Mobile babysitter

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San Francisco mom Kristi Mallard knows how to use her cellphone-as an entertainment device tossed into the car's back seat to amuse her two sons. "Everyone I know is letting their kids play with their phones," she said, including one friend whose 2-year-old daughter is readily amused by pressing buttons and pretending to chat. Older kids can call Dad immediately to convey life's achievements. Not to mention gaming on mobile phones, which can keep young travelers happily occupied for long stretches.

While the phone has spontaneously generated into the new pacifier and rattle, Hollywood and the mobile-phone industry have even grander plans.

Verizon Wireless reported that within weeks of the launch of its V Cast mobile programming, its clip of "Sesame Street" character Elmo singing with Ray Charles was among the most-viewed videos. Verizon Wireless subsequently beefed up its kiddie V Cast offerings with new Nickelodeon programming including music videos of Blues Clues' "The Planets Song" and LazyTown's "Bing Bang Song."

"It fills in the interstitial parts of kids' lives, in the doctor's waiting room, at the supermarket-checkout line," said Mike Skagerlind, senior VP-general manager of Nickelodeon Online. "We want to provide our content to kids wherever they are-online, on TV, on the mobile phone," he said, noting that the Nick content would not be ad-supported.

For the older kid, Firefly Mobile is launching a mobile phone designed for 8-to-12-year-olds with just five keys, including two speed dials, one for Mom and one for Dad. Phones, which light up like a firefly when in use and intermittently in standby mode, will be sold via the Web in June and at Target stores in July. That works for Ms. Mollard, who calls the kids' phone evolution "genius," until, of course, "the children get bored and launch it from a stroller to its demise."

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