Cellular Phones Marketed to Kids

Rogers Launches Cellphone for Kids

Rogers Wireless Inc. has become the first Canadian mobile phone provider to introduce a cellphone designed specifically for children as young as eight.

The Canadian launch of the brightly coloured Firefly phone, which costs as much as $149.99 and is being touted as a way for parents to keep in touch with “the people who matter most,” comes after a consumer advocacy group co-founded by Ralph Nader petitioned U.S. Congress to investigate the marketing and sale of cellphones to children.

The group, citing unanswered questions related to health, social and privacy impacts on children, said putting cellphones into the hands of such a
young population could open up a “plethora of problems” with unknown long-term consequences — everything ranging from interruptions in learning environments to possible health problems affecting the ear and brain.

While the connection here between an American advocacy group lobbying Congress and a Canadian cellular provider is unclear, I find myself somewhat numb to the clarion calls to save the children. I have little doubt that there are health risks associated with chronic cellphone usage (without an earpiece anyway), and I’m bothered more than most at the ubiquity of cellphones, but at this point aren’t we talking about a company that sells a legal product simply trying to expand its market share? Isn’t that what companies do?

Of course the Naderite argument is not limited to protecting children’s health:

But Commercial Alert [Nader’s group], citing a number of other different child-focused cellphones entering the market, says the coming mobile onslaught is a bad idea.

“If the Disney Corporation and others just wanted to give children a way to contact parents in emergencies, that would be one thing,” the group states.

“But despite the industry’s rhetoric, Disney and the telecommunications companies really want to use children as conduits to their parents’ wallets.”

Imagine that. The next thing you know, Budweiser will start using scantily-clad bikini babes to get me to buy their beer.

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Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.