[telegraph] More than 7,000 handsets have already been sold in Ireland and the phone is set to be launched in Britain before the end of the year.
The brightly coloured Firefly handset, which costs £85, has simplified controls and a restricted set of functions.
The five button handset has an “on” switch, an “off” switch and two buttons with a male and female figure on — one calls ‘mum’, the other calls ‘dad’ and another button accesses a phone book that contains up to 20 numbers.
Despite safeguards – the phone book is PIN protected and parents can control to block calls from unrecognised numbers – parental groups are concerned that mobile phones are being aimed at such small children.
Aine Lynch, the chief executive of the National Parents Council, told The Times: “Targeting a phone at a four-year-old causes us concern.
“It gives rise to questions as to where parental responsibility is going. Why would kids need to be contacted by mobile phone? Why are they not in the care of their parents, teachers or supervisors?"
Government guidelines already warn that children may be vulnerable to radiation from using a mobile phone.
Professor Lawrie Challis, an emeritus professor of physics who has led the Government’s mobile-phone safety research, says that parents should not give children phones before secondary school. After that, they should encourage them to text rather than to make calls, as texting exposes their brains to lower levels of electromagnetic radiation.
“We have no idea if they are different in reaction to this sort of radio frequency," Prof Challis told the newspaper. "But there are reasons why they may be — children react differently to ionising radiation, radioactivity and gamma rays. If you are exposed to too much sunlight as a child, you are far more likely to get skin cancer than if you are exposed as an adult.”
Kevin and Frances Crean, a Dublin-based couple marketing the phone, said it was pitched at parents rather than children.
Mrs Frean said: “They are not designed to encourage children to spend time chatting. Nor can you take photographs or send texts, though on one of our models children can receive them.”
Firefly mobile phone designed for four year-olds