Ahead of the school year, a group of rabbis and teachers of the religious education system have been promoting Telephonetto, a new mobile phone designed for religious teens, set to protect them from Web transgressions.
Unlike the ultra-orthodox "kosher mobile," which has no IM systems nor audio and video input, the Telephonetto blocks only internet access and video display, but still includes smartphone features such as an audio player, a camera and an expansion card.
The national religious
adapted phone service was designed as a joint initiative of a designated committee of representatives from religious institutions and Eurocom
Mobile Communications, which developed a new adapted software for a cheap and popular cellular phone already in the market.
According to Eurocom CEO Ilan Greenbaum, "company engineers and developers have been working with the committee on the device features, and by the end of a three month process the Telephonetto was developed."
Initiators have introduced an intensive campaign to inform the national religious community of the benefits of the new mobile phone. Rabbi Avinoam Horowitz, principal of the Kiryat Arba
religious High School, and the man behind the initiative, said that the objective was to form a unanimous stand among religious teachers in light of the spreading phenomenon of smartphones, "mutilating the students' souls."
The concern of religious teachers and parents not only focuses on exposure to blasphemous content,
but also on the addictive nature of smartphones, which they say alienate teens from their surroundings. "Mobile phones enslave teens and lead to destructive social detachment," Horowitz said. "They stop playing with their friends; everyone dives into his or her phone."
Proponents of the administered Telephonetto mobile phone, designed to address those concerns, have enlisted the support of rabbis and school principals who will approve the use of a mobile phone within school premises only if that phone is the Telephonetto.
Many religious educators, however, estimated that the blocked cellphone will only address the problem within school grounds, and that teens will not be so quick to abandon their sophisticated devices in favor of such a basic product.
The national religious community has been operating an internet content-filtering service, but the widespread use of smartphones amongst teens has bypassed the filters, since every teenager was able to surf the Web from his or her own phone. Leaders of the community are hoping that the Telephonetto would help manage that as well.