Most importantly they are so uncool that any child with one will soon devise it’s destruction.

I wanted the phone that wasn’t there, one with no browser, no online presence, one that was both stylish and functional – functions such as phone, texting, video calling, music, camera, and navigation. Other people I spoke to wanted this too.

I wanted this so badly I put together my own phone for them,  watched them use it, modified it as they broke my assumptions, and continued this way until I created the BoringPhone. The phone which provides the basic communication needs, is stylish enough that they do not look like their parents hate them, and limited enough that they engage with the world around them.

I am so excited about what I have done, so proud of this achievement, that I want to share it with other parents. I believe this is the breakthrough we have been looking for.

The BoringPhone is a reasonably priced, normal-looking phone which we can trust.

It is not some silly looking thing which kids will lose. It does not cost above and beyond what a normal phone does, yet it gives us back our child. She can call all she wants – using the home WiFi if her friends have the same messaging app, send photos, and videos, listen to music whilst they make me dinner and tidy their rooms. They cannot spend time aimlessly browsing the net and watching videos getting drawn into areas that they are not ready to handle.

My friend Alex and I have decided to put this out into the world for parents who want it for their kids, and for anyone who wants to be connected without being owned by their phone.

To make this a real thing, we need your support. The BoringPhone is available on Kickstarter for pre-order until 12 July. If we can reach our goal, we’ll be shipping out BoringPhones before Christmas.  (If there’s not quite enough people to reach our goal, then no one gets charged a cent)

We really think this is an important idea, and we’re looking for other people who can see the need for it, and are willing to stand up and make a change.

Options Just for Parents

We’re excited to announce 2 options specifically with parents in mind. We’ve listened to feedback to be able to accommodate the requirements of parents who want the best for their kids.

Future “Upgrade” Pathway
When your child is ready for a full smartphone, we can revert the BoringPhone handset to a stock Android phone. We will do this for just the cost of postage (although we are working on a remote “upgrade” method which doesn’t require any posting).

Unbranded Option
If you choose it, we’ll send the BoringPhone without any branding on the packaging, or in the phone – including a set of unbranded wallpaper backgrounds (we understand not everyone will appreciate the BoringPhone name!)

What is Kickstarter?
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. People post products they want to create, and if enough people pledge their support, then the product is created and shipped out to the backers. If the project does not reach its goal, then none of the backers are charged anything at all. For more information see: https://www.kickstarter.com/about