Japanese children are becoming so addicted to internet-linked mobile phones that the government has warned parents and schools to limit their use.
They are worried about youngsters becoming sucked into cyberspace crimes, spending long hours exchanging mobile e-mails and suffering other bad effects from over-using the phones.
A government spokesman said: “Japanese parents are giving mobile phones to their children without giving it enough thought.
“In Japan, mobile phones have become an expensive toy.”
The recommendations came from an education reform panel which is also asking Japanese makers to develop phones with only the talk function and GPS, or global positioning system, a satellite-navigation feature that can help ensure a child’s safety.
Hiroya Masuda, the telecommunications minister, said that electronics makers must develop phones that are safe for children.
“The ministry will be naturally stepping up efforts to ask makers to develop phones with limited features,” he said.
Most mobile phones in Japan are sophisticated gadgets offering high-speed 3G internet access allowing Japanese to use them for everything that can be done on personal computers, including messaging, electronic shopping, social networking, net searches and video games.
But the panel said better filtering programming is needed for internet access to protect children.
Some youngsters are spending hours at night on e-mail with their friends. One fad is “the 30 minute rule,” in which a child who doesn’t respond to e-mail within half an hour gets targeted and picked on by other schoolmates.
Other youngsters have become victims of internet crimes. In one case, children sent in their own snapshots to a website and then ended up getting threatened for money.
Some Japanese children commute long distances by trains and buses to school and parents rely on the phones to keep in touch with them.
Parents typically pay about £20 (€25) a month for in phone fees per child.