European Union wants to protect children; cell phones in focus

The European Commission requested input from child safety, parent and consumer organizations, mobile network providers and phone manufacturers before it decides what action to recommend on the EU level.

"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," said EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding.

The commission will focus on examining minors' access to harmful or illegal content, distribution of abusive or compromising messages and photos among children, the risks of strangers meeting children after first making telephone contact with them, and the risk of big cell phone bills run up by youth, according to the AP.

Some 70 percent of Europeans ages 12-13 own a mobile phone, according to EU data. In Britain, for example, the average age of acquiring the first mobile phone is 8. But few EU countries have legislation protecting minors from harmful content transmitted by phones.

Mobile phones can now be used for video messaging, downloading games, music, and videos, and access to the Internet. Europeans spent Ђ 500 million (US$632 million) on buying ring tones in 2005.

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