KIDS & MONEY

Happiness is a locked-up cell phone

Updated: 2012-11-07T06:22:49Z

By STEVE ROSEN

The Kansas City Star

Enough cell phone interruptions by your kids at the dinner table. Enough fingers flying, texts beeping, and eyes locked firmly on a phone screen. Enough.

It’s time for the Cell Lock-Up.

Invented by a father of six from Brooklyn, Cell Lock-Up is just that, a jail cell large enough to hold up to six cellphones at a time. It comes with bunk beds and stanchions, and in the right circumstances it makes a perfect conversation starter.

Ike Sutton craved peace and quiet around mealtime in his household when he had a brainstorm about two years ago. Like many parents, Sutton was tired of being distracted by cell phones going off during family time. Make that distractions with a capital D, since there were often at least six cell phones ringing at Sutton’s dinner table.

“Everybody had a story on why they couldn’t turn off their phone,” said Sutton, 47. “I’m a creative guy, always trying to look for solutions to problems. This one struck a chord.”

First, the born tinkerer and inventor-hobbyist developed a model of a jail cell. Then he shared his prototype with EB Brands in New York, where he worked as a consultant to develop and manufacture travel accessories, flashlights, barbecue tools and other gift ideas.

Sutton’s boss liked the idea; testing and refinements followed; and the Cell Lock-Up recently hit the market. The product, priced at $19.99, is available at Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, and several other retailers.

Here’s how it works:

Say your teenage son is texting while you’re waiting patiently for the salad and dressing to be passed. You take away the phone and turn it off. But instead of putting it on the shelf until after dinner, you place it in the Lock-Up. Junior can see the phone — he just can’t get it.

Sutton added a few fun touches to his product. You set a timer for 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes to sentence the phone behind bars; then a warden’s voice announces the sentence as the cell door shuts.

Once the cell phone has served its time, the warden proclaims that “justice is served,” and the phone is “free to rejoin digital society.”

What if your teen tries to spring his phone before the rightful time? There’s a gotcha moment.

An alarm sounds and a voice announces, “Alert. Alert. Break-out in progress.”

Sutton hopes his gadget will help end the mid-meal digital divide and maintain the peace.

“It takes the edge off,” Sutton said.

He also sees Cell Lock-Up as a way to instill “socially correct” phone etiquette among youngsters and adults alike. He’s noticed improvement in his own home.

“We use Cell Lock-Up on occasion.… We still have those moments. But this is a more fun, easy way to get my message across.”

Sutton is feeling inspired again. Next he wants to design a product that will solve another problem — texting while driving.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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