R U Safe? Cellular Marketers Tap Halloween Fears

This Halloween season, some cellular companies are reminding parents that cell phones can help kids avoid tricks while seeking treats.

The ability to keep families connected and track kids' whereabouts is an ongoing marketing feature. Disney Mobile, which uses Sprint's network, was launched principally for families with GPS tracking functionality that allows parents to tailor their kids' phone privileges and track their location. Mainstream carriers have followed suit, with Verizon Wireless and Sprint marketing GPS-enabled phones that offer a child-locator service to families.

Halloween is an ideal time to reinforce the safety value of this feature.

Sprint, in partnership with QUALCOMM, is piloting an Atlanta-based project in conjunction with Mocha Moms, Inc., a nonprofit support group for women of color who have altered their work outside the home so they can be more available for childcare at home.

Under the program, called "Track-and-Treat," QUALCOMM is providing 100 families in Atlanta with GPS-enabled cell phones and a one-year contract to Sprint Family Locator, a location-based service that enables parents to use their cell phone or a PC to locate their kids on a map. The service also gives the address, surrounding landmarks and accuracy of their child's location within a specified radius.

"Halloween is a great time for moms and kids to have GPS on their cell phones because trick-or-treating is the first time many kids venture out without adult supervision," said Robert Rovetta, senior director of product management for QUALCOMM CDMA Technologies, in a statement.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless is providing tips for parents that can help them more effectively communicate with their kids via wireless messaging. The company issued a series of sample text messages parents could send to their kids while they are out trick-or-treating, such as, "Save ur candy till I chk it!" and encouraged kids and parents to use the picture/video messaging capabilities on their phones to keep in touch.

Cingular also sponsored a survey of parents indicating that 63 percent of the 1,175 parents surveyed said that text messaging has improved their communication with their kids.