TOKYO (AFP) — A Japanese government panel called on parents and schools Monday to help limit the use of mobile phones by children to prevent them from accessing "harmful" information on websites.
The advisory council on education made the proposal to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda as children become more prone to crimes involving dating websites and bullying on Internet school bulletin boards.
The panel said it would urge "parents, schools and other people concerned to cooperate in preventing elementary and junior high school students from using mobile phones unless it is necessary."
It called for limiting mobile phone use just to calls.
These measures are necessary to "protect children from harmful information and other negative influence involving the use of mobile phones" including "crimes and bullying," the report said.
Press reports have linked some crimes by children to dating websites.
"It is true that the use of mobile phones causes various problems," Fukuda told reporters. "I think the panel has made timely discussions on the problem."
He added: "First of all, I wonder if there is any need for children to possess mobile phones."
The panel also recommended that English be made compulsory for children in their third year at elementary school, instead of the current first year at junior high school.
The government will take the proposals into consideration in working out its policy guidelines next month.
While about a third of Japanese primary school students aged 7-12 use mobiles, by the time they get to high school that figure rises to 96 percent, according to a government survey last December.
There are fears for students' safety as only about one percent of them have blocks on potentially harmful material, meaning they could reveal personal information, making them prey for fraudsters and paedophiles.
But even on protected sites such as school bulletin boards, bullies are able to anonymously post comments without teacher oversight or intervention.
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