In a move to provide better safeguards for young children who use mobile phone and Internet services, ETSI has started a new consultation with industry and child agencies. The aim is to produce a set of European guidelines for service providers, whose products and services are being used by young children, some as young as 4 or 5 years of age. ETSI will publish the new guidelines in 2008.
Young children are now a key sector of the overall ICT market. Europe has a large population of young children between 4 and 12 years of age, about 40 million. Currently, average weekly spend by young children is estimated at €20 each, which is a total annual expenditure of €40 billion (sources: UK Office for National Statistics, and Eurobarometer).
The new programme is lead by Anne Clarke, a leading expert on children's use of advanced ICTs. Ms Clarke has been working for 5 years with ETSI on guidelines for the ICT industry, where young children are the users. This work has already led to the publication of an ETSI Guide on the design of ICT products and services which are to be used by young children, and to a White Paper on the issues raised by the use of ICT products and services by children between 4 and 12 years of age.
Most of the current work across all EU countries concentrates of developing young children’s skills with ICT tools, in order to prepare them to participate fully in the Information Age (Mediappro Project).
The EC is also pursuing a programme encouraging ICT industry sectors, such as the mobile operators, to create self regulatory codes of conduct in relation to content, in order to address concerns about exposure of young children to harmful content.
The new ETSI work will involve extensive consultation with industry and with child protection agencies, in order to form a consensus on a self regulatory code of practice for service providers. The new code will focus particularly on interactive services, which are being used by young children. Some of the issues to be addressed include the impact of data protection on the registration of child users’ details, modifications to customer services procedures to deal with young children, and technical aspects of service security, where the service is being used by a child.
Ms Clarke said that there is a clear need for the ICT industry to become more aware of young children as customers, and to develop a child friendly strategy. She went on to say that service providers are aware of the concerns of parents and of child protection agencies, about the potential for misuse of ICT products and services.
Being more child aware is the key strategy that service providers need to adopt in order to make using ICT services safer and more secure for young children, she said.
ETSI is delighted by the support that its members are giving Ms Clarke and her team, and that the European Commission has agreed to support this important initiative by the industry.
Anne Clarke Anne Clark is one of Europe's leading researchers into the human factors aspects of ICT products and services, with over 20 years experience of international research and project management. She currently leads a Specialist Task Force at ETSI, supported by the European Commission, to develop guidelines for service providers who are deploying products and services for use by pre-teen children.
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) plays a major role in global standardization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), including telecommunications and broadcasting. ETSI unites around 700 member companies from nearly 60 countries, including manufacturers, network operators, administrations, service providers, research bodies and users – in fact, all the key players in the ICT arena.
For more information: www.etsi.org
For more information on ETSI TC Human Factors: www.etsi.org/hf
The ETSI Guide EG 202 423 'Human Factors (HF);Guidelines for the design and deployment of ICT products and services used by children.' is available athttp://pda.etsi.org/pda/queryform.asp
ETSI White Paper on. ”Young Children and ICT – current issues in the provision of ICT technologies and services for young children is available at www.etsi.org/etsi_radar/whitepaper/home.htm