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Japanese children warned off mobiles

It's good to talk, but nothing else

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Japanese children should be prevented from using their mobile phones for anything other than talking to protect them from harmful influences, according to an advisory panel to the government.

The panel is already calling on schools and parents to take a much greater role in controlling the services children can access, reports the AFP, but ultimately sees no reason why children need to use a phone for more than speaking into.

The concerns are the usual bugbears: anonymous bullying via bulletin boards, and access to inappropriate material. Apparently only about one per cent of children have some form of content blocker in place, while a third of primary school (7-12) children have mobiles, a figure that rises to 96 per cent once they reach secondary.

Mobiles present a very private interface to the internet, which may be harder for parents to police than a desktop computer they can see being used – depending on the location of that computer. In the UK Carphone Warehouse are expanding into laptop computers for just that reason - they believe the personal and private experience will drive families into multiple computer ownership.

It's hard to imagine Japan really banning children from using mobile data services, though the panel has reported to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda who told reporters: "It is true that the use of mobile phones causes various problems... First of all, I wonder if there is any need for children to possess mobile phones."

The average age for getting your first mobile phone is eight in the UK. The models given to children don't generally have access to the kind of data services that might delivery inappropriate content, but it's only a matter of time.

Why children need phones isn't clear, but that's not stopped over-protective parents calling them safety devices. Calling for a ban on data services might make a nice headline but less draconian measures are more likely to be used, once they've been identified. ®

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