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Firefly mobile aimed at toddlers

By Matthew Sparkes

Posted on 24 Jun 2009 at 10:54

A mobile phone targeted at children as young as four is to be launched in the UK.

The glowPhone from Firefly has only five buttons, two of which are direct lines to the child's mother and father. Another gives access to the phonebook, which can store only 20 numbers - all of which are entered by the child's parents.

The phone can also be set up to block any incoming calls from unrecognised numbers. It has no camera, cannot access the internet and doesn't support SMS messaging, all measures designed to make the phone as safe as possible for children to use unsupervised.

Despite these measure, giving phones to children as young as four is likely to be a controversial issue, and could even fall foul of telecoms restrictions.

In the UK there is a code of conduct amongst mobile operators that handsets will not be marketed to children.

The glowPhone, which is already on sale in the US and Ireland, is expected to cost £85 without a SIM when it is released in the UK, although no firm date for release has been given.

More than 7,000 of the phones have already been sold in Ireland, where it is available on the O2 network.

Frances Crean, the Irish businesswoman who is importing and marketing the devices in the UK, explained the need for the device to the Times. "In summer 2006 we had a health scare with our daughter. She was six and attending a day camp when she developed a sore neck and a rash - classic symptoms of meningitis.

"Nobody at the camp had contacted us to say that she was unwell, but when she was collected we realised that she looked very ill and rushed her to hospital," she said. "Thankfully we got the all-clear. We wanted to find a phone that would be safe for her and found this one being made in America. We felt that if we didn't market it now, someone else would."

More than half of children in the UK aged between five and nine now own a mobile phone. The market in general has reached saturation point in this country, with an estimated 72 million phones in a country of only 60 million people.

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