A Provo-based mobile phone company geared toward children is introducing a new smartphone for kids meant to limit distractions and promote healthy consumption of technology.
Gabb Wireless was founded by Stephen Dalby in 2018 with the intent to be a child’s first phone. For many parents, spokesperson and founding partner Lance Black, when a child comes to their parents asking for a phone for the first time, there aren’t a lot of options.
Dalby had been teaching in schools for 12 years when he began to see this with his own children when they came to him asking for their first phones and the only options were outdated flip phones or expensive smartphones. Both had internet access and barely any protections for children.
That’s when the father of eight began to assemble a team to find a solution to a prominent need in the industry, Black said.
The budding company landed in Provo because of the culture, talent and the presence of the local universities. Additionally, Black said, Provo has been a breeding ground of great success for businesses like Gabb Wireless.
As a fairly new company, Gabb Wireless has already developed a suite of products focused on safety and security. Gabb Wireless’ newest phone, the Gabb Z2, is a smartphone that does not come with internet capabilities, games or even an app store.
Like every other smartphone, the device has bluetooth capabilities, a camera and a large screen; however, the design has been tweaked to protect kids and limit distractions.
While the phone comes with 14 apps that allow for kids to contact friends and family, it does not allow the user to access social media or the internet.
“It’s not like we have parental controls,” Black said. “It just doesn’t come with it, therefore they can’t turn it on. If they want to get Instagram, they can’t. It just won’t work on it. We don’t have anyway for them to install anything on it.”
By limiting what kids can do on their devices, Black said Gabb wireless is fulfilling its mission. While the company was founded to fill a hole in the market, Black said the company first and foremost exists to protect children.
“We believe that too much technology too soon is too dangerous,” he said. “We exist to protect kids. Nothing really matters beyond that.”
With the same goal in mind, Gabb Wireless partnered with Defend Innocence by donating $10,000 to the organization and promising the foundation $10 from each phone sale. Defend Innocence is a brand of The Younique Foundation meant to educate parents about sexual abuse and teach them how to help kids use technology in a safe way.
Defend Innocence’s Board Chair and President Shelaine Maxfield said Gabb Wireless is the first phone product that aligned with the foundation’s philosophies on how children should first experience technology use.
“We’re not anti-tech,” he said. “We are the right tech at the right time.”
Additionally, Gabb Wireless wants to connect kids with their friends and families, even when they’re a part. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, kids are relying on technology to socialize, which is an important part of their development.
The devices and plans Gabb Wireless offers is also meant to empower parents in a way that makes them more confident in giving their kids technology that will help them stay connected in a safe and inexpensive way.
“We give freedom for the kids and peace of mind for the parents,” Black said.
Although Gabb Wireless is a company built on selling phones and providing cellular services, Black said the company is actively working to get kids to live beyond the screen.
The company recently announced the development of Gabb Life, an ambassador program involving youth athletes from across the nation, including 17-year-old football and soccer player Samantha Gordon of Salt Lake City.
The Gabb Life program is meant to get kids and teens to start talking with each other about the importance of limiting screen time.
“At a certain age, that’s where kids get most of their information, from their friends and people they look up to,” Gordon said. “By using our platform and showing what we’re doing, we are showing kids, ‘You can do this if you look away from the screen.’”
Gordon began playing football in Utah at the age of 9 years old, but as she grew older, she couldn’t find any leagues for her and other girls like her to play in, so she worked with her dad to establish an all-girls tackle football league in Utah
Since then, Gordon has been invited to be an ambassador for the Gabb Life program, in which she said she is excited to participate. Gordon said in her own personal use of Gabb Wireless’ devices that she has enjoyed the design and the way she doesn’t feel like she needs to be on it at all times.
“The reason she is so great at football and soccer and athletics in general is she is not spending 7 hours a day on her screen like most other teenagers are,” Black said. “We believe that the thief of opportunity is distraction.”
One of the biggest distractions in most people’s lives, he said, is the cellphone.
Studies show, Black said, that teens are spending an average of 7 hours each day on their phones. Kids with Gabb Wireless phones, however, are spending 80% less time on their phones, with roughly one hour each day spent looking at their screens.
Even that one hour, Black said, is spent differently from what other teenagers are doing. While most teens spend their screen time on social media, kids on Gabb Wireless spend their screen time talking or texting with friends.
“Imagine what a young man or young woman can become if instead of spending 7 hours each day on their phone they spent 5 hours each day playing violin, or on the soccer field, or learning the piano, or playing football, or learning how to program a computer,” Black said. “They could become incredibly skilled and amazing at certain things when they live life beyond the screen.”
Additionally, he said, the brain is programmed to lean toward addiction and spending time on social media or on the phone can become addicting. Black said studies have shown that kids who spend at least 3 hours on their phone each day are 30% more likely to experience intrusive thoughts.
“We don’t want to even flirt with these numbers,” he said. “Parents have good intentions, it’s not like parents are trying to destroy their kids, but I don’t think they realize the potential dangers of a kid who lives his life on the screen instead of living his life beyond the screen.”
Looking to the future, Black said the company has already begun the development of a smart watch for children as well as new apps that will be included on future devices.