Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you for joining us for another interview in our ongoing series. For this interview, we had the privilege to speak with Bill Brady, Co-founder, and CEO of the MCA award-winning product, Troomi Safe Smartphones for Kids! Troomi Safe Smartphones are phones that grow with your child! Troomi Safe Smartphones‘ mission is to provide kids with guardrails for safety and opportunities for growth, learning, personal discovery, and preparation for the future. We do this by creating solutions that empower children to pursue their dreams vigorously through a safe, balanced relationship with technology. Keep reading to find out more about Bill and his award-winning product, the Troomi Safe smartphone!
MCA: Hi Bill! Thank you so much for sitting down with us for this interview and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Can we first start the interview by finding out a little bit about yourself?
Bill: A thought leader in the genre of technology and its effect on children
In a career spanning 20 years as a marketing executive, I’ve owned two marketing agencies serving global brands that include Google, HP, Netflix National Geographic, Sony, and Pepsi.
Since 2018, I have focused on providing children with healthier solutions for using technology. Most recently, I’ve co-founded Troomi Wireless, a mobile phone company designed for children, and serves as the company’s CEO.
In addition to providing quality hardware and phone service priced for kids, Troomi is unique for its KidSmart OS®, an operating system that enables parents to graduate kids from one level of functionality to the next based on their needs and maturity. Put simply, Troomi is designed to grow with children and prepare them for the future.
As for my personal life, I hold an undergraduate degree in Public Relations from Brigham Young University, where I served as Student Body President. I also earned a master’s degree in business from the University of Utah. My wife Heidi and I have been married for 20 years, have five great kids, and live in Alpine, UT.
MCA: That is such an interesting story in how you transitioned from a career in Marketing to your role as co-founder and CEO of Troomi! Can you elaborate more on your company, Troomi, and why you started it?
Bill: When we started giving kids smartphones 15 years ago, we had no idea what the consequences would be. No one foresaw the stress, isolation, anxiety, and depression that arises from social media because social media wasn’t pervasive yet. We didn’t foresee the rise of online child predators — estimated at 500,000 right now — nor the scale to which childhood bullying would increase by becoming available anytime, anywhere.
For me, one of the most disturbing aspects of giving kids too much technology is a massive spike in mental health issues among young people. One researcher whom I follow says, “We are on the verge of the biggest mental health crisis our country has ever seen.” That assertion is born out by statistics from the CDC showing that suicide among young people in the U.S. has increased by 57% since the invention of smartphones.
In the present landscape, there is a wide spectrum of technology options for kids. On one end you have the option of buying your son or daughter a $1300 smartphone that can do anything and everything—and many parents are realizing that approach is not safe or wise. On the other end of the spectrum, you have devices that do talk and text only and are so locked down that they quickly prove impractical for most kids and families.
We started Troomi to provide parents a safe-but-flexible solution with the ability to start a younger child with a very limited, age-appropriate experience but easily graduate them to additional functionality and responsibility as their needs and maturity evolve.
To accomplish our vision of creating “the phone that grows with your kids,” we built KidSmart OS®, the operating system that powers every Troomi phone. It provides a unique level of flexibility to custom fit the device environment to any child while always protecting kids from pornography, predators, bullies and social media. It comes on the Samsung devices we sell, and Troomi also provides the monthly phone service.
MCA: Based on your company’s research and experience, what would you say is the best time for a parent to give their child a cellphone?
Bill: When to give your child a smartphone is up to you—this decision should be based on your child’s maturity rather than a certain age. Be deliberate and conscientious with the choice. Kids do not need phones just because their friends have them—that is not the right motivation.
I would always advise that it be a purposeful decision. What is the need? How is it going to be used? And what is age appropriate? How do we get the child what they need right now without getting them into situations that could be dangerous for them down the road?
I also think it’s important to take a hard look at a child’s ability to self-regulate in other ways. For example, if a child has an addictive personality or undisciplined relationship with television or with video games, they may not be ready for the added responsibility of a cell phone.
Phones can be an amazing tool when used correctly. Not only do they let you stay in contact with your kiddo, but they also give your child tools that aid in developing their educational and creative potential.
MCA: How can parents keep their children safe while online and while using technology in general?
Bill: Every child has unlimited potential to learn, do and become anything. What a tragedy if that potential gets robbed by dangers lurking under our noses and at our children’s fingertips. As parents, we have a responsibility to introduce technology to our children in a safe way that grows with their needs and maturity. We can’t leave our children’s mental and emotional health to social media app developers.
Parents should think about what their kids need right now, compared to what they will need as they mature, compared to what might always be dangerous for them—and then choose a solution wisely. A whole lot of problems can be avoided if kids aren’t given more technology than needed for the developmental stage they’re at, and it’s really hard to put the genie back in the bottle once kids get immersed in things like social media.
Families should have hard-fast rules about what kinds of content are appropriate and inappropriate, and kids should feel comfortable (not shamed!) talking to mom or dad about inappropriate stuff they’ve run into online. Given that so many of today’s challenges with kids and technology begin with social media, I encourage parents to keep kids away from it.
While children are learning to use technology responsibly—which for me means with intentionality and discipline—they should have content protections and monitoring mechanisms in place to make sure they don’t stumble into trouble.
MCA: Tell us about kids and technology, and how it has changed so much throughout the years!
Bill: Phones don’t have to be addicting and distracting.
We’ve all heard—and many of us have experienced—the stories: a child or teen gets a cell phone, their grades start to suffer, they lose interest in other hobbies because their attention is so focused on texting their friends, scrolling social media, or getting to that next level on whatever game they’re playing. They’re distracted, and sometimes even addicted, by the constant stimulation that phones offer.
Troomi phones don’t include any harmful games or social media apps, and we encourage parents to introduce their kids to phones gradually and deliberately. Parents can introduce technology step by step as their child grows and matures, setting up healthy tech habits for life. This approach takes the focus off the phone as a tyrant and helps it be a tool for empowerment, learning, and success.
MCA: In today’s digitally-fueled times, it is becomer harder and harder for parents to navigate their children’s technology use in a healthy way. What can parents do to help their kids have a healthy relationship with technology?
Bill: First off, we need to model intentionalism—using our own devices as tools and not as the default for passing time. Kids learn their first lessons about healthy technology habits from our examples, so if we endlessly surf from one page or post to another and kind of check out from reality, our children will do the same.
We should have home rules that help to achieve safety and balance. For example, in our family, we limit device use in bedrooms and require devices to be turned into the kitchen counter for charging at night. We also have designated “time outs” for our phones; they are not allowed at the dinner table, and we put them away on Sundays and during family gatherings.
Kids’ first phones should not be full-blown, fully-functional smartphones. Putting that much power into untrained hands and undeveloped brains frequently leads to mental and emotional challenges that come with lifelong consequences. And I believe we should delay the move to social media for as long as possible, as that is the epicenter of where so many of the problems for kids and technology begin.
On top of that, I think it’s essential that we try to help kids achieve a lifestyle that is not centered on technology. Programs like 1,000 Hours Outside are a fun way for the whole family to get off their devices and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors and disconnected.
MCA: That is some advice we can definitely get behind! Thank you again for your wonderful interview, we hope to sit down with you and your amazing company again soon!
You can learn more about Yvonne M Morgan and her award-winning product, Troomi Safe Smartphones, by visiting their MCA Shop pages.