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Mobile phones for kids launched in Netherlands

KPN and Scarlet target youngest audience yet

Two Dutch mobile carriers have launched new mobile phones designed especially for use by children from the ages of four and upwards.

KPN's iKids handset features a GPS receiver that continues to work even when the phone is switched off, and allows parents to identify three 'safety zones' within which their children are allowed to roam.

If the phone is taken out of a designated area a text message is sent to alert the parent, who can then locate the child's position on a virtual map. If the text message is not received, the phone will automatically resend to another specified number.

Scarlet's Buddy Bear handset is aimed at children between the ages of four and nine and can also be used as a baby monitor. Priced at EURO 129, it allows the user to receive calls from anywhere in the world - but only to text or call four pre-selected numbers. Should the phone's battery run low, an SMS is automatically sent to inform the parent.

It's not yet known whether similar products will be launched across Europe - it seems unlikely that they'll make it to the UK, where the National Radiological Protection board last year issued advice warning parents not to let children aged eight or under use mobile phones.

That's not to say there isn't a market, however. According to a survey by mobile billing company Convergys, British children spend more than GBP 1 billion per year on mobile phones, and one in four parents say their children have accessed premium rate services such as ringtones.

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