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Parenting and Cell Phones: How To Win With Everyone

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Being a parent is never an easy job. Being a parent of a child with a cell phone – well, that is an even tougher job. When I was growing up, we didn’t have cell phones at our disposal. In fact, they were just coming out and were very expensive. I remember the first one my parents got – it was called Alex – and was installed in the car directly. We were all excited to have it, but my father reminded us that it was “just for emergencies.” Boy have we come a long way in a short period of time.

Today, it seems as if everyone has a smart phone, and that the younger children tend to know how to use these devices more effectively than us “old folks”. While I am not calling anyone – except myself – and “old folk,” the cell phone generation has rapidly overtaken car bingo, the name and states game, and even human interaction in the car. I never thought I would miss those perpetual “how long till we get there” questions every two minutes – but as they say, “be careful what you wish for” because nowadays, I would kill to be asked that repetitively. It would, in fact, mean we are off our cell phones for a while and talking directly with each other.

That said, smart phones bring about all kinds of new issues, ones we never thought of before. Take who is calling, for example. If you can’t read (in the case of children) you won’t know who is calling unless you see a picture of the person on the screen. For adults, having pictures in your contacts, instead of dialing numbers, is a safety feature as well – especially when driving. While the majority of states in the United States have laws on the books against holding a cell phone while driving, you can still, in fact, use them when positioned on the car or linked through a Bluetooth device.

This begs the question: how do you make using a cell phone safer? One way is to use a dialer, across all applications, so you can see who you’re calling – or what call you are taking – before you answer it. Regardless of your age, or you status in life, connecting before you connect makes a difference. More importantly, the brain can process images stunningly faster than it can process words or numbers.

According to Science ABC, “your brain can process certain types of information within as little as 13 milliseconds. To put that in perspective, it takes you 300 to 400 milliseconds to blink your eye, which is 1/3 of a second. This means that your brain can identify what it’s looking at approximately 30 times faster than you can blink your eye!” In other words, regardless of what we are looking at, if it is a picture, we can process it significantly faster than if it is something else.

Processing images faster means being more secure when you see them. It also means, when using a dialer, knowing whom you are talking to before taking their call. For parents of young children, this means knowing your children are much more aware of whom they are talking to, and that “stranger danger” is reduced significantly. For drivers, it means being able to communicate faster and more safely while getting from one place to another.

Today, there are many different types of dialers. After trying several, I thought I would report my “non scientific” results in an effort to help others. The easiest app I used was a free app called Eyecon. I installed it from the App Store and yes, for those with Android devices, it is also available for them as well. In less than 10 minutes, I had my phone up and running with photos of all my contacts. I didn’t have to install the pictures – or even find them – because the app did it all for me. The pictures came from the contacts themselves, posted on their social media, and imported directly into my contact list. It is important to note that it also worked across applications and with messaging as well. I found this easy-to-use and seamless, and something that made my calling not only easier, but also more intimate. In fact, when my son called and a new picture popped up, I was even more excited to talk to him.

Then there was Drupe. My biggest problem with Drupe was that I found that both people had to have it installed in their phones. The majority of my contacts did not and I wasn’t about to ask them to install it individually. While the app is highly rated, it did not fit my specific needs and goals. The app is free, but for some features to work, there are charges.

The third dialer I tried was Truecaller. From their own website, they are listed as “the best caller ID and block for all your calls and SMS,” which got me thinking that they don’t really accomplish all that I set out to do with a dialer. Truecaller offers both a free and a paid service, but to really make use of it you need to spend $17.99 per year, which is a bit pricey from my perspective. Truecaller’s interface is relatively simple, and shows more numbers than pictures, which defeats the security purpose when driving or with children.

In this day and age, when we are susceptible to so many dangers that never mattered before – because they didn’t exist -- from this parent’s perspective, it is important that any application installed in a phone or other device be one that truly makes a difference. Any parent with children knows how important it is for our children to be smarter, think smarter, and understand how to protect themselves from a very early age. And for the adults who use their phones while in the car or other places, being able to know who is calling – in less than the blink of an eye – can make all the difference in the world.

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