London, May 20 : Young girls under five may be counting down the days before the new Hello Kitty mobile phones are launched, but the same cannot be said for parenting experts.
The launch of the phones in July this year is raising concerns among experts of kids being targeted at such a young age.
Adding to their worry are health fears linked with the use of mobile phones as pointed out in a 2005 report by Sir William Stewart, which indicated that 9 to 14-year-olds should make only short, essential calls while kids below 8 years should not use mobile phones at all.
According to Sue Palmer, author of Detoxing Childhood, which gives advice to parents on how to guide children while dealing with growing up problems, it was "very irresponsible" to bring a Hello Kitty phone, priced 599 dollars online, on to the market.
"A Hello Kitty phone would concern me considerably. The Hello Kitty website is aimed at 6 to 7-year-olds. The products are very pink and very attractive to young girls. What they are doing is looking for a new market and this is the thing I find so offensive. They need a new market and they are exploiting children," Times Online quoted her, as saying.
The British company Comment Retail Service, has struck a deal with Sanrio to become the exclusive licence holder in Britain and Ireland for Hello Kitty phones, promised that the phones were not aimed at young children, but it would appeal to women in their twenties and thirties.
Caroline Preston, sales director, said: "There's definitely a fan base that you associate with youngsters and young teenagers."
She added: "Sanrio has been attempting to broaden their appeal out of the 10 to 12-year-old sector. She [Hello Kitty] has grown up and become more urban. If the market was for 5 to 15-year-olds we wouldn't have become involved. Hello Kitty has mass market appeal. The price point and functional-ity is aimed at adults."
Disney has already scrapped plans to launch a Mickey Mouse mobile phone service aimed at 8 to 14-year-olds, due to an "adverse retail environment" as had Teddyphone, a phone in the shape of a teddy aimed at 4-year-olds and programmed to only call four numbers.