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As mobile phones become increasingly popular, questions are being asked about at what age is it deemed acceptable for children to carry around a handset. In America, some children under the age of five are being given a phone to carry with them when they start school.

Speaking to St. Louis Times, one father, Brian McKenney, said many years ago he wouldn’t allow his children to own a mobile until they had reached their teenage years at the very earliest, but as his daughter Brooke starts school, he has had a change of heart. Brooke is only four years old.

"At that point, we will want a way to connect to her in case of an emergency," said McKenney, principal of Long Elementary School in Crestwood. Many stores sell mobile phone packages aimed at younger people as the trend grows.

In one study by YouthBeat in the US, it was found that mobile phone usage of children between 6 and 9 years of age has doubled since 2005, and had almost doubled for children aged 10 to 13. The UK probably has similar figures also.

"Every year we always are astonished by how young kids are who get mobile devices," said Carl D. Howe, a director at Yankee Group, a Boston-based research company monitoring youngsters using mobile phones.

He adds: "The usual justification for most consumers is as a safety and convenience — it's a way for their children to be able to reach their parents at all times."

However, it is a double-edged knife. Parents may want their children safe from harm, but with reports that using a mobile phone from a young age could cause brain damage, is it really in the child’s best interest to own one? Maybe parents should confiscate their children’s mobiles and then recycle used phones instead to keep them safe? The cash could be used for payphones instead.

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