• 09 MAR 08
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    #868: Growing concern over safety of cellphones for children (France)

    From Sylvie in France:


    Growing concern over safety of cellphones for children
    By Doreen Carvajal Published: March 7, 2008

    PARIS: The MO1 beginner mobile phone is not as cuddly
    as a teddy bear, but manufacturers of the curvy,
    crimson and blue cellphone for 6-year-olds promise a
    similarly warm and fuzzy relationship. They boast
    about socialization, emotional health and the comforts
    of “peace of mind.”

    But the shiny child-size phones are stirring some
    parental and government unease, particularly at a time
    when the mobile telephone industry is reaching deeper
    into saturated markets to tap customers with chubby
    hands capable of cradling both dolls and phones.

    Already, the demographic of young mobile customers –
    tweens and teens – is driving subscriber growth in the
    United States, according to International Data Corp.,
    a technology research firm in Massachusetts, which
    projects that 31 million new young users will join the
    market from 2005 to 2010.

    The year 2006 marked the turning point when the
    industry started focusing not just on teenagers and
    adults but also on tweens – those aged 8 to 12 – and
    even children as young as five. And with that
    attention, bright new “kiddy” telephones began
    appearing on the market that can speed dial grandma
    and grandpa with a click of a button.

    The MO1 – developed by Imaginarium, a toy company, and
    Telefónica in Spain Рprompted some parent groups in
    Europe to demand a government ban on marketing to

    Here in France, the health minister recently issued a
    warning against excessive mobile phone use by young

    The objections are driven in part by a lack of
    knowledge about the long-term health effects of mobile
    phone use. But they also appear to reflect an
    instinctive worry about whether parents should be
    giving young children cellphones at all.

    Jóvenes Verdes, an environmental advocacy group for
    young people in Spain, says that “the mobile telephone
    industry is acting like the tobacco industry by
    designing products that addict the very young.”

    While there is no specific evidence that mobile
    telephones pose a health threat to young users,
    researchers worry that there is still only scant
    scientific information about the long-term impact of
    the radio-frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by
    mobile telephones on the developing brains and tissues
    of children.

    The French health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has
    taken such concerns public, issuing an alert in
    January urging parents to limit use, and reduce
    children’s telephone calls to no more than six
    minutes. Her announcement followed a similar warning
    by the Health and Radio Frequencies Foundation, a
    research group backed by the French government that
    was created two years ago to study the impact of radio
    frequency fields on humans.

    “I believe in the principle of precaution,” Bachelot
    said during an interview. “If there is a risk, then
    children with developing nervous systems would be
    affected. I’ve alerted parents about the use of mobile
    telephones because it’s absurd for young children to
    have them.”

    The French foundation is moving now to organize a
    broad international research projects to study the
    potential risks for children.

    More studies are developing in other countries. The
    Mobile Telecommunication and Health Research Program
    in Britain, which is financed by the state and local
    telecommunications industry, is in the early stage of
    organizing a children’s study.

    Another project, called Cefalo, is under way in
    Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland to explore
    whether mobile telephone use increases the risk of
    brain tumors for children.

    In January, the National Research Council in the
    United States also delivered a report – commissioned
    by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – that
    reviewed existing scientific studies around the world
    and urged further research on the impact of mobile
    phone use on children and pregnant women.

    “This clearly is a population that is going to grow up
    with a great deal of larger exposure than anybody else
    because the kids use the phones all the time,” said
    Frank Barnes, a professor of engineering at the
    University of Colorado in Boulder, who led the study.
    “And you’ve got growing bodies and brains, so if there
    is going to be an impact, that’s likely to be a more
    sensitive population.”

    Every year, the average age of novice mobile phone
    users is dropping, reaching the age of 10 last year,
    according to Scott Ellison, an analyst at
    International Data Corp. He forecasts that the
    9-and-under market will increase to nine million users
    in the United States and $1.6 billion in revenue by

    Telephone use is also getting more precocious in
    Europe, according to a Eurobarometer survey of almost
    1,000 children in 29 countries, most of whom had
    telephones after age 9.


    As it turns out, she does not indulge in a lot of
    talking on the phone, but she does send and receive up
    to 7,000 text messages a month. Pozgar – who has been
    coaching football for 17 years – has noticed lately
    that more of his players, aged 8 to 9, have mobile

    “I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing,” he
    said. “But how does a kid that old seem responsible
    enough with not losing or breaking it. My gosh, they
    can barely remember to tie their shoes.”

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