[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 11:50 GMT
Should children use mobiles?
Two teenage children using mobile phones
Mobile phones should not be over-used by young children because of the potential health risks according to a new report.

The latest study, led by Sir William Stewart, will urge parents to take precautionary measures although there is no actual proof that mobile phones are unsafe.

Reports previously recommended that children use mobile phones only in emergencies.

What is your reaction to the report? Do your children have mobile phones? Should children use phones less?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

I believe that our bodies will grow to cope with this as they have to cope with other advances
Ben Cooper, Stockholm
Mobile phones are like every other piece of electronic equipment that emits radiation, yes it will have an effect on us over a prolonged period of time, but I believe that our bodies will grow to cope with this as they have to cope with other advances (both electronic and environmental), it's a process called evolution. Hence the alteration of DNA. Amusingly enough, though, I believe that Sir Williams caveat about the "lack of proof" has nothing to do with this logic and is evidence of another victory for the mobile phone company lobbyists!
Ben Cooper, Stockholm, Sweden

If the risk decreases exponentially with distance, then even one centimetre should help. Why not fit all mobile phones with a bright-coloured soft doughnut-shaped ear piece, and encourage everyone to avoid unprotected chat! (Removing the ear-piece) Or are people just wanting to rant at young mobile-phone users?
Piers, Japan

I work in the Telecoms business and to be honest, the latest reports that mobile phones could potentially be damaging is nothing new. Living in fear of something we still won't know about for years to come seems pointless. Sure, don't spend excessive time on a mobile phone but don't take it to the extreme. Chances are there won't be anything to worry about at all!
Rich Ellis, Swindon, UK

Mobile phones give parents peace of mind
Darren Drummond, Whitburn, West Lothian
I have had enough about the scaremongering over mobile phones. Mobile phones give parents peace of mind as they can keep in touch with their child rather than sitting at home worrying where they are.
Darren Drummond, Whitburn, West Lothian

Children are so very precious and their health should be of priority concern to all parents. Until mobile phones are proven safe and totally risk-free children should be advised to use their mobiles sparingly. Where health is concerned parents should be prudent.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

We have to accept radiation can have serious damage in the longer term. Children are at enough risks of obesity and thus heart and respiratory problems with our lifestyle. We should not aid to their problems further.
Sarah, Stoke on Trent

How crazy to withdraw a telephone designed purely for emergencies that could provide a child with a lifeline, simply based upon some unproven theory.
Paul Nottingham, Hampshire, UK

There are genuine safety concerns over these devices - and adults should be concerned for their own health too. I would certainly pay more attention to independent tests than the word of manufacturers.
Barry Greig, Scotland/Sweden

If children must have mobiles, these should be limited in functionality. They should only be programmed to send & receive from parents and a small number of other authorised persons. I grew up in an age when we were lucky to have a land line. We told our parents where we were going, and they were at liberty to check if required. Problems we all face today existed 30 years ago, they just were not as readily publicised, and awareness was not as high. Anyway, parental responsibility, or lack of it, is the real cause of the problem.
Michael Black, Manchester

Texting or email via a mobile is to be encouraged as it does not involve holding the phone to your head. Until the research convinces me otherwise, I only let my son use a mobile for phone calls for very short periods.
Mark, Glasgow, UK

Even if there is no safety issues I feel that there are good grounds for limiting use
Fraser Hunt, Dumfries Scotland
I can see the possible need for children to have mobile phones in this era a paranoia. But phones can be limited to home/emergency numbers or alternatively control the credit on these phones. Is this distracting our children from the important things in life such as play and face to face communication skills? Even if there is no safety issues I feel that there are good grounds for limiting use! I have two children(7 and 3) they do not have mobile phones despite their regular requests!
Fraser Hunt, Dumfries Scotland

This just appears to be ridiculous scapegoating in humanity's quest for immortality. As I understand it, there is still more chance of developing a tumour by prolonged proximity to granite due to the Radon. Everything seems to cause cancer these days so while we're at it, why don't we prevent children under 10 from living in farm houses and banning mobile phones and granite from public places.
Darren, Jersey

Mobile phones are still new technology. What people don't realise is what powerful devices they are. The receiver your phone is using could be a mile away. That thing you have stuck to your head is pumping out microwaves powerful enough to "talk" to that receiver. Just feeling how hot the phone gets after a few minutes should give some indication of possible damage.
Vish, UK

If you're not 16 or over you're not old enough or mature enough (although some adults seem to be lacking in maturity where mobiles are concerned) to have a mobile phone. It's really quite simple.
Kaz, Hull, UK

What about petrol fumes, benzine etc from petrol stations? These are far more dangerous to kids' health, but big oil companies have more political clout than the rip-off mobile mob.
Colin Harrison, England

I have never heard such nonsense as children having mobile phones! What on earth are the parents doing even giving them one?
Gordon, Staffs UK

My daughters, 12 and 16, have had mobile phones for number of years. I find them vital when dealing with public transport and variable school times. But with a very limited monthly credit for calls, they have to keep them for real emergencies anyway...
Jacquie Groom, Epalinges, Switzerland

I believe so yes, Parents should restrict the use of mobile phones, just as they should land lines. Children need to have limits, and "no" is not always a bad word. However I believe that they should carry a mobile for emergency use only and for parents to contact them, using pay-as-you-go can remedy that.
Liesl Alexander, Cambridge

If CAT scans can show areas of the body where people habitually use their phone, then there is evidence that phone use has an impact on the body. We know that radiation can cause mutation in development. Doesn't it seem that until proven safe, then any point of radiation should be kept away from the body. Someone needs to make headsets 'cool' so that young children would want to be seen using them. The handset can stay in a bag, away from the body.
Mike Pogmore, Huddersfield, UK

Just who do these children need to call during a school day? Surely any child has access to the school head, the school secretary or form teacher should the need arise for them to make an "emergency" call. Whilst I appreciate that children are "out and about" after school I don't see the need for them to carry a £200 phone. If it is absolutely necessary for a child to carry a mobile phone a cheap and cheerful one can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go tariff, but then again this would not provide enough "street cred".
Jo, Nottingham, UK

My children have mobile phones to allow them more freedom and to give me peace of mind
Jane, Slough
My children have mobile phones to allow them more freedom and to give me peace of mind. Predominantly they use text messaging which does not require the phone to be close to the head. Surely adults are more at risk as they directly irradiate their brains!
Jane, Slough

Both my children have recently been given mobiles. My daughter, aged 8, takes the school bus and the bus stop is 1 mile away from home - one day I was caught in traffic, 5 minutes late - my daughter was very upset. That was my compelling reason to get a mobile for her. My Son, aged 10, takes public transport and a few times it has saved him from getting completely soaked on the walk home. On the subject of safety - I used to design these things and they are safe - in fact they emit less radiation if there are more masts not less. Parents campaigning for no masts are actually making the radiation problem worse not better.
Huw, Reading

Opinions such as Huw from Reading is exactly why children should not have mobile phones. Imagine having to wait a whole 5 minutes so that you don't have to walk a whole mile home, or God-forbid, getting wet in the rain. This is over-the-top mollycoddling and these children are being taught to be scared of everything. Let them live a bit!
Cath, UK

There are many indirect risks
Liz, UK
Even if there is no proven health risk directly from mobile phones there are many indirect risks (e.g. walking out into the road without looking due to reading texts, getting mugged for your mobile phone). These are greater for children as their ability to multitask, and assign priorities to tasks is less.
Liz, UK

As a 17 year old who uses a mobile phone regularly, I wouldn't be without it. It has been useful in emergencies and when I've needed to get hold of my parents, as well as getting hold of my friends. I agree that younger children should not be allowed to use mobile phones, for both the health and cost risks, but as parents start to let their children out on their own, I think it is a must have, as a safety measure. If phones are not "flashed about" then they wont get stolen, simple.
Sean Round, Solihull, UK

My kids will not have mobile phones until they buy them. They are 7 and 8 and already kids in their school classes have phones which are used in school. I grew up using payphones, the mobile phone in my childhood was a brick with a cart for the battery. I can understand that in certain circumstances they can be valuable but not in school and not at such a young age.
Lesley Smith, Warrington UK

The radiation from mobile phones has been shown to damage the DNA of living tissue in the lab
Simon R, Bristol, UK
I have a malignant brain tumour. Whilst this was diagnosed before mobiles were in common use, my consultant neurologist has strongly advised me never to use one. The radiation from mobile phones has been shown to damage the DNA of living tissue in the lab. Surely it doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to see this may affect mobile phone users, particularly children who are more vulnerable due to having thinner skulls. Surely the precautionary approach should be adopted here?
Simon R, Bristol, UK

Judging by the amount of money the mobile phone industry generates, I doubt they will ever be found dangerous.
Phil, Nottingham, United Kingdom

My children never had a mobile phone until they were old enough i.e. 16. They are not toys and children under this age should not have one - they are not necessary and cause problems to teachers, and encourage thieves. Parents should act more responsibly towards safe-guarding their children's health instead of pushing this on to the state!
Mrs Veronica Odgers, Emsworth, Hampshire

This is yet another case of "do as I say and not as I do." As adults we should set an example, telling children to use mobiles only in an emergency when they see adults driving whilst on the phone.
Chris, Castleford, UK

My children won't have a mobile phone until they are 17
Valérie, London, UK
My children won't have a mobile phone until they are 17, simple as that. I am following the advice of a respected French neurologist I heard on the radio. He said that he was seeing more and more young people with brain tumours these days. He also stated that children's growing skulls don't give them the same protection against radiation as adult bones. I think I'll take his word for it and err on the side of caution on this one.
Valérie, London, UK

Surely mobile phones are safe or they are not. If they should not be over-used by young children then this suggests there is a danger to young children, and therefore follows that there is a danger to all of us?
Allan, Reading

Considering how long it took for scientists to acknowledge the health risks associated with smoking, we should definitely be more careful in regulating our use of mobile phones and particularly the use of mobiles by children.
Rick M, Bury, UK

For children they are expensive toys - status symbols
Paul, Cardiff
When you're at school, you see everyone you know every day of the week! For children they are expensive toys - status symbols.
Paul, Cardiff

Kids should have mobiles, just so that their parents know they are safe, however, I pity the parents that have to pay their kids phone bills! How about parents giving their kids walkie-talkies? Also, why can't we use mobile phones in hospitals or on planes? They say it could interfere with equipment. So, every time we use a mobile, what must it be doing to our brains?
Chris H, London

Children have as much right to communicate with there friends as any adult. The definitive question is: Are mobiles harmful or not? This report says they are to children, undoubtedly there will be another next month saying the opposite.
Rob, Stevenage, UK

It does seem that most people seem to use mobile phones excessively. I cannot see any reason why a child at school needs to use a phone other than to contact someone if they are in some sort of difficulty. I guess texting is safer (apart from RSI) but just as annoying
Ian, UK

There are enough real risks to children without scare mongering about imaginary ones
Peter, Nottingham
Sir William Stewart admits that there is no proof that mobiles are dangerous. Not using mobiles because they "may" have some sort of unproven health risk is about as sensible or logical as saying it would be best to stay away from Loch Ness in case of potential Nessie attacks. There are enough real risks to children without scare mongering about imaginary ones.
Peter, Nottingham

The health risks associated with the use of mobile phones has not put off any adults from using them (the sheer numbers sold shows that), my belief is that they are quite safe. However, my children will not be using them simply down to the fact that a "toy" (which is all that a child views it as) of that cost is just ridiculous, not to mention the fact that I just wouldn't trust my children to use it responsibly, at the age of 10 they are unaware of costs.
Mark, Cheshire

I have a teenager who carries a mobile phone since he uses public transport. We use it strictly to communicate important information. Neither of us sees the need to use it otherwise. Children who use it as a fad definitely do so at their own risk until conclusively proven otherwise.
Narmada Guruswamy, Aberdeen, UK

People seem to all want a mobile phone but don't want the masts to go with them
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK
What strikes me as odd is that every time a mobile phone company wants to erect a new mast and it is near a school there is always an outcry from angry parents saying that it will damage their children's health. I wonder just how many of these parents own mobile phones themselves and how many of their children do also. I would imagine it is a large percentage. People seem to all want a mobile phone but don't want the masts to go with them. Just how do these people think their phones work?
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK

The issue of safety raised here is, as yet, uncertain and therefore surely merits further research. More to the point, it clearly sidesteps the more serious and already proven risks of children's vulnerability and exposure to the behaviour of sex-offenders. More must be done to tackle the growing abuse of the text messaging system which, at present, places children in more immediate and potential danger.
Patrick V. Staton, Guildford, UK

I don't have any worries about health risks. My main concern is the amount of money that parents spend on mobiles for children and the increased danger the children face from mugging. I have never seen a valid reason for a child to have a mobile. Parents who say it's 'in case of emergencies' are kidding themselves. What sort of emergency would find the child away from a landline or adult with a mobile? They should definitely be banned from schools for a start as they are just an expensive, disruptive nuisance.
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

They should set an age limit on the use of mobile phones
Adam, Warrington
They should set an age limit on the use of mobile phones, although parents feel it imperative for their children to have them in terms of safety. It can't be safe to give an 8 year old a mobile phone and it is probably doing more harm than good!
Adam, Warrington

I was amused to hear a spokesman for the mobile phone industry say that parents had to balance health risks with the 'benefits to security of their children having mobiles'. Apart from the fact that young people are frequently mugged because they possess mobiles, how - exactly will having a mobile prevent children from being attacked, abducted, and so on? Attackers will hardly stand by whilst the children phone their parents first! If anything, having a mobile leads parents and children to greater complacency, because they think that being contactable means they are safe.
Helen, Oldham, UK

Parents will undoubtedly be under pressure as their children compete at schools for the latest model
Doug, UK
I am not sure of health risks but kids should only be allowed to use them in an emergency. This is another step toward the Americanism of the UK. Parents will undoubtedly be under pressure as their children compete at schools for the latest model. Soon, we will see a rise in child assaults committed by other children as new models are taken from those that have them.
Doug, UK




SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Mobile phone safety
11 Jan 05 |  Health
Mobile phones 'alter human DNA'
21 Dec 04 |  Health
Children's mast appeal rejected
01 Dec 04 |  Hampshire
Hundreds sign phone mast petition
30 Nov 04 |  Cornwall


RELATED BBC LINKS:


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific