A mental-health clinic is currently treating two Spanish children, aged 12 and 13, suffering from severe mobile-phone withdrawal symptoms.

Echoing the behaviour of drug addicts, the children hid their problem from parents and loved ones and obtained money to pay for the addiction through deception, obtaining cash from relatives without explaining that it was for phone cards. Both were struggling at school - no wonder, considering that each was spending an average of six hours a day glued to their phone.

The director of the treatment centre has recommended that parents should not allow children to have mobile phones until they're 16. Which in this day and age sounds bizarre - but is it such a bad idea?

Maybe this writer is naive (age when given first mobile phone: 26) but do children really gain anything from the functionality of a mobile? When I was 12 all my friends went to my school, and it wasn't like we needed to co-ordinate our social movements. You don't need to text someone to say you're going to play football in the playground after maths.

There's long been a conflict in the world of technology between need and want: between function and idiotic boredom-buying. The mobile phone was one of those gadgets that really did serve a function, and many of us imagine we'd struggle to manage without one, and pour scorn on the few remaining who refuse to join in. But we would manage, and we did so for hundreds of years. (Sure, and we managed without penicillin for a fair while. Bear with me.)

Here's the question to ask when we, the jaded tech enthusiasts, examine a product: does this serve a purpose, or is it just a shiny trinket? Do we really need it, or have we just been told we do? Are we, to return to the case in hand, acting like 12-year-olds who think they couldn't cope without the ludicrous functionality overkill of a mobile phone?

The two kids in this case are victims of peer pressure and relentless brand-status marketing. Let's do them a favour and take the phones away.

[Via The Guardian]