A mobile phone has been launched that is designed specifically for very young children, effectively their own version of their parents' iPhones.

The handset, called the 1stFone, has no access to the internet or text messaging and can be used only to make calls to parents, but it has still attracted controversy among childcare experts.

The phone has been described as "just another way of trying to make money out of children and their parents" by Sue Palmer, a former teacher and author of the book entitled Toxic Childhood.

"The marketing of technology to very young children is just a hook to get them into techno-consumerism," said Palmer. "It's a very tricky one. I would love to see a phone marketed for children under the age of 14 with no access to the internet. But four years old is extremely young.

"The point is it's once they are going out on their own. The point is to look at what's sensible, healthy and reasonable for children."

The phone has been created by OwnFone and is available on a made-to-order basis for £55 on both pay-as-you-go and contract deals. OwnFone has previously built a handset for Age UK designed specifically for the elderly.

OwnFone has a very different perspective on the handset, explaining that it is designed to provide safety for young kids without any of the dangers of the internet or the draw of expensive modern technology.

"It's up to the parent at what age they feel their child needs to be contactable, we just want to ensure when that time comes there's a product that minimises usage and poses no threat or danger to their safety," said Thomas Sunderland, founder of OwnFone.

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