The EC is reviewing the social dangers that mobile phones pose to children.

The new consultation could result in legislation to protect kids from stalkers, bullies and dangerous Internet material, the Commission said yesterday.

According to a recent survey, 70 percent of European youngsters aged between 12 and 13, and 23 percent aged between eight to nine, own a mobile phone. As handsets get more sophisticated, the threats from misuse mount, said the EC. Simple text messaging has been used by pedophiles to lure children, it said as an example.

School bullies have used camera phones to film their assaults and taunt their victims later. Phones with access to the Internet open up an even wider range of hazards, the Commission said.

Mobile phones pose economic risks too.The market for ringtones, which is targeted almost exclusively at children and adolescents, generated about €500 million in sales in Europe last year. Mobile network operators, content providers, handset and network manufacturers, as well as regulators, child safety experts, parents and consumer organisations are invited to participate in the consultation, which will run until 16 October.

Some countries, including the UK, rely on self regulation to prevent mobile phones and mobile services from being misused to the detriment of children. Other countries, including Germany, have strict laws that require age verification as well as other security measures.

The Commission would prefer a system of self-regulation. But if that isn’t sufficient it may propose internal market laws, said the spokesman for Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for information society and media.