Commission Opens Public Consultation on the Protection of Minors Using Mobile PhonesJuly 25, 2006
The European Commission today launched a public consultation on the potential risks for children of using mobile phones. Input is invited from any stakeholder, including child safety, parent and consumer organisations, mobile network operators, content providers, handset and network manufacturers, and regulators. The consultation will run until 16 October 2006.
“Mobile phones are part of our daily lives, not only for adults but also for teenagers and increasingly for younger children. Mobile communication is a great opportunity for the development of
Europe’s economies and societies. However, at the same time, the protection of minors needs to be guaranteed”, said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “In my view, protection of minors in mobile communications is the responsibility of all actors: industry, child safety associations and public bodies. The more efficient self-regulation can become, the less the need for State intervention.”
The new consultation launched by the Commission today addresses issues linked to content and behaviour, such as access to harmful or illegal content, bullying (e.g. distribution of abusive or compromising messages and photos amongst children), grooming (e.g. strangers “making friends” with children with a view to meeting them), risks to the privacy of children, and the risk of unexpectedly high expense.
In the last few years, the use of mobile phones by children and young people has increased dramatically, as have the capabilities of mobile phones. According to a Eurobarometer survey of May 2006, 70% of European youngsters aged 12-13 years and 23% of children aged 8-9 years own a mobile phone. Handsets can now be used for video messaging, entertainment services (downloading games, music, and videos), access to the internet and location-based services.
The growth in mobile use clearly helps people link-up in an Information Society. But it also gives rise to concerns about the safety of children. The consultation aims to gather factual information and views from different stakeholders on the types of risks faced by children in their use of mobile content services, the technical and regulatory solutions that exist and the scope for further action, in particular at European level.
The consultation launched today is part of a process which started in June 2005, when a plenary session of the Safer Internet Forum attracted 200 representatives from the industry and child welfare organisations. The Commission would like such a European level debate to lead to the kind of self-regulation which is already developing in some Member States. It is therefore supporting several related initiatives of mobile operators, NGOs and other stakeholders.
The Safer Internet Forum is part of the Commission’s Safer Internet Programme, which has been running since 1999, and aims to equip parents and teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to ensure internet safety. The current 4-year programme (2005-08) has a budget of €45 million to combat illegal and harmful internet content. It also covers other media, such as videos, and explicitly addresses the fight against racism, and e-mail “spam”.