EU Calls on Mobile Operators to Continue to Improve Child Safety Policies
Published on: 20th April 2009
Half of 10 year-old, 87% of 13 year-old and 95% of 16 year-old children in the EU have a mobile phone, but half of European parents worry mobile phone use might expose their children to sexually and violently explicit images (51%) or bullying by other children (49%), according to a survey. The European Commission has now called on mobile operators to do more to keep children safe while using mobile phones by putting in place all the measures in the voluntary code of conduct, signed by 26 mobile operators in 2007.
A report just published by the GSM Association, the trade body of the mobile phone industry, showed that national self-regulatory codes based on the framework agreement brokered by the European Commission now exist in 22 Member States, 90% of them in line with the 2007 agreement, and 80% of operators have put in place measures to control child access to adult content.
"The new report of the mobile phone industry association shows that mobile operators have started to take seriously their responsibilities to keep children safe when using phones," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "However, I expect that national codes will be signed very soon now in the four countries where they do not exist yet - this is the case in Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, and Luxembourg - and I also expect the Belgian code to be significantly revised. Protection of minors is not a luxury, but indispensable if new communication technologies want to be accepted in our European societies. Mobile operators still need to be more ambitious to make measures for the purpose of protecting minors more effective in all European countries, and also to make content classification more transparent. The 12 operators who still provide adult content without any access control must fix this situation. I reserve the right to come back to this situation in September this year to see whether further action needs to be taken."
A new report of the mobile industry shows that some progress has been made by the 26 mobile operators signed up to the "European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children" brokered by the Commission in February 2007. These operators serve around 580 million customers, 96% of all EU mobile customers.
The measures to protect children are put in place at national level through self-regulatory national codes of conduct, which have already been agreed in 22 EU Member States. These apply 90% of the European code. Only the Belgian code differs widely, and national codes still need to be signed in Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, and Luxembourg (Viviane Reding is a Luxembourg politician).
The report shows how mobile operators have followed up on the four areas of action identified in the 2007 code:
- 80% of operators have put in place measures to control children's access to adult content. However, only 41% of operators stated that they actively monitor and review the effectiveness of their access control systems.
- More than 65% of the signatories produce educational material or run awareness campaigns about safer mobile use. However, 16% of signatories have not planned any awareness activities.
- 80% of operators classify commercial content in at least two categories: "adult content" and "other", but there is little evidence that specific classification has been agreed at national level as agreed in 2007.
- Most mobile operators work closely with national law enforcement bodies to report illegal content on mobile phones, but the actions vary considerably between countries because of different national laws and reporting mechanisms.
The agreement was first signed by Bouygues Telecom, Cosmote, Deutsche Telekom Group, Go Mobile, Hutchison 3G Europe, Jamba!, Mobile Entertainment Forum, Orange Group, KPN, SFR, Telecom Italia, Telefonica Moviles, Telenor, TeliaSonera and Vodafone. More companies have signed since then: Tele2, Mobitel, Belgacom Mobile, Mobilkom Austria, TDC Mobil Norden, Wind Hellas Telecommunications, Alands Mobiltelefon, BTC Mobile (Vivatel), CYTA, P&T Luxembourg and Mobitel.
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