Bemilo is a new mobile network that is aimed at worried parents. It markets itself as child-friendly and claims to enable parents to keep track of their children’s mobile phone usage and avoid cyber-bullying.
The swish introductory video throws out all sorts of scare statistics (with no citations, naturally) asserting that children across the country are sleep-deprived because they can’t bear to tear their innocent little eyes away from their BBMs and text messages. It goes on to argue that they spend most of their waking hours browsing the internet on smartphones, getting texts or calls from bullies or avoiding schoolwork with their phone.
In contrast, Bemilo aims to be a “safe and secure” mobile network. However, it sounds more like an authoritarian nightmare from Orwell’s seminal 1984. Parents can control not only who can and cannot contact their children but they can also put time-locks on access to the network. Even more chilling is the promise to give parents access to the content of all the calls and texts made on the phone.
All of this is a terrifying encroachment into children’s private lives and way beyond what should be deemed reasonable. If children are so young and immature that mobile access is a problem to this extent, they should not have their own phones to begin with. If they are old enough to deserve some responsibility, this nannying approach will prove to be counterproductive and give them a disturbed view of authority figures.
It’s also pretty obvious that it will all be completely ineffective. No intelligent child will let their parents read their text messages or control who they talk to. Luckily, even the most technophobic or slow child knows dozens of workarounds to get past the restrictions or can easily outsmart their parents anyway. An obvious solution is simply to order a free PAYG SIM card from a different provider (some even give free calls and texts to friends on the same network) and swap that out when they want to use their phone.
So, overall, Bemilo looks like a pointless con. And worse, one that costs £3.95/month for a PAYG admin fee and is more expensive than most budget MVNOs. The icing on the crapcake is the fact that you can’t even port numbers into Bemilo at the moment so not only will you be taking away your child’s autonomy and teaching them an awful lesson about independence and responsibility, you’ll force them to change to a new number (or provide another incentive to keep their old one).
So what do you think about Bemilo? Would you force your kids to use it? Do you think it can even be effective? Are we being too harsh? Let us know in the comments below.