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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Would you let your child use a mobile phone?
Children account for around one in four of the UK's mobile phone users, but scientists are recommending that youngsters use them less.
A government report into mobile phone safety says that, while there is no evidence that they harm health, children should be discouraged from making "non-essential" calls until further research is completed.
The scientist behind the report has stated he won't be letting his grandchildren near them.
Mobile phones seem to have become the latest craze with teenagers, so how will parents persuade their children to part with them? Tell us what you think.
Are all those parents who think that their children need mobile phones to call them in an emergency aware that they spend most of their time calling their friends? I am a teacher, and the proliferation of mobile phones is a menace in the classroom. They may or may not be damaging to health, but they are certainly damaging children's education.
I am 17 and most of my friends have mobile phones. They run up huge phone bills, one friend ran up £400 with his mother having to pay. Others use a pre-paid service. Either way it seems like a total waste of money since most of them don't use it to keep in touch with their parents but to phone each other.
Let's get real. We will probably have to talk on the mobile phone for hours every day for decades before our health is affected. There is no child on the face of the earth who would speak on a mobile for hours every day in the week and every week in the year. These studies create scares and nothing else.
My daughter has a mobile and she uses it to send messages to her friends, she very rarely speaks on it. But I know that in an emergency she can contact someone who can help her. I think that teenagers should be encouraged to use the text message service more, the phone companies could help by reducing the charges.
Someone might argue that children are fast adapters, but they might be missing some of the real enjoyment of life while talking on the phone. Aren't mobiles becoming omnipresent "helpful devils"? It's all about how you'd help your child build a positive philosophy of handling that devil.
Who are all these people that seem to need to phone their children up all the time? Don't you talk at home?
To all those who let their children use mobile phones. I take it you will be more than happy to have a mobile phone mast sited near your house....
H Ong, UK
How to make children aware of the potential risk they might face? Don't tell me if you carry a mobile phone, you will check every call to see if it is essential! Children just know it is a phone that can call the person they want - anytime, anywhere
Yes, I will give them hand phones when most of their friends
begin to have them. But prepaid, which they pay from their
weekly allowance. That will teach them the value of a cell-
phone and prevent excessive use. Otherwise the whole "issue"
is a clear non-issue. Driving cars is definitely a risk to
our health, and nobody stops driving for that. So even if it would
be proven that there would be a theoretical health hazard, how
many would care? Humanity has hundreds of more important
things to debate than cellphones.
Mike Fay, UK
Children should be allowed to have a mobile phone if they want. They should also be made to pay their own phone bill and not be bailed out when it gets excessive. Kids have to be able to make mistakes, they won't learn anything otherwise.
Yes, I let my teenagers use a mobile phone. But then again I am the mother who let them eat beef burgers so perhaps the harm is already done...
Are the telecomm providers interested? Nope, they're doing just fine thanks - keep that money rolling in please!
If parents are worried about their kids, and want to give them a mobile phone for emergency use then why not have a simple mobile that allows two numbers (for example) to be called. 999 and the child's home number. Allow incoming calls so that they can be reached but limit the amount of use they can have dialling out. Also restrict the call to a maximum of say 10 minutes in one go.
Mike Hartley, England
I think it is an illustration of how safe our lives have become when after research has been published people are worried about a "risk of a risk".
I mean, this is ludicrous. I don't have a mobile phone, and if I had children, which I don't, I wouldn't buy them a mobile phone either.
I recently saw a piece of graffiti under a railway bridge. It said "Nokia" How sad is that? Mobile phones? Worst invention of the 20th century after the Atom Bomb.
There is a function on most phones called "fixed dial". This enables a "controller" - in this case a parent - to store the numbers that a phone can call, and no other numbers can be dialled.
They say there is no evidence of danger from using mobile phones. We should all remember that absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence.
All any parent can do with children is give them the benefit of experience and inform them of the risks and benefits; ultimately it is up to the child to decide for themselves - because they'll do it anyway!
Stephen Sibbald, UK
I'm a Brit living in Japan, the place where mobile phones have taken off more than anywhere else. It's rare here for a teen "not" to have a mobile phone; some have two or three. It doesn't seem to be causing many problems, aside from a slight annoyance as people are pretty inconsiderate as to where they use them, like in crowded trains or what have you. As an active, although slightly politer, mobile phone user myself all I can say is roll on generation three!
Adam Humphreys, United States
This overreaction to published "unfindings" about mobile phones is farcical. Life is about risks: educating kids to the point of paranoia about an obviously minor (no pun intended) health concern can only produce more people with an unsavoury disregard for civil liberties. Talk of legislation to restrict the use of mobiles smacks of the laughable nannyism that banned beef on the bone. Must all our actions be subject to an ultra-conservative veto?
At least school children don't drive stupidly whilst engaged in unnecessary conversation on their mobile phones. On a lighter note, a year ago, my grandparents were as anti-mobile-phone-cos-we-grew-up-without-the-need-for-them as you could imagine, yet they now each have a handset to walk down the street with.
If a child is using a mobile phone for such a length of time as to create a risk of physical danger, one must ask themselves, "what is a child doing on the phone for than long anyway?"
If children are given mobile phones as a technological babysitter, there is a far greater developmental danger that physical danger.
I think no matter how hard we try, kids will always have a natural interest in technology and in new fads. If some of their mates have a mobile, they will want one. Much like smoking, they don't care whether it may be harmful, they just want to fit in and all be the same!
Children should be educated to take sensible precautions, including the use of mobile phones but I don't think this incomplete research will stop them phoning their friends, especially during free air time. We all know that if you tell kids not to do something because it can be bad for them, it only makes it seem more attractive and exciting.
These findings stink from the rot of vested interests - if there's "no evidence", then why should kids cut down on usage? Obviously, the mobile phone companies have lobbied hard to try and make their product look safe, and will have made it clear to the government just how economically damaging it would be if findings showed they were harmful.
I find it amazing that parents will happily carry on when there is clear evidence that scientists are not prepared to take the risk with radiation damage from mobile phones. I sincerely hope that we won't see those same parents suing the phone manufacturers in a few years time when they are so blatantly ignoring the risk at present. By the same token, if phone manufacturers are not prepared to issue health warnings to children in particular then perhaps they will deserve it.
It's a simple choice - give them a phone for your own peace of mind in the event of an emergency and realise they will use it as much as they can and you will be unable to restrict it to what you may consider physically safe levels, or if you believe the reports, don't let them have one.
Alison Lowe, UK
This was a serious report, and was quite fair in it's conclusions...but why does the Media have to sensationalise it to the point of lunacy. I quote the BBC..."The scientist behind the report has stated that he won't be letting his grandchildren near them"...His grandchildren are 2 and 4 years old!!!! Has anyone wondered whether Prof Stewart may have been simply dodging the question by volunteering their ages? Come on BBC...How many 2 year olds use a mobile phone???
We spent a fortune on researching it, committed suicide as a major beef producer and condemned thousands of farm workers to near destitution on the basis of research that has never proved any link between BSE and new variant CJD and which, on initial results, seems not to have affected the population in any way. The mobile phones report says that there is no evidence that they cause any harm...why are we worried?
Jim Corbett, UK
Mobile phones sales to children are often made on the false impression that they are in greater danger now than before and that the phone can protect them. Conditioning kids in the false belief that they are in imminent danger from society is likely to be far more damaging than the extremely unlikely event of their being harmed due to lack of one.
I can't believe that the British are going to stop their children doing something because there is "A risk of a risk" involved. This is ridiculous, there is no evidence the phones do any harm but because some nut says there is a "risk of a risk" people are panicking.
I suspect that any harm done will be less than that which smoking, drinking and taking various impurely made drugs would do. Also, I would want to know that my child was able to phone for help in an emergency, or just for a lift home. I'd just encourage them not to talk too long or often by making them pay the bill!
I can't believe that these parents are on tenterhooks from 3:30 until their children arrive home to be smothered in hugs and kisses that they have survived another day in the harsh cruel world. I am sure the children themselves would be heartily embarrassed at such behaviour as all of US would have been at the same age.
Gary Wright, England
Who pays the bills? Around town I see so many kids gossiping on their phones. There are many different tariffs available now, so if parents are buying mobiles for their kids, why are they not using appropriate packages such as the pre-pay ones. I use my phone infrequently, because I know how much it will cost me if I talk for hours on end during peak hours. But why do parents pay their kids' phone bills when all they use them for is to chat with their mates.
Every time I see herds of school children
yabbering away on their mobiles, I wonder
to myself why the parents are not only
pouring cash down the drains but frying
their offspring's heads too.
I think we are living in a time when paranoid scientists are examining everything we do. Yes I would let my children have a mobile, because it is the only way that I know that they are safe. The mobiles are doing the job that the idiotic police forces should be doing, not chase the motorist that is going around doing their own business. The scientist should be looking for a cure for cancer rather than terrifying people over the mobile.
I see nothing wrong in children using mobile phones, provided it does not affect their health or studies in any manner. They don't get glued to the instrument for eternity and use it judiciously during emergencies like an accident on the highway, an unwanted visitor at home when the parents are away and the only child is perhaps having a bath or when strangers try to befriend kids while they are jogging in the park.
However, I agree that children need to be made aware that their phone is only to be used for essential calls only, especially after this report that has been published.
11 May 00 | Health
Children warned off mobiles
28 Apr 00 | Health
Mobile phone fears 'unfounded'
05 Jan 00 | UK
Mobile phones: Child's play?
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