Finally, A Phone That’s Smart For Kids
If you’re like many people on the Wasatch Front, over the past few weeks you’ve probably heard about Gabb Wireless for the first time. Maybe you’ve driven past a billboard, seen a TV interview, heard chatter among your friends, or even watched the unboxing video of an excited youngster opening their first phone. As the founder of Gabb, I am thrilled with how much people both inside and outside of Utah are talking about our new completely safe smartphone and mobile network developed specifically for children.
I am the happy and vigilant father of eight kids, and what started as a quest to provide my own son with a device I could trust has turned into my life’s work to help parents everywhere introduce technology to their children in safe, age-appropriate ways. We launched Gabb here in Utah just a couple of weeks ago and are looking forward to a national launch later this month.
On the surface, Gabb is easy to explain: kids want cell phones and parents want peace of mind, knowing their kids are not being exposed to harmful content or being lured by online predators. To solve these challenges, we created an extremely affordable Android smartphone for kids aged 8 to 14 that removes the Internet browser and the app store. With a Gabb Phone, kids can talk, text and take pictures as much as they want, but there are no games, no apps, no social media, and no opportunities to be exposed to the dangers that conscientious parents constantly worry about.
One thing I never get asked after I’ve explained the mission of Gabb Wireless is, “Stephen, why are you doing this?” Generally speaking, people get it. It’s one of those things that just makes sense, the kind of idea that leaves people saying, “Well, of course!” or “Where were you five years ago!” The truth is, even the majority of teenagers feel like they spend too much time on their cell phones.
But being asked about our mission provides the opportunity to explain why we started Gabb. Put simply, I feel passionate that we’ve given our kids too much technology too soon, and that it’s destroying them—too frequently with tragic outcomes.
Nationally, the rate of suicide among kids aged 10 to 17 more than doubled from 2007 to 2017, but this is an epidemic that has hit really close to home, as the youth suicide rate in Utah more than tripled during the same period. Suicide is now the leading cause of death for Utahns aged 10 to 17.
While the epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicide among young people is surely a complex issue, research—and common sense—bear out a link between premature immersion in technology and the isolation and detachment that lead to what is called “deaths of despair.”
Screen addiction, adult content, cyberbullying and the constant stress of competition on social media platforms create more anxiety than children are equipped to deal with. And given the additional consequences of obesity and arrested social development, it’s no wonder that, as the New York Times reports, Silicon Valley tech execs are “banning their kids from using the devices they created.”
This mission has become really personal to me and my team as we have talked to hundreds of parents from coast to coast over the past year. Each story shared with us is sacred and poignant—and some are utterly tragic—as parents talk through the challenges that have beset their families because of too much technology too soon.
Though Gabb is a brand new company, what has become immediately clear is that our work is not really about phones or service plans, but rather about a vision that is so much more important. I invite Utahns on each end of our state to join our movement to keep kids safe, connect them to their families, and help them live happy, healthy lives outside the screen.