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|NO, THEY DO NOT TARGET CHILDREN, DO THEY?|
|USA||Created: 27 Jul 2005|
Children’s Advocates Ask Congress to Investigate Marketing of Mobile Phones to Kids
WASHINGTON - July 26 - Privacy, consumer and children’s advocates sent letters today to key Members of Congress, asking them to investigate the marketing and sale of mobile phones to children, and their effects on children’s privacy, education, safety and health.
The letters were written and organized by Commercial Alert, and sent to all members of the commerce committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The letter follows.
On July 6th, the Walt Disney Internet Group and Sprint announced their intention to offer wireless telephone service to children 8-12 years of age.
This was just the latest in what is emerging as an industry trend. Earlier this year, Firefly Mobile enlisted 100,000 children for their mobile phone service. Enfora has announced plans to offer mobile phone service targeting children as young as six years of age. This fall, Wherify is planning to offer a “Wherifone” for children with built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) location tracking. In August, Mattel is expected to market Barbie-branded mobile phones. Hasbro is preparing its own mobile phone for children, too, called “Chat Now.”
The targeting of young children as the next growth market for the telecom industry is one of the worst ideas to appear in the American economy in a long time. Does anyone really believe that kids today lack sufficient distractions from their school work, that there are insufficient disruptions in the home, and that child predators and advertisers lack sufficient means of access to kids?
If the Disney Corporation and the others just wanted to give children a way to contact parents in emergencies, that would be one thing. The telecommunications companies – to parents at least –are playing up this angle. Telecommunications lobbyists in Washington will harp on it as well.
But despite the industry’s rhetoric, Disney and the telecommunications companies really want to use children as conduits to their parents’ wallets. And marketers want another way to bypass parents and speak directly to the nation’s children.
Already, marketers are leaping to send advertisements via mobile phones. For example, Advertising Age reported on July 11th that many corporations, including McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Timex, are moving “from small [mobile phone advertising] tests to all-out campaign[s].” Children already are bombarded with too much advertising. They don’t need more advertising through their mobile phones, whether it is telemarketing, text message marketing, adver-games, or any other type of commercial messages.
Before the telecommunications industry declares “open season” upon the children of this country, we urge you to investigate and make absolutely certain that the industry has answers to the following questions.
Child Predators. Will adults other than parents be able to contact children through these phones, without the permission of parents? What about sexual predators, convicted criminals, etc.?
Disclosure of Children’s Whereabouts. For mobile phones to work, telecommunications companies must know where their customers’ phones are. Will anyone other than the child’s parents, law enforcement officials and telecommunications companies be able to track the physical location of the child’s mobile phone?
Interruptions in School and Church. Will the mobile phones cause disruptions and distractions in church and school, or will they be designed not to function in such locations? The potential for disruption here affects not just the individual child, but every child in the group in question.
Runaway Billing. Will parents have absolute control over billing and charges, so that no charges can be incurred without the parents’ specific prior consent? This includes charges for regular and special services, 888 numbers, and the rest.
Children’s Health. Children are vulnerable in ways that adults are not, physically as well as emotionally. In January, the British National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) issued a report, titled “Mobile Phones and Health,” which warned about the possibility that mobile phones could cause benign tumors of the ear and brain. The NRPB recommended that parents not give mobile phones to children under eight years of age, that older children should limit their use of mobile phones, and that “the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children.” Upon release of the report, NRPB Chairman Sir William Stewart said, “I don't think we can put our hands on our hearts and say mobile phones are safe.” He also said that “If there are risks, and we think there may be risks, then the people who are going to be most affected are children, and the younger the child, the greater the danger.” How has the U.S. mobile phone industry factored this warning into its service plans? Can it guarantee that children will suffer no adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones? If not, then why is it offering mobile phones to children? Is the industry willing to take full responsibility for the effects of its phones upon children’s health?
The move to put mobile phones into the hands of children as young as six years old is not a decision to take lightly. It opens up a plethora of problems, not just for the children with the phones but for schools, churches, families and classmates as well.
Now is the time to pause, investigate and consider. Once the phones are in classrooms, playrooms, and in children’s bedrooms, it will be too late. Already we read with grim regularity of children molested by predators who contacted them over the Internet. We read of children who cannot focus their own attention even for short times. We hope we will not now read about children abducted by adults who seduced them through mobile phones, and of school rooms that cannot function because of mobile phones that ring constantly, just because Congress did not stand up and act.
Joan Almon, Coordinator, Alliance for Childhood
Michael Brody, MD, Chair, Television and Media Committee, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Brita Butler-Wall, PhD. Executive Director, Citizens' Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools
Angela Campbell, Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
Raffi Cavoukian, D.Mus., D.Litt., founder of Child Honoring, singer, author, ecology advocate
Nathan Dungan, author, Prodigal Sons and Material Girls: How Not to Be Your Child's ATM
Leon Eisenberg, MD, Professor of Social Medicine Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
Henry A. Giroux, PhD, Waterbury Chair Professor in Secondary Education, College of Education, Pennsylvania State University; author, Stealing Innocence: Corporate Culture's War on Children
Susan Grant, Vice President, Public Policy, National Consumers League
Nicholas Johnson, Former Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Carden Johnston, MD, FAAP, FRCP, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Tim Kasser, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology. Knox College; author, The High Price of Materialism
Jean Kilbourne, author, Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
Diane Levin, PhD, Professor of Education, Wheelock College; author, Remote Control Childhood?: Combating the Hazards of Media Culture
Susan Linn, EdD, Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Co-founder, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood; author, Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood
Robert W. McChesney, Research Professor, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Founder and President, Free Press; author, The Problem of the Media
Bob McCannon, Founder and Executive Director, New Mexico Media Literacy Project; Vice President & Co-founder, Action Coalition for Media Education
Ken McEldowney, Executive Director, Consumer Action
Jim Metrock, President, Obligation, Inc.
Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)
Mark Crispin Miller, PhD, Professor of Media Ecology, New York University
Diane M. Morrison, PhD, Professor & Associate Dean for Research, University of Washington School of Social Work
Peggy O'Mara, Editor and Publisher, Mothering Magazine
Alvin F. Poussaint, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Harvard Medical School
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Hugh Rank, University Professor Emeritus, Governors State University; author, Persuasion Analysis and The Pitch
Gary Ruskin, Executive Director, Commercial Alert
Phyllis Schlafly, President, Eagle Forum
Juliet Schor, PhD, Professor of Sociology, Boston College; author, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
Remar Sutton, Founder, The Privacy Rights Now Coalition
Victor Strasburger, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine; co-author, Children, Adolescents, & the Media
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 26, 2005
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|Source: CONTACT: Commercial Alert: Gary Ruskin (503) 235-8012|
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