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The Disneyphone
Daily Mail
April 28, 2006

Disney is trying to encourage younger children to use mobile phones, ignoring fears about the potential health dangers.

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 controversial.

The chairman of the Health Protection Agency, Sir William Stewart, says children under eight should be banned from using handsets as a precautionary measure.

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 health risk.

'The recommendations were very much a precautionary measure.

'The reality is that children are using phones and parents are buying phones for children.

'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.

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