Industry has introduced a range of tools to help young people gain affordable access to mobile phones

The mobile phone industry has introduced a range of tools, including pre-paids, to assist young people to gain access to the benefits of mobile phones in a financially responsible and affordable manner, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) said today.

AMTA Chief Executive Officer Chris Althaus was responding to a Deakin academic who claims that little or no attention had been paid to the “very real issue” of teenager mobile phone use and excessive mobile phone bills.

Mr Althaus said: “The industry spends a lot of time and resources to assist all users – particularly young people – to have access to all the benefits that mobile phones have to offer in a financially responsible way.

“The industry is concerned about any youth debt and, although we believe the number of people affected is relatively small, the industry has responded with the introduction of competitive pre-paid services to ensure that young people have access to the benefits of mobile phones at a price that suits their budget.

“AMTA urges parents to consider getting their children pre-paids to ensure that they do not get into debt.

“There is also a wide range of bill management tools, such as on-line bill checking and spend alerts, to assist people control their spending. Also, capped deals are an easy and convenient way to keep bills within budget.

“The industry has co-operated with governments, regulators and consumer groups to offer a wide range of tools to assist mobile phone users to manage their spending.”

Some of the initiatives include:

  • Pre-paid mobiles
  • Capped plan deals
  • Online bill checking
  • Spending alerts
  • Limits on customers’ monthly billed amounts
  • Consumer tips to help people manage their mobile phone spending

The mobile telecommunications industry and mobile content providers are members of a scheme that has introduced a range of safeguards to protect children, gives consumers clear cost information on premium mobile services and a clear “stop” command to unsubscribe.

Mr Althaus said children could not sign contracts because people had to be 18 years and over to enter into a financial agreement.

He said given the important and prominent role played by mobile phones in helping young people stay in contact with their families and friends, useage among adolescents was mostly moderate and responsible.

This pattern of moderate useage was highlighted several years ago in a study undertaken by the Australian Psychological Society. The study found, contrary to some popular perceptions, adolescents were not involved in excessive use with many reporting relatively few calls and SMS messages.

The results found that most adolescents (79%) reported making few mobile phone calls per day with 39% generally making no calls on their mobile phone most days and 40% usually making only one to two calls per day. Thirty-three per cent of adolescents reported not sending any SMS messages most days and 27% reported sending one or two SMS messages a day, 26% between three and five messages, 8 per cent reported averaging between 6-10 SMS messages per day and 6 per cent sent more than 10 messages most days with 1 per cent sending more than 20 SMS messages most days.

Mr Althaus said a study undertaken by the Queensland University of Technology earlier this year found that on average people made 3.5 voice calls and sent nine text messages each day.

Mr Althaus said the Deakin University also claimed that mobile phones had required parents to be “on call” in case of emergencies or for transport and the “umbilical cord can not be cast off, even if parents want to.”

He said a UK study by the Trust for the Study of Adolescents (TSA) had researched the role of mobile phones in family life. The report found:

Young people felt they could do more, and felt safer, due to having their mobile phone.

Mobile phones were seen to ease communication within families, and allayed worry on the part of the parents.

Both young people and parents felt that mobile phones enhanced safety. They described mobiles as a ‘lifeline’, and a back-up safety measure. Though a few people did believe there was an increased risk in terms of mugging and bullying, most felt the benefits outweighed the negative points.

For further information contact Randal Markey, Manager, Communications, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550