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Some politicians and parents want to monitor how kids use their cell phonesImage: AP

Violent Videos

Raphael Krämer (kjb)
May 5, 2007

Some school-age bullies aren't just picking on other students; they're filming the beatings with cell phones and sending the clips to friends. Politicians want to help parents stay one technical step ahead of their kids.


At some schools in Germany, it's a daily occurrence: Kids beat up fellow students just so they can record the brutality on their mobile phones. Then they use the taped violence to show off to their friends.

"A friend of mine showed me a video where they threw this guy on the ground and then they kicked him the whole time," an unidentified student told Deutsche Welle. "It was pretty bad."

Parental PIN code

UMTS Handy mit Fußballspiel
Cell phone cameras are being used for more than Kodak momentsImage: AP

Thomas Jarzombek a state Christian Democratic Union politician has developed a plan to keep brutal violence, as well as pornography, out of the hands of underage cell phone users.

"When the device is turned on for the first time, parents have the opportunity to turn on the child protection function, which is accessible with a PIN code," said Jarzombek. "It should be possible to set the device so that only content can be played back that is definitely appropriate for young people."

He added that this kind of child protection setting is already possible for video games and pay-per-view television programs.

Nearly every teenager in Germany owns a cell phone and, according to experts, around two-thirds of all young mobile phone users have used the device to receive violent videos.

Hotline for technically challenged parents

Jarzombek said the cell phone companies bear some of the responsibility for restricting access to videos with adult content. Germany’s largest mobile operator T-Mobile sees it differently, however.

"The material that is exchanged -- from vacation pictures and concert videos to negative content that glorifies violence -- has nothing to do with T-Mobile and the network technology," said T-Mobile spokeswoman Ramona Stahl. "It’s private material and could be considered more of a social phenomenon."

Handyviren - Jugendliche mit Handys
Videos are sent to other phones using wireless technologyImage: AP

Stahl said T-Mobile offers a hotline for confused parents who don't know how to use their children's complicated cell phones.

Jarzombek said he didn't think the hotline was a sufficient solution. Kids would just turn the data transmission function back on after their parents had shut it off with the guidance of the hotline operator. Or, even worse, "other students might force them to turn everything back on and watch the trash," Jarzombek added.

Do kids want to watch?

Students, however, said they doubted that parental PIN codes would be effective against violent videos.

"It’s just like the smoking laws," said one student. "People tell kids under 16 they can't smoke, but they can still get cigarettes everywhere."

Another teenager said he was confident the child-proof function could be hacked into.

"Even if 20 percent hack into it, the provision would still help 80 percent," said Jarzombek. "Young people are interested in things that are forbidden, but are more or less harmless. But these videos are so extremely violent that even adults can't sleep at night when they've seen them. I don’t think that most kids really want to see them."

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