Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

My iKid iJacked My iPhone: A Geek Parenting Tragedy


BoomTown is not proud of the problem.

Not at all.

But, after hearing the same situation described over and over again from many other parents like me, I am also not alone.

As it turns out, our almost-seven-year-old son, Louie, has morphed into an iJacker.

That would be of my iPhone, which I switched solely to recently after a longtime attachment to my BlackBerry.

That RIM (RIMM) mobile phone never turned into a CrackBerry for him, as Louie did not care much for its lovely keys for emailing that so captivated me.

But now he wants to grab my iPhone from my holster all the time, having become entranced by apps–lots and lots and lots of apps–that now litter the digital pages of my Apple (AAPL) device.

DizzyBeeFree and Super Monkey Ball. Touch Hockey and Paper Football. Finger Sprint and MoodPhone. Bounce On and Crazy Penguin Catapult. Lie Detector and Crazy Snowboard. Tic Tac Toe and Hangman. And iChess, iCheckers, iBowl.

Of course, there are also the bubble poppers and light sabers and more cowbells.

And, good lord, how did a “Race to Witch Mountain” app get on there?

So, I don’t need any stats to tell me that the iPhone, and the iPod touch too, have turned into gaming devices of great impact.

But there are stats, like yesterday’s from comScore (SCOR), showing that 12 out of the top 25 all-time iPhone apps are games. (See the chart below; click to make it larger.)


It’s easy to understand why. The ease of use, the small form factor, the great graphics in this mobile phone that is actually a powerful computer.

In fact, Louie hardly has any interest in the desktop computer anymore, or even a laptop. Although we limited his access to it, it’s moot, since he hardly ever uses it now that the iPhone is around.

Why? It is clear, most of all, that Louie loves the movement and the touch features, which turn the experience into a visceral one.

And, uh-oh–according to a post last week on the blog Blorge.com, “The industry patent watch reveals that Apple has filed patent applications that seek to patent certain user interface ideas for the iPhone, including the use of movement, vibration, and pleasure.”

Oh, this is not going to go well when Louie is a teenager.

Thus, aside from switching to a Microsoft (MSFT) Zune, what are our parenting tactics to stave off that day from coming sooner?

Well, obviously, as much as he might beg–and he does beg and wheedle and plead–Louie gets to use the iPhone sparingly, on short car trips mostly.

And he has to play not only the sillier games, but use ones like iChess or word games that require some brain power.

Lastly, Louie must be analog more than digital and playing inside and outside more than any of it.

There should be more rules, I know, but for now he seems just as riveted to baseball and kickball too, so I am not quite in the panic stage.

More the do-not-leave-the-iPhone-on-the-counter-if-I-ever-hope-to-see-it-again phase.

Louie’s almost-four-year-old brother, Alex, is less interested in games on the iPhone, as it turns out.


Instead, for him, the iPhone is a magical music video device on which I bring him old musical numbers.

Last night, it was “I Like to Be in America” from “West Side Story” and the night before, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from “Oklahoma!”

He was as delighted and mesmerized, as I was when I first saw those classics on the television when I was a kid.

And, even seeing them on an iPhone, of that, I am proud.

But, to give you the full picture of the situation, here is a video interview I did of Louie in action with my hijacked iPhone (it is not pretty):

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work