Thursday, February 02, 2006

Compete: Parents, Kids and Cellphones

Complete has issued a new study that finds "parents say that between the age of 10 and 12 is the most appropriate time for a child to get his or her first mobile phone."

With new kid-friendly handsets, such as Migo and Firefly, coming to market in the past few months, Compete's findings "suggest makers and marketers of kid-friendly handsets need to convince parents that the benefit of a reliable line of parent-to-child communication outweighs any discomfort in giving mobile phones to young children."

According to Complete, "kid phones are generating growing demand in the overall market, driven mostly by curiosity. In the nine weeks ending January 7, the Migo and Firefly saw a sharp jump in demand after their introduction. Migo demand has continued to grow, supported by television advertising. During the first week of 2006 the Migo achieved a 2.9% share of Verizon demand, making it the 12th most shopped for Verizon device. The number one device, the RAZR, captured 18% of interest followed by The V (LG’s X9800) at 7%."

Complete also surveyed consumers who had evaluated a kid phone online or visited parent-oriented web sites and were familiar with the category. Some of the key findings were:

  • Kids getting these phones are younger than the average age at which parents overall think children should get their first mobile phone, implying that kid phones are appealing to the younger end of the pre-teen segment.
  • Past purchasers differed from potential purchasers in their reasons for considering kid-friendly phones. Purchasers said they chose a kid-phone after deciding that their child needed a phone but wasn’t ready for a full-featured phone.
  • Potential purchasers, on the other hand, were more interested in the ability to control whom their child could call. Specifically, these parents indicated they were interested in the phone for emergency use and/or exclusively for parent-to-child communication. Given the differing motivations, we expect that after the initial burst of market interest, selling these handsets will require a targeted approach emphasizing low cost and safety.
Although I'm a parent with two kids in the right age group, I'm not really the target audience because of my gadget geekiness. I can understand the control and safety issues, but if I was to buy my kids a cellphone I could never go with a dumbed down phone that would get tossed away in a year or so. Plus with an iPod, PSP and DS in the family, I don't think the kids would go for it either. When the time is right, I'd rather give the kids one of our old handsets and upgrade to a new one.

For control and safety, I'm sure the network operators could make it easier for parents to go online and specifiy which numbers their child's handset can make calls to and receive from. It shouldn't be too difficult, should it?