Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kids and Mobile Play: Ofcom and Mobile Content

By way of the Times Online journalist Elizabeth Judge, news that UK media regulator Ofcom will be launching an inquiry into mobile content, after a series of complaints that the mobile industry is not effectively enforcing existing - voluntary - rules aimed at limiting the types of content kids can access via mobile technologies. A number of children's charities (I suspect they mean advocacy groups) point to the industry's lax standards when it comes to marketing and implementation as key examples of the inadequacy of the voluntary system. As Judge describes:
Mobile phone networks including Orange, O2 and Vodafone signed up in 2004 to a code that is aimed at protecting children using “next generation” 3G phones that offer services including internet access, video cameras and full-colour screens. Under the code, the phone companies agreed to offer parents who bought the 3G models for their children the ability to install a filter, which would block access to unsuitable internet content such as adult chatrooms.

A classification system for content - similar to that used in cinemas - was also introduced, with unsuitable material to be labelled “18”.

According to the children's charities who have launched the complaints, major phone networks and phone shops are not doing their job when it comes to providing parents with tools or information related to the risks associated with kids' unsupervised mobile technology use. Their arguments build upon a report released last year by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which concluded that "the boom of phone ownership among under-18s had created an “increasing opportunity for the sexual exploitation of children and young people”."

Judge's article also provides some great stats, such as:
- A million under-10s in the UK (1 in 3) own a mobile phone (according to mobileYouth)
- 32 per cent of children aged 8-11 regularly use a mobile (according to Ofcom)

Further coverage can be accessed at MoCoNews.

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