It's always exciting to get a new phone. New apps, better speed, and many new features, but what do you do with the old one? There are many options to donate them to help keep them out of landfills, but one thing is for certain... An old cell phone with a charge and battery does not make a good toy for a toddler!!
Unfortunately there are some education professionals that have suggested this is a good option as it helps introduce kids to the basics of technology. The flashing lights and beeps make them a favorite play item for many toddlers, however there is one thing that has been overlooked or just not understood. Even a deactivated mobile phone can call 9-1-1 baffling dispatchers and responders while wasting resources and trying to track down the caller to make sure nothing was wrong.
You may not be aware but in the U.S. and Canada, Wireless Mobile Carriers are required by law to provide 9-1-1 service even if they have no official phone service. This means any phone with a charge is still capable of reaching 9-1-1 in an emergency situation. Although this can mean the difference between life and death in real world emergencies, it also creates problems for dispatchers. An example of this is if you are for any reason disconnected from 9-1-1 during your call, the dispatcher is unable to call you back because the dispatcher does not have a telephone number to contact you with.
Allowing a toddler to have an old cell phone as a toy can easily become a problem if they figure out how to dial 9-1-1, especially when they hear a voice on the other end of the call. In fact it can be a criminal act to call 9-1-1 repeatedly for non-emergent reasons. A quick Internet search brought up several stories of individuals that had been charged because of the abuse.
Closer to home, recently a mother was cited in Astoria, OR for her toddler who repeatedly called 9-1-1. According to the Astoria dispatch center, the child dialed the emergency line seven times in six minutes. The mother now faces a misdemeanor charge of misusing 9-1-1 that could lead to a fine up to $6000 and a year in jail.