Bar child mobile services, say MPs

This one speaks for itself:

Times, 20 February

Bar child mobile services, say MPs

Do you trust these money-makers with your kids lives?


Bar child mobile services, say MPs

The Times

February 20, 2006

By Elizabeth Judge

LEGISLATION to prevent two mobile phone operators from introducing services designed to attract children were called for by MPs and consumer groups last night amid fears over adverse health effects.

The threat of a legal crackdown, from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mobile Communications, was triggered by news that Orange, the French-owned mobile group, and Britain’s O2 are considering services aimed at children.

Orange is believed to be weighing up a UK launch of Zap Zone, a children’s service introduced in France last year. The service, for 11 to 17-year-olds, allows children to download pictures to their phones, create a virtual “bedroom” and engage in online “chat” communities and competitions.

Meanwhile, Peter Erskine, head of O2, is in talks with Walt Disney, the US media group, over the introduction of a Disney-branded service. Insiders said it was “not a done deal” but it is thought that any service would include Disney phones and content. Disney has plans for a branded phone service in the US with Sprint.

Mobile operators in the UK have signed up to a code of conduct, agreeing not to market services to under-16s. The code came into place after a report by Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency. Although he found no evidence of any health threats, Sir William urged caution; children, he said, could be more vulnerable to undiscovered effects of mobile phones.

Orange and O2 both insisted yesterday they would never breach the UK code on marketing services to children. Consumer groups, however, say that mobile companies introducing such child-orientated services would breach the spirit of the code and should be stopped.

Phil Willis, chairman of the All-Party Mobile Group, said: “Whether they are directly marketing is pure semantics at the end of the day. If they are selling services that are attractive to children, then that is against the spirit of the code and the Government has a duty to regulate where the industry cannot self-regulate.” The National Consumer Council said: “Codes of practice are only as good as the support and commitment they get from those who’ve signed up to them.”

Mobile industry insiders say they feel that the UK is adopting a “backward” approach towards children and mobiles. They say there is no evidence of any negative health effects from mobile phones.

Omega this is not true. See under:


# About 5.5 million mobile phones are owned by children in Britain

# About 90 per cent of secondary school pupils and one in four seven to ten-year-olds own one

# The Professional Association of Teachers has called on parents not to buy their children video-equipped mobile phones in response to the rise in “happy slapping” incidents

# Text bullying, in which children are sent threatening messages, is believed to have affected 14 per cent of children, according to the charity NCH


Children and mobile phones


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