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Half of 10 year olds now mobile connected

HELLO? I'M IN THE WENDY HOUSE!

Half of 10 year old kids in the EU have mobile phones, a figure that rises to 95 per cent once they get to 16, but parents still reckon their kids aren't being protected from inappropriate content.

The figures come from the European Commission, which is leaning on mobile operators and member countries to implement controls agreed in 2007. Four countries - Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Luxembourg - don't yet have "voluntary" agreements requiring operators to control access to adult-orientated material. In those countries that do, only 41 per cent of operators bother checking those measures are working.

In most places, a credit-card authorisation is used to confirm the user is over 18, though that's harder with pay-and-go handsets, especially in countries (including the UK) where no identity (and thus age) check is performed when purchasing a phone. Naming two Pink Floyd albums, while currently effective, is a little arbitrary, and it's hard to find other ways of establishing the age of a customer.

The other problem is the fact that offensive content can equally well come from other users, rather than commercial operators. Purveyors of porn don't generally want under-age customers as they lack money to pay for the content, allaying the concerns of 51 per cent of parents.

Bullying is harder to block, however, so it's surprising to hear that only 49 per cent of parents worry about mobiles being used that way.

There is also the matter of making the network operators in some way responsible for the content they provide, even through a voluntary agreement. Internet service providers have no such responsibility for protecting children, at least not yet, though as the two businesses increasingly blur it will be hard to understand how one can be exempted. ®

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