Cellphones and children - most parents would call it a dangerous combination but more and more cellphone companies and operators are wooing kids with new interactive games, cartoons, quiz and word wizard - all of it packed in a single gizmo.
While these companies say the plethora of information will open up a whole new world of “learning with fun”, telecom experts say it is the trend worldwide to target specific groups like women, children and elderly and the same is happening here also.
“Children are a hugely growing interest group, they being inherently internet savvy can make their interaction with the mobile phone more meaningful and the new line of games and learning tools provide an edutainment platform,” says head, applications & solutions group, Reliance infocomm, Mahesh Prasad.
Thus, you have the whiz kid, which sharpens kid’s skills in mathematics, wildlife, current affairs, word wizard to boost vocabulary, fact monster, a treasure trove of information, and games garage, all available on a single mobile, he says. “The trend worldwide is to woo specific target groups, say women, children, elderly and come out with applications meant for them. The same is happening here,” says director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), TV Ramachandran.
“It is difficult to say how much increase in sales this would amount to, but in India the average revenue per user is the lowest as the tariffs are very low. So any such value-added applications which help in the earnings are always welcome,” says Mr Ramachandran.
Cellphones have really become popular with youngsters since last year, when the tariffs came down and according to surveys, the non-earning users of mobiles are going up, says Mr Ramachandran, noting “it shows the growing usage with youngsters, especially girls as most parents feel it is more of a safety device.”
While Mr Ramachandran says it is still the teenagers in India who use cellphones, a recent survey showed that in Asia, the youngest mobile phone user was a six-year old in Hong Kong.
Infact, 29 per cent of Hong Kong children aged 6 - 15 used mobiles, followed by 25 per cent in Australia and Japan. The survey further showed that mobile phones were the most requested Christmas gift last year by young people aged 10 to 15 in UK.
Mr Prasad says it is wrong to say that mobiles should not be given to kids. He says children anyway are using lot of technology these days and are very open to experimenting. They will end up using cellphones too, so it is always better to give them something which also has educational value.