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Mobile Warning For Little Kids
Sunday Mail

September 26, 2004

Thousands of Queensland children, some as young as five, now own mobile phones.

Experts say the new trend could be placing children at risk of disease, assault and bullying.

Figures from wireless media company iTouch show 50,000 Australian children aged 5-9 own a mobile phone, with numbers expected to rise to 80,000 by 2005 and 90,000 by 2006.

The figures are backed by British market research company MobileYouth, which says phone companies will soon start creating mobiles specifically for under-10s.

Australian teenagers lead the world in mobile phone use, with 45 per cent of 13-to-15-year-olds owning one. Their average bill is almost $50 a month.

MobileYouth says security concerns are causing parents to buy phones for Year 1s so they can stay in touch.

For kids, peer pressure to look cool is driving their desire to own a phone when they are barely out of preschool.

Parents are being warned to limit their children's use of mobiles with claims children's thinner skulls would allow radiowaves to penetrate more easily.

And MobileYouth analysts warn that children who own a phone are at risk of being assaulted or bullied via SMS.

British mobile phone radiation expert Professor Colin Blakemore urged parents to be cautious. "If there are any effects, they would be more exaggerated in young children," Prof Blakemore said.

MobileYouth analyst Wyndham Lewis said mobiles represented a rite of passage for children.

"The under-10s market is the fastest growing market in terms of new owners," Mr Lewis said.

"It is generally the first device they own and have complete control of.

"The type of phone they own, the number of calls and messages they receive, how they decorate their phone and the ringtone they choose all provide clear communication about the group they belong to and their position in the social hierarchy."

Australian Early Childhood Association president Judy Radich said giving phones to five-year-olds was "mad".

"We don't know the risks so why expose kids," she said.

"And do parents really have to give kids everything they want?"

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