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January 11, 2005

Downwardly Mobile

A study too late by the colourfully-named National Radiological Protection Board warns that children should have restricted access to mobile phones on health grounds, and parents should not give them to kids aged eight or less.

A bit late in the day to tell us, isn’t it?

One of my innumerable namesakes, Professor Sir William Stewart, big cheese at the NRPB spelt it out thusly:

If there are risks - and we think there may be risks - then the people who are going to be most affected are children, and the younger the child… (the better? no…)..the greater the danger.”

The Guardian hints at possible difficulties in implementing these guidelines by way of latest research that indicates around a quarter of primary school children are thought to own a mobile, this rising to 90% among 11- to 16-year-olds.

And they don’t just own them, the kids, they mangle them with unrelenting and passionate use. My standard favourite eight-year-old, Tamara, will happily mash her way through a £10 voucher in under an hour, largely through friendship-seeking calls to the emergency services, operators the length and breadth of the nation, and whoever happens to be sitting nearest to her with a working mobile of their own. She rather undermines the well-meaning (i.e. anxiety-tormented) initial acquisition motive cited by many parents that a mobile allows them to keep track of their little un’s movements, by sensibly switching her Nokia off the minute her credit’s used up ‘to save the battery’ in readiness for the next cash donation to her swipe card.

Get this:

Worldwide spending by young people on mobile phone-related products and services is worth $1.1 trillion. In the UK our kids spend $5.4bn a year on mobile technology.

Who’s going to back-peddle on a target market like that? Possibly not Communic8, makers of the MyMo - Baby’s First Cellphone, which is aimed directly at the UK market. (It now appears Communic8 has put the project on hold, following publication of the report in question).

And how many sweet little things in that target market are going to adopt the prudence of the careful gentleman I heard on my favourite radio station Five Live this morning who always terminated mobile phone conversations the moment their radioactivity level made the side of his face ‘uncomfortably hot’?

One thing you don’t see the under-eights doing, thank God, is whatever it is those sad souls on the underground are up to, bent with intense concentration over their shiny but dead mobiles, pushing buttons to nowhere or just gazing raptly - what are they doing? (A gmail or orkut invitation for the best answering comment - please state your reward preference).

Whatever it is, it looks a far more serious, and a definitely more prevalent, condition than the benign ear tumours of Compulsive Mobile Phone Abuse Disorder Syndrome (CMPADS) - current disease of choice of the well-eqipped 21st Century child.

Posted by Iain Stewart at 8:43 PM in modern life
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