Mobiles destroying childhood
 

John Stapleton

Australian IT
Februrary 19, 2007

WHILE the average parent usually buys their child a mobile telephone with security in mind, researchers at the Australia Institute have condemned the marketing of mobiles to children as promoting consumerism and destroying childhood.

Researchers Christian Downie and Kate Glazebrook say in their paper, titled Mobile phones and the consumer kids, that one in four children aged between six and 13 have a mobile telephone.


"The pressure felt by children to consume threatens to commercialise their childhood, with deleterious effects for their development," Mr Downie said yesterday.

"Mobile phones are another example of the pressures being put on young children to consume and to compete with their peers for expensive consumer goods from a young age. It's an ethos that is not only harmful to childhood, but in the case of mobile phones, very costly."

Mr Downie said children were motivated by aesthetics and status.

"The larger concern is that targeted advertising to children means they are constructing their identity through the purchase of objects," he said.

The institute is being sued by David Jones for a report that accused the store of eroticising and sexually exploiting children in advertising.

While the institute's report on mobile phones may be less controversial, it will be hard-pressed to find a teenager who agrees with it.

Darcy Mason, 13, has had a mobile for the past two years.

"I just wanted a phone, it wasn't pressure, I don't think there is anyone at my school who doesn't have one," she said.

"I don't feel safe without my phone."

Her friend Alex Warnes-Wagstaff, 13, has also had a phone for two years.

"I felt a bit of pressure to begin with. I wanted to keep up with the latest trends, but now everyone has them and it's no big deal."

Darcy's mother. Fiona McGill, said that above everything she wanted her daughter to have a phone for safety reasons. She said the mobiles had been a godsend that for parents.

"From a working mother's point of view, a mobile phone can ease the domestic burden," she said. "I am in the office, this kid is coming from this school, the other kid is coming from that school, it helps to know where they are at any given time."

Alex's mother Ros Wagstaff said that while her daughter loved being able to text friends, for her, "it is basically for safety and a way we can keep in touch with her".

A spokeswoman for Nokia Australia, Louise Ingram, said they did not market directly to children, and to her knowledge no other manufacturer did. She said children had to be over 18 to have a contract and be able to pass a credit check..

"Parents buy phones for the safety and security of their children. Parents want to know where their kids are," she said.

"It's only 10 years since most kids were left on corners or at schools or sports parks waiting for their working parents to come and pick them up."


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