27
Okt
2004

TELECOMS TARGET CHILDREN

PRESS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 26/10/04

TELECOMS TARGET CHILDREN

Campaigners have accused telecom companies of targeting children in contravention of the industry's code of practice and government advice warning under-sixteens not to use mobile phones. National campaign group Mast Sanity point to an alarming trend where schools and children's charities are being pressured to endorse initiatives that encourage children's mobile phone use.

"Telecom companies are resorting to devious methods to encourage youngsters to use mobile phones even though they have given a commitment not to target children," said Mast Sanity Press Officer, Karen Barratt. " For the telecoms it's all about profits - children are simply consumers to be exploited."

Mast Sanity point to the recent launch of Childnet Challenge, an initiative aimed at bringing together schoolchildren in Dublin and Belfast by the use of mobile phone technology. The pilot programme is a joint partnership between Childnet International, schools and telecom giant Vodafone and is being given generous support by mobile handset manufacturers. Although Childnet is surprisingly registered as a charity, the organisation's fact sheet "Children and Mobile Phones," admits to "promoting the use of this technology by children and young people." Childnet's board of trustees includes an executive for an "international telecommunications company."

At the end of September, David Butler, Chief Executive of the Parent Teacher Association caused outrage when he claimed that mobile phones improved pupils' thinking ability. His comments, condemned as "techno babble," were at made in a fringe meeting hosted by O2 at the LibDem conference. Campaigners say Mr.Butler's inclusion on the panel demonstrates that telecom operators are lobbying anyone who has influence on policy relating to children.

This view was reinforced recently, when John Carr of the children and technology unit at the charity NCH gave his support to a telecom industry scheme, which will enable parents to locate their children via mobile phones. Mast Sanity members regard this as a cynical attempt by the industry to play on parents' natural fears for the safety of their children and totally ignores the advice given by UK Chief Medical Officers in the Department of Health leaflet, "Mobile Phones and Health."

Campaigners believe those with a duty of care where children are concerned could be liable if parents take legal action in the future. They cite a recent study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which shows that serious health effects can take as long as ten years to develop and fear that many people in responsible positions are simply ignorant. "The industry is desperate to create a generation of mobile phone addicts to recoup the money they've spent on the technology," says Karen Barratt. " Their lobbyists are working overtime but their job is being made a lot easier by the gullibility of people who should know better."

ENDS

Contact: Karen Barratt 01962 864388


Informant: Don Maisch
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