TIME Gadgets

Sprint Launches WeGo Phone for Kids

On Friday, Sprint announced the launch its new kid-friendly Sprint WeGo phone, a low-cost starter device for ages 5 to 12 that offers plenty of parental controls and tracking features.

“Sprint WeGo is the perfect starter phone to give parents peace of mind while teaching kids responsibility – how to keep track of a device, charge it and care for it – at a low price,” said Sprint VP of Product David Owens in a company press release. “This device has all of the basics without anything younger children don’t need just yet.”

ZTE WeGo Kids Phone
Sprint

The simplistic, water-resistant WeGo allows you to program up to 20 trusted phone numbers for your child to contact and be contacted by. It also offers 50 pre-programmed outgoing text message options (“yes,” “no,” “Call me please,” and the like) and a corded panic alarm that sends you an instant SMS notification with your child’s location.

Parents, meanwhile, get a large number of tracking and safety features. Built-in GPS lets you immediately find or track your child at any time. You can also get low battery alerts, SMS read receipts, abduction (speed) alerts and wake alerts (if your child isn’t up and moving in the morning by a certain time) sent directly to you by SMS message or email.

There are no fancy smartphone features or apps on this child-friendly phone, but that’s part of why service for the device is so inexpensive. Sprint WeGo service starts at $9.99 per month, which includes 1,000 minutes of talk and 1,000 text messages. The phone itself can be purchased for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $5.

For more on the Sprint WeGo, visit the company’s website. For more on deciding when to hand a child his or her first phone, check out the results of this recent Microsoft parenting survey and Techlicious’ Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone quiz.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Race

A 5-Year-Old’s Black-and-White View of Race

A 5-Year-Old's Black-and-White View of Race
Kerstin Geier—Getty Images/Gallo Images ROOTS Collection

My daughter doesn't see race ... yet.

“Daddy, you have to pick Taylor up from school so she can take theater class with me!” Penny implored. Taylor is her good friend. Wait. I take that back. According to Penny, “she’s my sister.”

I had already talked about it with Taylor’s mom and let her know it would be my pleasure. Penny was nervous about the class, and having a friend there would make it easier for both of us.

Upon hearing the news, Penny let out a loud “Yay!” followed by a pause. “Taylor’s not actually my sister,” she whispered.

And this is when I really started to pay attention. I took a deep breath and waited for what was about to come. Our family is white. Taylor’s family is black. Penny is 5 years old and not exactly known for her subtlety. I knew a lesson in political correctness was coming, and I was mentally preparing for the conversation.

I wasn’t expecting a gleeful “Actually, we’re twin sisters!”

We would all like to think we’re color-blind, but I did not have a clue what that cliché really meant until I heard Penny say those words. Obviously, I was touched by the sentiment, but in retrospect, maybe I should not have been that surprised.

Penny attends a racially diverse school. It is not uncommon for hers to be the lone white face running around with a tight-knit clique of Indian girls, whose families knew each other prior to pre-K. Penny bonded with them over a mutual adoration of pretty dresses and Disney princess. These girls love sparkles, so Penny loves these girls. They have everything in common 5-year-olds could want and are oblivious to any dissimilarities in skin tone.

When Penny describes any of her friends it’s usually by what they were wearing that particular day. This is not very helpful in determining who she’s talking about, but it is endearing. Beauty may be skin deep, but Penny does not seem to get quite that far when she sees people.

When I think about Penny’s color-blindness, it is both amazing and completely normal. It makes me unbelievably happy and, I have to admit, a little sad.

It’s amazing because the distinctions are so plainly obvious and I know Penny is mindful of discrepancies in individuals. She once asked me, “Why does that lady have a mustache?” I explained that it was just a guy with long hair. Penny was flabbergasted and bombarded me with more questions. She understands gender norms all too well. My wife and I have tried — and failed — to convince her that there are no such things as girl colors and boy colors, only colors. But certain colors and shades she doesn’t see at all? That is just … amazing.

On the other hand, it is totally and completely normal. Taylor thinks of Penny as a sister too. And the Indian girls at school never asked her why she was so pale or made her feel less-than or like an outsider.

It makes me so happy that my daughter and her friends are like this. But I can’t help but be a little worried for the future. (I’m a parent. It’s kind of what we do.) Those first days of pre-K, Penny and all the other students were mixing, mingling and playing, regardless of race. If you were to look up at the parents, however, well, that was another story altogether.

During Penny’s first year of school, the mothers were invited in for a stirring rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.” My wife was early and sat on one side of the semicircle of chairs. As the other parents filed in, the seats tended to be grouped along racial lines. One of our friends (and the mom of Penny’s “boyfriend” at the time), who is Indian, came in a little late and sat next to my wife rather than in the open seat closer to the other Indian women. Whispers were exchanged, and my wife and her friend felt somewhat scrutinized. It was one of those rare moments when a light is shone on how separate and distinct we all remain in America’s melting pot. You don’t realize it until you do, and then it’s impossible to get out of your head. As Penny and her classmates have gotten older and become closer friends, this boundary has dissipated. There still tends to be a clustering along racial lines, but then those groups ebb and flow with parents from a variety of backgrounds streaming in and out, gushing over everyone’s kids and how adorable and talented they are.

It is inevitable: One day, Penny will cease being so blindly color-blind. She’ll notice the rainbow of different complexions in people’s faces and know all about different races. The thing that’s just as inevitable: she won’t care.

Lesser blogs at Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@amateuridiot).

TIME Internet

So Far, Online Gambling Revenues Have Been Pathetic

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Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

State budget makers and gaming interests have drastically, laughably overestimated the amount of money that would be generated with the advent of legalized online gambling, especially in New Jersey.

In March 2013, New Jersey officials forecast that online gambling would yield somewhere in the neighborhood of $180 million in tax revenues for the state during the first fiscal year Internet gaming was legal. But the estimates have been falling ever since—to $160 million when Christ Christie signed the state budget last summer, and down to just $34 million earlier this year, after a few months of legalized online gambling had passed. More recently, the state treasurer said that no more estimates on online gambling revenues would be made public, which seems wise considering how previous predictions have fared.

From the end of November, when legalized online gambling in New Jersey, through February 2014, a mere $4.2 million in tax revenues has been collected by the state, leading one legislative budget officer to now project an estimate of $12 million in revenues for the year, the Associated Press reported. The revised estimate for next year’s revenues was listed at $48 million. At that pace, it would take four or five years for the state to take in revenues equal to the amount it was supposed to collect in tax revenues during the first year of legal online gambling.

It’s not just state officials who seem mystified by the lackluster returns. Caesars Entertainment recently informed the New Jersey Star-Ledger that its online gaming operation was experiencing decent success in a few parts of the state—Jersey City, Toms River, Cherry Hill—but that it couldn’t explain why interest was strong in some areas and almost nonexistent in others.

New Jersey isn’t the only state that seems to have drastically overestimated online gambling’s potential as a budgetary savior. When Delaware’s gambling sites launched, there were often only a couple dozen players online at any moment, and almost immediately it became apparent that revenues wouldn’t come anywhere near to the first-year estimates. Toward the end of March, Morgan Stanley issued a note regarding longer term prospects for online gambling in the U.S. “We are lowering our estimates to better reflect the insights we have gained following the first few months of operations in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware,” the note stated, lowering the anticipated gross online gambling spending for 2017 from $5 billion to $3.5 billion, and for 2020 from $9.3 billion to $8 billion.

Toward the end of 2011, mind you, Morgan Stanley was estimating an online gambling market of $14 billion annually, though that was based on broader legalization.

Casino companies give plenty of reasons why online gambling hasn’t taken off in New Jersey and other states, including the continued existence of unregulated (illegal) gambling site competitors, the fact that some banks aren’t allowing their credit cards to be used for placing bets online, and basic lack of awareness among consumers. Surely, some if not all of the factors holding online gambling back can be addressed in time.

That’s assuming legalized online gambling will be around for a while. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., who obviously has no problem with people gambling in person because he runs casinos, has been waging a war against online gambling for months, at one point penning an op-ed calling Internet gaming “a societal train wreck waiting to happen.” With the backing of Adelson, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recently sponsored a bill that would effectively outlaw online gambling throughout the country.

A group supported by Adelson, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, has released a series of online ads warning about the risks posed to children and their families in a world where gambling is available on screens 24/7, and it’s not always possible to tell who is using an online account. As the National Journal pointed out, one of the ads shows how a kid with a smartphone can be playing Angry Birds one minute, then be addicted to blackjack the next:

“I was playing Angry Birds and then, you know, I just found it,” the teen narrates, as images of online blackjack and poker tables flash on screen. “It’s a lot cooler knowing that I’m playing a real game, not just, like, Candy Crush or Fruit Ninja.”

TIME

Why That Creepy Character in the Cereal Aisle Is Eyeing Your Child

A man pushes his shopping cart past the cereal aisle where G
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

If your child begs, pleads, and throws a hissy fit to get you to buy the sugary cereal featuring a cartoon mascot on the box, all is going according to plan.

It’s fairly common knowledge that supermarkets are carefully, purposefully designed to pump up the possibility of spontaneous walk-by purchases. Milk and eggs are in some remote corner, forcing shoppers to stroll past a range of inessential goods in order to pick up the basics. Soda, candy, and trashy magazines fill the checkout area, where there’s a captive audience likely to be tempted into staving off boredom and grumbling stomachs.

Lately, stores have increased efforts to tempt an increasingly large grocery-shopping demographic (guys) with so-called “man aisles,”, where products aimed at dudes—lighter fluid, beer, cheese dip, jerky, batteries—are found in abundance. These sections often aren’t entire aisles; instead, they tend to be toward the end of an aisle, to maximize the possibility that guys, who aren’t known to browse from aisle to aisle, will see them while hunting for the items on one’s list.

The guys section is an extension of the well-worn tactic of grocery stores involving placing products strategically so that they’ll catch the eyes of the core demographic. Higher-priced goods tend to sit at the eye level of an adult, with the hope that shoppers in a hurry will grab the first tomato sauce or bag of coffee they see, rather than take the time to search for a better value somewhere below.

Researchers at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab just released a study verifying that cereals marketed to kids—the sugary kind, with colorful cartoon mascots, including Cap’N Crunch, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs—are understandably placed much lower than cereals aimed at adults. The average height of placement in grocery stores for a kids cereal is 23 inches, compared to 48 inches high for grown-up cereals.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given all the other strategic design and placement that goes on in grocery stores. What parents may find surprising and, likely, disturbing, is that Cornell researchers also found that the majority of mascots on kids cereal boxes look slightly downward, increasing the chances that these characters will be making direct eye contact with your toddler standing in the aisle. Spokespeople and other characters on adult cereal boxes, by contrast, are almost always staring straight ahead, and because they’re placed among the top shelves, they too should be staring straight into the eyes of the demographic they’re trying to woo.

None of this happens by accident. Research shows that brand trust and connectivity to a product increases when eye contact is made, even when it’s just a weird cartoon rabbit or frog that’s gazing directly at a small child’s face. What’s more, when the uneasy feeling arises that someone is staring at you, there’s an instinct to turn your head and see who it is. This means shoppers are more likely to take a look at the product in the first place because it catches one’s eye. Naturally, all of this increases the odds that the cereal will wind up in your shopping cart.

What can you do to avoid having your kid manipulated, and perhaps more importantly, avoid having to deal with a meltdown? Brian Wansink, one of the Cornell researchers involved in the study, offers some advice that moms and dads may or may not find practical: “If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go ‘cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,’ avoid taking them down the cereal aisle,” he says. Wansik also doles out a tip to cereal makers hoping to score points with families: “If you are a cereal company looking to market healthy cereals to kids, use spokes-characters that make eye contact with children to create brand loyalty.”

TIME Autism

One in 68: Living With Autism

Marcus O’Loughlin, 9, is one of 1.2 million children under age 21 affected by the developmental disorder

Rates of autism in the U.S. have continued to soar, hitting an all-time in the latest statistics, which found that one in 68 eight year olds, or and estimated 1.2 million children under 21, are affected by the developmental disorder.

For those families, living with autism is a daily test. “My relationship with my son is a journey,” says Erin O’Loughlin, whose nine year old son Marcus was diagnosed at three with moderate to severe autism. “You have all these hopes and dreams and expectations of what your child is potentially going to be, and all of a sudden those hopes and dreams and expectations change. You have to have different dreams.”

O’Loughlin, her husband and two children have yet to have a conversation with Marcus; he is non verbal, and only expresses himself in frustrated meltdowns of crying and screaming. The family helps Marcus with everything, from brushing his teeth to getting dressed and eating. And O’Loughlin knows that it’s taking a toll on the family. “I lot of times I just drop off my other children at their activities rather than staying with them because [Marcus] can’t handle loud places, and it’s always like a ticking time bomb with him; you wonder how much patience he is going to have when I deal with the other children’s activities,” she says.

For her, the latest numbers only highlight what she sees as a neglected aspect of autism – how families cope with the financial and emotional demands of living with a loved one who struggles, but is unable to communicate and understand our world. She runs a farm for autistic children and adults in Cary, North Carolina, and advocates for older people with autism who age out of state and federal services aimed at younger, school-aged children. “There are not enough services, there isn’t enough funding out there at all, and not enough focus from the government’s and society’s standpoint on the millions of kids who have already been diagnosed,” she says. “You don’t just outgrow autism, and we need to not just forget about the children in these studies.”

TIME Marketing & Advertising

A Recent History of Campaigns to Get Couples to Do the Nasty

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Kathrin Ziegler—Getty Images

The new “Do It for Denmark” campaign is just what it sounds like: an initiative encouraging couples to have sex—and make babies—for the good of the country.

The campaign, reminiscent of a cheesy song from “Grease 2,” was launched by the travel operator Spies Rejser, which claims that it is simply doing its share for an extremely important cause: helping couples get busy. “Do It for Denmark” offers couples the opportunity to book vacations with an “ovulation discount,” and those who prove they conceived while on holiday are eligible to win a three years’ worth of baby supplies, as well as a child-friendly vacation in the future. The point—beyond generating media attention and booking more vacations—is to combat a low birth rate that has been described as “approaching epidemic levels” in Denmark.

The company points to research indicating that 46% of couples have more sex on vacation, and that 10% of all Danes are conceived while couples are away from home. “Do It for Denmark” is hardly the first or only campaign making the case that a hotel or resort is the perfect spot for procreating, for the good of a country’s future or otherwise. In the late ’00s, a range of hotel companies and tour operators latched onto the idea that there was a strong demand among couples for “procreation vacation” packages, or “conceptionmoons,” if you’d rather. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the trend was largely an extension of other ‘moon vacation ideas, including “babymoons” (a last vacation before a baby arrives), “anniversarymoons” (basically another honeymoon on a big wedding anniversary year), and “divorcemoons” (a celebratory trip after a split).

(MORE: Snickers Ad Manages to Be Sexist to Both Men and Women)

Much larger pro-procreation movements have been undertaken by nations seeking to kick lackluster birth rates into higher gear. The most notable—and certainly, memorable—took place last year, when R&B greats Boyz II Men played in Moscow before Valentine’s Day, supposedly to help Vladimir Putin in his quest to boost the country’s birth rate, which has been falling for decades. While it was unclear it Putin had anything to do with the booking of the “I’ll Make Love to You” crooners, Slate pointed out that the Putin era has been filled with baby-making and pro-family initiatives, including the introduction of special holidays more or less created for the purpose of conception and cash bonuses for moms having second kids. In Asia, Singapore and South Korea have tried to hike birth rates with big discounts on childcare and a commercial featuring a rap song proclaiming how inherently patriotic it is to make babies.

Then there’s France. A wide range of pro-family policies, including tax breaks, generous maternity leave, and discounts on train travel and other services, was credited for helping France achieve the second-highest fertility rate in Europe in the mid-00s, 1.94 children born per woman, the Washington Post reported.

According to Reuters, the fertility rate in France climbed as high as 2.03 in 2010, but has since retreated, to 2.01 in 2012 and 1.99 last year. It might be time to call Boyz II Men.

TIME Childhood

These Kids Want to Show You Their Favorite Toys

From Fiji to Zambia, children showed Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberte their favorite toys

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti photographed children all over the world posing with their favorite toys, from Alaska to India to Africa to South America. “For every photograph, I would spend the entire day with the family,” he says in the introduction to his book, Toy Stories: Photos of Children from Around the World and Their Favorite Things published by Abrams Image. “In some places, like China and the Middle East, the parents would push their children hard to pose for the photos, even if the kids didn’t seem comfortable. It could be a bit embarassing. I didn’t want to take pictures of crying children.”

Galimberti found that the fewer toys a child had, the less possessive he or she was about them, and that free-roaming children tended to be more likely to share their toys than city children who often play alone.

“My eighty-five year-old grandmother doesn’t know where some of the countries I visited are — places like Zambia, Malawi, or Fiji — but she remembers her favorite toys. Everybody does.”

TIME Music

No One Can Sing the Blues Like This Little Girl Performing at a Flea Market

Her name is Emi Sunshine and she's ridiculously talented

It’s easy for most people to see street musicians and promptly ignore them, allowing them to fade gently away into the background. But we imagine it would be much harder to tune out this little girl, who was spotted recently performing a bluesy, impressively soulful rendition of “Blue Yodel No. 6″ at a flea market in Sweetwater, Tenn.

This talented nine-year-old’s name is Emi Sunshine and according to her Facebook page, she not only sings and yodels, she also plays ukulele, kazoo, banjolele and mandolin. Oh, she also writes and records original songs, which you can hear on her YouTube page. She counts the Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris as just a few of her influences. If she’s already this good at age nine, we can only imagine where she’ll be in a few years. Perhaps she’ll be the next Taylor Swift?

TIME ADHD

It Doesn’t Matter if ADHD Doesn’t Exist, My Son Still Needs Drugs

Boy and Pills
Getty Images

Here's what would induce a parent to start messing with the chemistry of their growing kid's brain

No mother wants to drug her kids. Nobody lies around pensively stroking her pregnant belly and thinks, “Just can’t wait to medicate this little sucker.” But here’s the thing: unless we are going to radically alter the way we teach kids, there’s not much else parents can do to get some kids through school.

We swung wildly from feeling stricken about drugging our son to feeling guilty we had waited so long.In his recent book ADHD Does Not Exist and his essay for TIME, Dr. Richard Saul suggests that attention-deficit disorders are massively overdiagnosed and a bunch of the symptoms occur in any busy human being. He warns that we are looking for a chemical solution to a problem that needs a therapeutic one. But this is a bit like saying that we already know how to prevent AIDS (simply stop having sex or sharing needles!), so we don’t need a vaccine or a cure. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Everyone who defends giving kids stimulants has a story and here’s mine: I have a charming but mischievous son who skipped the part of elementary school where kids learn to read. Was read to as a child, bookish home, did first grade twice, had tutors, the whole nine yards. Still, when shown a picture of a hen with the word hen underneath, he’d read chicken. Maddening. He was diagnosed as dyslexic (another condition that “doesn’t exist,” according to some), and we sent him to a school that specializes in reading difficulties.

The school was great, but we got a lot of calls. There was a certain amount of our son being sent out of the room. This is in class sizes of no more than 12. Therapy, sleep, “finding a passion,” various flavors of carrot and stick were tried. No stone was left unturned. The subject of meds came up — nobody ever says it’s mandatory, it just comes up in conversation — but we held firm. We are not a pill-popping family. We don’t even take headache medication unless our vision gets blurry. We would push through, with discipline and love and grit. The teachers would just have to manage him better. After all, what would induce a parent to mess with the chemical balance of a growing child’s brain?

We may have stood our ground forever, except for the aforementioned “charming” part. Turns out our son was something of a pied piper. If he decided to wander off task, he took half the class with him. The nice folks at the nice school pointed out it wasn’t very fair to the other parents. It’s like that whole other childhood medication controversy, vaccination. Sometimes you don’t just do it for you. Maybe you can stomach your kid not learning, but it’s not cool if he takes the more vulnerable — and sometimes less able — kids with him.

But, in any case, what modern parent can approach the specter of a child who doesn’t learn with any equanimity? Even a not-very-attentive adult can see that the knowledge sector of the economy is the safest haven in downturns. The gap between those with college degrees and those without is ever widening. Not just in income, but also in life areas like successful marriages and health. The option for a kid who can’t sit and learn is not a slightly less lucrative career, it’s a much more miserable existence.

So here’s what would induce a parent to start messing with the chemistry of their growing kid’s brain: fear. As we saw our child fall behind, and we looked at what lay ahead, the cold hand of impending doom got us by the neck and squeezed. The older a person is, the harder it is to learn to read, we’re told. If a child can’t read, he can’t learn any other subject, including math. So the kid needs to be able to concentrate; he needs to be able to take tests; he needs to be able to hear what his teachers are saying. Either he needs a class size of about six, with an incredibly adept and captivating teacher, or he needs a little help.

We started giving him meds at age 11. Within two weeks, there was a marked change. That year, he learned to read — and write. I got my first comprehensible Mother’s Day card. (“Yeah, the teacher warned me that you would cry,” he said.) We swung wildly from feeling stricken about drugging him to feeling guilty we had waited so long.

Could we get our kid through school another way? Maybe. Perhaps spend half the day in P.E. Or get him a governess instead of a classroom. Or find a teaching style that is different, somehow, more kinesthetic or less visual or uses blocks or therapy monkeys. But they’re all just maybes and he’s not our only kid and he’s not our only life challenge and his useful school years are slipping away. The meds work, are almost free of side effects and, far from being handed out willy-nilly, are a huge pain to get every month.

When I asked our now 16-year-old son if he liked taking his meds, he said “Sure. They help me concentrate.” And when I followed up with, “Would you rather be able to concentrate without them?” he gave me one of those specially-reserved-for-moronic-parents-looks and replied, nice and slow, so I’d get it. “Wouldn’t anybody?”

Right. Wouldn’t any parent prefer to get their kids through school drug-free? Yep. (Well, mostly. As Dr. Saul suggests, it’s hard to believe the growth in ADHD prescriptions is completely organic. I’d love to hear from some parents on how their kid’s ADHD went unnoticed until they had to take the SATs.) But if we want to eradicate a chemical solution to what might be a behavioral disorder, we’ve got a whole economy and education system to reorganize. While you guys get on that, I’ve got to get my kid through school.

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