Disney is trying to encourage younger children to use mobile phones,
ignoring fears about the potential health dangers.
April 28, 2006
The company is introducing a family mobile phone package that gives up to
three children in the household their own handsets.
These will offer limited access to the Internet as well as free images of
Disney cartoon characters, ranging from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to
newer favourites such as The Incredibles.
The company says parents believe the benefits of being able to reach a child
at any time are more important than any possible health risks.
The Department of Health, concerned about the effects of radiation, has
warned that children under 16 should only use mobiles when essential.
But it is believed up to 30 per cent of those aged between five and nine
already have their own phones in Britain.
This rises to 64 per cent of those between ten and 15.
Disney argues its deal will allow parents to control how their children use
their mobiles. Parents will be able to set a monthly spending limit and
block access to adult Internet content, such as pornography, gambling,
dating sites and chatrooms.
The idea of giving mobile phones to children is highly
The chairman of the Health Protection Agency, Sir William Stewart, says
children under eight should be banned from using handsets as a precautionary
Older children should limit talking on the phones and rely more on text
messages, he believes.
Others are concerned that the health problems linked to the longterm use of
mobiles, such as cancer, may not become apparent for years.
Disney was unrepentant.
Spokesman Sandra van Vreedendaal said: 'All the studies have not proven any
'The recommendations were very much a precautionary measure.
'The reality is that children are using phones and parents are buying phones
'Parents want to keep in touch with children. It gives a sense of security
that they can reach them, find out where they are and when they are going to
get home.' The service will be available in the U.S in June and should
arrive in Britain later this year.
Disney has signed a deal with the O2 mobile phone network which will carry
the service. No prices have yet been set.
Alistair Philips, of the campaigning group Powerwatch, said: 'This Disney
service appears to fly in the face of official Government health advice. The
use of Disney characters is all about turning the mobile phone into a fun
thing, a child's toy.
'There is research from Sweden showing that if you use a mobile phone for
ten years the risk of malignant brain tumours rises significantly.
'The last thing we should be doing is encouraging children to take up this
technology when they don't really need it.