ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Marketing Dive acquired Mobile Marketer in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out the new Marketing Dive site for the latest marketing news.

Ground rules for mobile marketing to kids

By Shira Simmonds

As a mother who also happens to be president of a mobile marketing company, I face a perplexing dilemma on a daily basis.

In my role as a marketer, the thought of sending mobile content to kids puts dollar signs in my eyes, but as a mother, it conflicts with every protective instinct I have.

The mother in me rails against the possibility of inappropriate content and dangerous chat sessions. But the marketer in me says, "Yes, this can be done, it can be done appropriately, and kids can learn from it."

My 11-year-old has been clamoring for a mobile phone since he was nine. I have resisted ? until now.

Ten years ago GPS technology was not built into our mobile devices, but now that it is here and we can monitor the movements of our kids wherever they go, why should not every child have a mobile phone?

A 2007 study by Nielsen Co. reported that 35 percent of American "tweens" (kids 8-12), own a mobile phone, and 20 percent of them have used text messaging.

It is no surprise that Disney took fourth place in this publication?s 2009 Mobile Marketer of the Year awards by offering applications for kids of all ages, most of whom are young enough to still be interested in Toy Story and the Muppets.

Building blocks of mobile
As I work with my team everyday day creating mobile strategies for clients who market to adults, my mind frequently wanders to kid consumers.

I wonder how it can be done ethically and responsibly, and using my own children as an example, I can see enormous potential for mobile marketing as a learning tool and an incentive for good behavior.

Since all opt-ins have to be done by the parents anyway, this is an opportunity to use mobile marketing in creative ways that actually support responsible parenting. Here are some suggestions:

? My 11-year-old is already an architect, and his talent with Lego amazes me. He knows the price of each Lego set and even knows when they go on sale.

I could opt in to a Lego campaign that sends ads for toys and models to his phone. He will, of course, beg me to buy all of them, and I will have the perfect carrot to dangle as an incentive for him to clean his room or take out the garbage every day for a month. 

? Last year the New Jersey State Library Association launched a mobile campaign aimed at driving kids into libraries. The messages announced library information, alerts, special events and promotions, and the call-to-action was sent out via direct mail and posters in the community.

Imagine what a book club might be able to do with a mobile campaign. And how about coupons for healthy food items, or discounts to karate or dance classes?

Mobile marketing actually has the power to offer kids healthy choices in food, entertainment and physical activity. Calls-to-action can appear everywhere from television commercials to cereal boxes.

From a parenting perspective, the trick is to be an involved, attentive parent who knows how to choose content, and to have a mobile phone plan from a provider that offers specific programs for kids.

There are several companies specializing in kid phones, and one company that I like is called Kajeet.

Kajeet provides parental controls that can be managed from a home computer.

These controls include the ability to block or allow calls to and from selected numbers; setting budget and use limits; GPS tracking at specified times of the day; and even a billing breakdown that separates the child's calls from the parents' calls ? the child pays for texting his friends out of his allowance, and the parents pay for texts to let them know the child has arrived safely at soccer practice.

No kidding
From a marketer's point of view, it is all about playing it smart.

Marketing to kids is tricky business, and there are laws and limitations in place that make sure marketers do not overstep their bounds.

Many of you may remember the trouble Kellogg got into a few years ago. The company had its hand slapped when children?s health and nutrition advocates complained about Kellogg's marketing sugary cereals with little or no nutritional value to kids under 12.

Our attorney Adam W Snukal says, "Marketers have to be keenly aware of federal, state and self-regulatory laws for protecting what is thought to be the most vulnerable of consumer groups.

?Advertisers, their agencies and vendors need to be mindful of these child-focused laws, stay abreast of  developments and make sure that campaigns, messages, media, content and more are all compliant."

Mobile marketing does not have to turn kids into mindless consumers. Instead, it can open up a world of educational and developmental potential that parents can embrace rather than resist.

Managing time and texting costs is a great way to teach kids how to budget their resources.

Using advertised toys such as Lego as an incentive for performance is an effective motivational tool. And mobile coupons that encouraging kids to read books or participate in physical exercise is an idea that any parent would love.

So parents, the next time your tween begs for a mobile phone, remember that you are in control, and you have the ability to choose safety and education by opting-in to mobile campaigns that will help rather than hinder your child in becoming a responsible, discerning consumer.

Shira Simmonds is president of Ping Mobile, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Reach her at .