The last time I checked, there were almost 2,000 articles worldwide in Google News about the very cool, $199 smart (3G) iPhone just unveiled by Apple's Steve Jobs. I'll bet not one of them offered a parent's-eye-view of this product. But the view is clear across these relatively uncharted waters: the pressure is on, parents; a whole lot of young cellphone users will want one. The reasons: it's cheaper, they'll argue (than the first iPhone at $399), and "you'll be able to find me anytime," a smart teen will tell you, "because it has GPS technology." What they probably won't tell you is that, with it, they – the ultimate multitaskers – can surf the Web and do mobile social networking twice as fast as on the old iPhone (the new one "runs on AT&T's high-speed network using 3G technology," the Washington Post reports), so they can watch video, get directions to parties, etc., "even when they're on a call," Apple marketing says. Also attractive to teens, who really like to download and mess around with software applications and games on phones, in social sites, and on the Web in general, my ConnectSafely co-director and CBS News tech analyst Larry Magid reminds me, will be the iPhone's App Store (some of the apps will be free, Apple says). Here's Larry's piece on the new iPhone at CBSNEWS.com. Avid music and video sharers may prefer the 16 gig $299 version, but they might keep that wish to themselves in case it lessens their chances of getting an iPhone at all, right?
Then there's the safety question: What parents also need to know, though, is that this and other 3G phones are basically mini Net-connected computers that go everywhere with their users. With one significant difference: this little mobile computer's movements can be tracked. With GPS technology, you can pinpoint your kids' locations, as they'll tell you, but so can their friends (with social-mapping services such as loopt) and – potentially – non-friends, if they're using a social-mapping service and aren't careful about giving their numbers out to and keeping friends lists restricted only to their real-life friends. We are clearly way beyond putting filtering and other parental controls on a single family computer plugged into a wall in a high-traffic area of the house.
The iPhone does come with parental controls, the Seattle Times reports, but I couldn't find any specifics on them yet at Apple.com. The phone has to be used with a two-year AT&T service contract, and AT&T and the other major US carriers also have parental controls, but parents will need to check with AT&T to see if its service's controls work with the iPhone’s. To see what controls are available from the major cellphone companies, click to "What Mobile carriers need to do for kids" (see also our forum ConnectSafely's "Cell-Phone Safety Tips"). [See also the New York Times on how 3G or smartphones are taking off and how 71% of women make the decision about their family’s wireless choices, including phones and service plans. (Smartphones require data plans that can cost $30 or more a month.)]