Mobile phones and the internet: Legal issues in the protection of children
The issue of protecting children from the potential hazards of the Internet environment has led to various legislative attempts to regulate content on the Internet. However, the constraints it imposed on valuable free speech rendered most of them futile. While the importance of protecting children is not disputed, the problem lay in the delicate issue of finding a balance between free speech rights and the protection of children. This paper looks at the legal aspects involved in the protection of children, privacy issues, etc in the context of the growing popularity of mobile phones and other portable devices that offer Internet access. The Internet was mainly confined to PC or laptops until recently. However, over the last few years newer technology devices such as wireless, PDAs and 3G mobile phones, etc also provide Internet access, which are probably more invasive and direct than the traditional PC. These new media and delivery channels give new dimensions to the problems associated with the impact of inappropriate content on the child, especially with the widespread use of camera-phones. These forms of access for content may lead to quite different expectations regarding privacy and freedom of expression and raise new issues in the arguments for strengthening the law for protecting children from potential dangers. In the absence of a consensus on whether/how to regulate content on the Internet for the protection of children, an examination of some of the legal issues involved merits consideration. While acknowledging that technology does more good than harm, the paper argues that it is important to take adequate measures to counter its abuse and create a safer environment for children, more so in light of the growing popularity of mobile Internet.