Is your cellphone a result of child labor?

Stephanie Gratzel, Staff Writer

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With the iPhone 8 and iPhone X coming out this past month, and the iPhone 9 coming to shelves soon, millions of teenagers across the world are starting to save up. With multiple holidays coming up, the demand for more phones and other types technology to be made is increasing exponentially. Computers, cell phones, and other types of  technology have become necessities to us. Cell phones are what bring us social media, something so important to an average person’s life. However, do people ever wonder where cell phones come from? Or the batteries used to create it? The sad truth is, almost all of the one out of four minerals used in cell phones are a product of child labor in the District Republic of Congo, according to  It is easy to understand the appeal of a cellphone or computer. Using it for school, photography, work, or social media. Sometimes, having a phone seems so simple, so easily accessible. But in reality, there are millions of children who slave all day to create these products. And it is these kids who may never have access to a cell phone, a computer, a classroom, or even something as simple as a bed.   On the outside, Congo looks like a beautiful and peaceful place, but digging deeper and looking on the inside, it is quite the opposite. When showing Danielle Goldbaum, a Warwick Valley High School junior a photo of one part of Congo, she replied “It looks very pretty and peaceful.” And when explaining what goes on in Congo, her views were altered, “That’s awful! The fact that a beautiful place has to be used for something so bad.” In 2017, 168 million children were reported to be still participating in child labor. A portion of these children are from the District Republic of Congo in Africa. This is mostly because Congo can be called the Cobalt capital of the world, or the number one producer of the mineral Cobalt. In Congo, 40,000 children work in Cobalt mines. Most
of these children will work up to 24 hours underground in barely any light and make $2 maximum. Many people are shocked by the surprisingly low amount of money that these children make. Jesse Hazard, a sophomore at Warwick Valley High School speaks out on the subject, “Two dollars for a whole day? That is unbelievable.” Sky News followed a young boy named Dorsen (his last name unknown) who was being exploited in the mines. He looked tired, distraught, skinny, and doomful. As if there was no hope for him at all. He describes his day, “Every morning we go to find a job, if they give us money we buy food… The next morning we will go again to the mining site… “ The interviewer then asked Dorsen how many nights he goes without eating, and Dorsen replied with, “I spend a lot of nights not eating anything.” As a society, we are lucky to have things like food and other basic necessities. For these kids there is no where to turn. The children will work all day sometimes not making anything, and go to sleep hungry. Thanksgiving is coming up, and all kids have something to be thankful for – their family, their friends, their food, or their cell phone. These kids are just thankful for another day of life.  Mining is also one of the worst forms of child labor. The dangerous conditions make life hard for the children. In some cases, parents or elders will not let young children in the mines until they are around ten years of age. However, this is very unlikely. Many children are used because of their small size and ability to fit in small spaces to pull out the Cobalt. They often are buried alive when the mine collapses on  top of them. If they’re not physically hurt, they can contract many diseases from the unsanitary conditions. There is little to no fresh water in Congo, and the fresh water used it used to clean the dirt off of minerals. So, to have a clean glass of water is a blessing, and to have a bath with clean water is nearly impossible. The children and people of DCR have to accept this uncleanly way of life.
What does this have to do with technology? Well, it has everything to do with it. As a mineral, cobalt is essential to create the lithium batteries used in most cell phones and computers. The minerals are also used to create electronic cars. According to at least 50% of the world’s cobalt is found in DCR. The human rights group has traced Cobalt from child labour sites in the DCR to 16 multinational brands. It could be hard to believe that house name brands like Apple, Microsoft and more have used products that are a result of this horrendous practice. However, it is virtually impossible for these companies to not use cobalt from the DCR. Sadly, there are few things that we can do to help. The child labour story of DCR was one of the most ignored and discarded problems of 2017 and still currently is. Kat Kallopoulos, a freshman, had no idea of this problem, “I had no idea. This is horrible. I feel horrible.”Apple has made a statement about their affiliation with child labour products and their use of them; “There’s absolutely no excuse for anyone under legal working age to be in our supply chain.” Samsung and Microsoft have been less talkative about their affiliation. Samsung stated that by late July they would have a list of where they receive their minerals from up on their website. However, this has yet to be published or posted. Although Apple is making efforts to end child labor, it is all talk and no action. As demand for their products, and all technological products go up, so does production rate.There is practically nothing we can do presently, but hopefully in the future there will be a way to resolve this tragic issue. Kat Kallopoulos commented, “Maybe we can try to stop this and see what we can do to help and end it.” It seems like through all the darkness in this situation there are small glimmers of hope. To stop child labor without disrupting the flow of making technology would be nothing less than amazing.

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Is your cellphone a result of child labor?