Mobile phone companies slammed for targeting children

Sir William Stewart wants to see the price of handsets increased to discourage children from joining the mobile revolution
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

Mobile phone companies have been strongly criticised by a leading UK scientist for encouraging children to buy their products.

Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science in Glasgow on Tuesday, Sir William Stewart -- president of the Association -- said it was irresponsible for mobile companies to target school children by marketing mobile phones as "back to school" devices. He would like to see the price of mobiles increased to deter children, who he believes should use text messaging rather than making voice calls.

One mobile phone manufacturer, Ericsson, has already denied the accusations. "We don't target our phones at children," a company spokeswoman told ZDNet on Wednesday.

Sir William Stewart chaired last year's government inquiry into health fears over mobile phone use. The report concluded there was no evidence that mobiles could damage health, but warned there was a "risk of a risk", and as such children should be discouraged from using mobiles for non-urgent calls.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5, Sir William Stewart said that he would "much rather see children sending text messages rather than calling each other using mobiles."

However, even text messaging is not without its potential dangers. The British Medical Association (BMA) warned back in May that children could be endangering their health by using mobile phones to send text messages -- an activity where the phone is held near the torso when transmitting a message. According to the BMA, insufficient research has been carried out into the effect that microwave radiation from handsets has on internal organs, such as the kidneys.

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