Carphone Warehouse Chief Exec Andrew Harrison recently called for sensible marketing of mobile phones to kids, according to Mobile News. Unfortuntely, it doesn’t appear he has much backing, as Child safety organisations wouldn’t back him, and the industry at large didn’t have anything to say in support either.
Harrison said last month the industry should take a “responsible attitude” towards the increasing number of children using mobile phones by marketing targeted products to them in a sensible manner.
The input from the Childrens’ Charities was that a more ethical approach would be to market to the parents, not the children. Also the charities pointed out that the safeguards for services usage needed to flow through the parents to they could control what the children are seeing.
Interestingly, handset manufacturers didn’t support the idea of marketing to children either – despite the fact they potentially have a good amount of sales to gain:
Sony Ericsson marketing director Dave Hilton said: “We do not target children and do not promote phones to under 16s. We recognise teenagers use phones, but we have adopted the ethical policy not to target them. If it is found that there is an increasing market appetite and we believe there are no ethical implications at that time then we would consider targeting under 16s.”
And finally, even the (other) retail channels don’t appear to be in agreement with Carphone:
A Phones 4U spokesperson said: “Whilst it is clear the use of mobile phones by children is on the increase, we must remember that child safety is paramount. We understand there is a need in society today for more stringent controls regarding how mobiles are used by children, and the content they are able to access. However, Phones 4U’s core target market are 16-24 year-olds, and so all of its marketing efforts are focused on reaching those over the age of 16.”
Apart from the input from SE and Phones4U, other companies in the Mobile ecosystem largely refused to comment. Personally, I’m not surprised, given the sensitiviy of the issue. Where children are concerned, there need to exist extra levels of protection to make sure that Mobile devices don’t become a targeted channel for all the less than savoury elements out there, in whatever forms they may come.