South Korea Protects The Children From The Evil High Cellphone Bill Menace

from the legislate-away-stupidity dept

There's a large number of parents who struggle with their kids' mobile phone bills; particularly if they're on a budget and their kids love to send text messages or pics. South Korea is looking to curb such runaway phone bills by passing regulation that aims to limit teenager cellphone bills. The legislation looks to be a reaction to an instance where a 17-year-old boy killed himself last February after ringing up 3.7 million won ($4,021) in fees for a mobile phone game. Starting next year, South Korean teenagers will have to fill out a separate contract, which "recommends" kids join an existing system that puts a ceiling on how much their monthly cell bill can be. It's not clear why exactly good parenting can't solve this problem -- if your kid consistently rings up ridiculous phone bills, take the service away from him/her. It's not entirely clear why the government would need to get involved here, when a hefty dose of common sense will do. Apparently it's not just American politicians that rush in, laws in hand, in knee-jerk attempts to protect the children from the latest and greatest menace.


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  1.  
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    Scott, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 4:03pm

    It's too late once the youth rings up $4000 worth of service. Better to have a plan that has an unbreakable cap or the ability for the contract owner(payer) can turn off services. The Telcos won't like that because that's where the profit is so they won't want to offer such plans. *That* is why you may need legislation. When "the market" doesn't offer a choice (except full opt-out) then the consumer doesn't *have* free choice.

     

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    Jeff, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 4:03pm

    What's the problem?

    Obviously the teenager who caused this whole scandal is not going to be having any big cell phone bills anymore. Wasn't this kind of a self-correcting issue? We should applaud youths like this for taking responsibility for their own actions. Come on, anyone who has nothing else better to do than playing cell phone games for days on end probably has no reason to live and nothing to contribute to society anyway!

     

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    XCetron, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:06pm

    At first reading the title of this it was amusing, the kid killing him self tho, that was not. If that happened here in the States I am 90% sure the parents would have sued the cellphone company...................

    These kind of issues shouldnt be this messed up for the government to have to step in.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:10pm

    agree.. but it seems as society becomes more complex people take less responsibility, and since most people can't comprehend the real issues involved, they blame the government. So the government continually feels like it needs to step in

     

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    Rawnchi, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:17pm

    If they government wasn't to take action, particularly in the US and a similar thing were to happen here, who would be the first to blame. Oh yea baby, blame the government, not your parenting.

    Irresponsible teens are really making it hard and unconvincing that it's a good idea to give them any freedom. So either their parents, or the government has to step in a restrict them unfortunately.

    Personally, I'd rather have parents do some more parenting than punishing all teens for the miscues of some chronic cases (4k$, ha WOW son).

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:33pm

    " if your kid consistently rings up ridiculous phone bills, take the service away from him/her."

    Sounds like someone who doesn't have kids. It would be better to ease them into responsibility with a cap that doesn't kill the family budget if they screw up. Instead, their minutes cap out halfway through, and they learn. Much better than a surprise $4K bill

    That said, this isn't the government's place. I'd think that a wireless company that focused on being family friendly with things like caps on the kids' phones would be rather successful.

     

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  7.  
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    Stu, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:43pm

    "Sounds like someone who doesn't have kids."

    Sorry, that cop out is worn out. You had kids, now be a parent.

    Kid: "Why Daddy, why? It's not fair."

    Dad: "Because you screwed up, and I'm the daddy."

    And the younger this is learned the easier it will be for the kids and the parents.

     

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  8.  
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    Jin Young Kim, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:44pm

    yeah I'm basically Korean, but looking past that..

    Essentially the reason why you say things like "if your kid consistently rings up ridiculous phone bills, take the service away from him/her" is because you don't understand the culture of Korea. Conformity, as stupid as it may sound to your all-knowing American sensibilities, is a fact of life there. And the degree of ostracism a teenager would face there for not having a cell phone (where literally every kid - years before the US - has had a cell phone) is probably incomprehensible to you. This the the classic Ugly American stance that some here the US take that rubs foreigners the wrong way. To conceive that there might be circumstances and cultures that's different from your wonderful and blessed life here in the perfect sociality that the US provides is probably beyond your abilities. But if you tried really hard, perhaps you might be able to sympathize with the government officials and parents of a country facing a crisis in exploring a relatively easy out (compared to reconstructing a societal behavior). I'm sure for a person who lives in a country that accepts phones that are years out of date by global standards as "the cutting edge," this is fairly hard to do.

     

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    Jin Young Kim, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 5:55pm

    yeah I'm basically Korean, but looking past that..

    Essentially the reason why you say things like "if your kid consistently rings up ridiculous phone bills, take the service away from him/her" is because you don't understand the culture of Korea. Conformity, as stupid as it may sound to your all-knowing American sensibilities, is a fact of life there. And the degree of ostracism a teenager would face there for not having a cell phone (where literally every kid - years before the US - has had a cell phone) is probably incomprehensible to you. This the the classic Ugly American stance that some here the US take that rubs foreigners the wrong way. To conceive that there might be circumstances and cultures that's different from your wonderful and blessed life here in the perfect sociality that the US provides is probably beyond your abilities. But if you tried really hard, perhaps you might be able to sympathize with the government officials and parents of a country facing a crisis in exploring a relatively easy out (compared to reconstructing a societal behavior). I'm sure for a person who lives in a country that accepts phones that are years out of date by global standards as "the cutting edge," this is fairly hard to do.

     

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  10.  
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    Dr. A, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 7:09pm

    I must agree with Kim

    As a European expat in Japan i can only acknowledge that around here, technology is a like drugs in Europe or US. The government is forced to protect kids from outrageous priced unrestricted addicting services sold to minors.
    I guess I would not accept my kid being offered a platinum credit card when he gets in the toys4us.
    or given alcohol on credit (mine).

     

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  11.  
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    Expat in Korea, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 7:51pm

    Jin Young is wrong

    As a long term expat, 10+ years, I am confident saying that Korean Parents take very little interest in what goes on in their kids lives other than grades.

    I've seen very little that resembles parenting or the ability to punish children. So what if your child is ostracized for not having a phone. After that experience they will learn how to take responsibility for their actions and understand that there are consequences for running up an insanely high phone bill.

    I have kids in Korea and wouldn't hesitate to take away their phone if they did something like this. But I don't have to worry because I've already taught my kids how to be responisible.

     

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  12.  
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    Ranzear, Dec 14th, 2006 @ 7:52pm

    Even in the states...

    I was first given a cellphone after getting stuck on the side of the road when I first started driving. It became an emergency provision, and the same is given by many parents far before even the real indepence years kick in. In the US we have phones that are limited to family and authorized numbers, a cap on how high a bill can be racked up is no more absurd - why not a combination of limited calling to family and such after the cap is reached?

     

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  13.  
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    Louis, Dec 15th, 2006 @ 1:56am

    Dunno what's so bad about this...

    Seems like a good idea, the Government isn't banning cellphones, just trying to get the cellphone companies to stop taking advantage of the teenage market. I have to say, I myself have no love for the unscrupulous methods the makers of cellphone content employ to attract its (teenage) customers

    I mean, come on, these tv ads for cellphone games, ringtones, logo etc. with their ridiculous rates, are all targeted at the teenage audience, anyone with half a brain can see that. And if cellphones have become such a cultural influence in Korea, as some of the posts above have indicated, then I think its good that the government has taken a pro active stance against something potentially damaging to its public.

    And like I said, they're not banning cellphones altogether (unlike some new bans introduced by some governments which are just plain overreaction), they're forcing cellphone companies to impose compulsory limits on teenage cellphone accounts, which, although it may cut into the profits of the company, might save a teen (and his/her parents) from a debt inducing cellphone bill.

    Honestly, who among us haven't done something brash or irresponsible as a teenager. We didn't have the experience we have now then, and that fact hasn't changed for the current generation of teens.

     

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  14.  
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    Js, Dec 15th, 2006 @ 8:28am

    wtf?

    Why do you bleeding hearts feel the need to paint the kids as the victim of the cellphone companies?

    "just trying to get the cellphone companies to stop taking advantage of the teenage market."

    By charging them for the services they used? Are you retarded? The kids are racking up these bills. They aren't phantom charges.

    I'm unclear on why government intervention is necessary in the first place. Any cell phone provider I've ever used has options for plans with hard limits, which is what this law wants to enact. Even without such options the parents and school systems aren't doing their job to curb the kids irresponsibility. Obviously the parents for not being parents, and the schools for shit like this:

    "four out of 10 teenagers use their mobile phones during classes at school."

    Last I checked, doing that shit in the US would get your phone taken away by the schools, your parents called and the phone given to them. From that point on it would be up to your parents to do whatever on top of any detention that you got from the school. If my kid was irresponsible enough to rack up $4k in cell phone bills he is going to learn the value of that by helping pay it back, and only then will he possibly get the phone back, along side heavy restrictions to its use.

    But whatever, lets support furthering bad parenting with some more fire and forget legislation so they don't have to deal with the real problem. Good call there.

     

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  15.  
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    Jeff, Dec 16th, 2006 @ 10:57am

    Again

    I said it in the wireless edition, and i guess it doesn't post over here on the regular edition, but it's worth repeating.

    Tragic, tragic, tragic, ask not for whom the ringtone tolls, it tolls for thee, we should all be sad some kid offed himself over his high phone bill.

    F*** THAT!

    If the kid is so weak as to not be able to control his cell phone behavior, if he's so weak as to not be able to work at paying off the bill over time, if he's so weak that he'd rather kill himself than get help from someone or god forbid if his parents found out, gosh he'd be in trouble then.

    If he's killed himself, he's obviously prone to suicide -- people don't just kill themselves over one thing -- no matter how big of a one thing it is. Suicide is a sign of other stresses, other issues, other problems.

    So if he's that worthless to society, he's probably annoying as all get out to everyone else who knew him, and his parents already had their shot and fixing all that ailed him, and they missed it. So if he has it that bad and wants to kill himself...

    LET HIM. And let anyone else who wants to follow in his shoes. The world is better off without those kind of people.

    I ask why this is tech news. If you want to get technical, this is a self-correcting problem, and the kid who killed himself gets a gold star for the day for finally taking responsibility and fixing the situation.

    As a dead kid, it's very unlikely that he'll ever use up so many minutes ever again.

     

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  16.  
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    Kelly, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 11:04pm

    Cell phone bill

    Surprise!!! My child Just turned 13 and does not have her own cell phone. I have been with my carrier for 4 years and do not text message or use Instant Messaging, etc... This past week I got a bill from the company with 12,000+ Instant messaging charges! My daughter has been using my phone on a service that I cannot turn off (I can turn off texting, not IM). Not once was this flagged by my cell phone company or called to my attention. Wanna know why??? IM's are sent on the internet...when I asked this company if I would be responsible they said there was no way to prove that it was a minor The IM's alll go to a network number and the messages are put out online. I AM OUTRAGED> If I were to go out of town and put thousands of dollars on a credit or debit card, my bank would not allow all of those charges because it would be suspicious. I have had my card horrifyingly denied at which point I had to make a phone call while out of town to permit the charges. I DO NOT WANT THESE SERVICES, NEVER USED THEM BEFORE, AND NOW I AM STUCK. They didn't call me or cut off service because they were GUARANTEED the money.It is not always irresponsible parenting as I was always asked and reassured that my kid was playing games. She is a teenager and testing her boundaries. And working off her bill? HUH? SHe is a minor!!She couldn't work that much $ off in an entire summer working fast food. It is I that am stuck. And she has paid me back by losing all trust and not going anywhere without an escort the past week! I can'tell my bank that she will pay my house payment when they come looking for that this month!

     

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