MENACE OF CELLULAR PHONES

AROOJ ASGHAR (arooj.asghar@hotmail.com)
Mar 03 - 09, 2008

Cell phone use is increasing worldwide, leading to a concern that inordinate and wrong use of this facility is distracting the society and destroying social values. Immoderate indulgence of society in particular of young generation is propelling us to pay attention toward the thriving vices erupting from the influx of mobile phone communications in the last couple of years.

ISSUES

INCOMPREHENSIVE DATA COMPILATION

In the initial stages when mobile phones were introduced, there were checks applied to applicants to provide their personal details on the prescribed form of the mobile company. At that time the price of the SIM was kept high and, as a result, consumers did not mushroom. Decency, quality and courtesy were then maintained among the mobile users. But as mobile companies increased and competition among them grew, all earlier checks and balances were withdrawn in favor of sales. SIM cards became available for as low as Rs100.

Gradually, these facilities led to misuse by criminals. Hand -to -hand mobile purchase and sales destroyed the identification system of the users. Bad calls, threats and other forms of misuse are employed by many who cannot be identified. They keep more than one cell phone and play the same tricks with another round of sufferers.

The menace has become alarmingly rampant among those who have little or no moral values: they greatly misuse the facility because they need not provide any address while buying cell phone so; it is easier for such cell phone users to break commitments or agreements to the peril of the other party. It is time the government regulated cell phone trade. Mobile companies should be asked to pronounce verification and authentication of all SIMs within three months.

In a fierce competition to promote their businesses, mobile telephone companies reportedly had been issuing connections in bulk without verifying the identities of their subscribers from NADRA to promote their businesses. In doing so they violated PTA rules and regulations. According to NADRA records, 20.1 million connections have been sold by various companies so far. Of them 17.25 million connections had been verified by these companies and the remaining 2.85 million subscribers were untraceable. People could buy SIMs anonymously and use them without leaving any paper trail. It has become an appealing tool for illicit or terrorist activities. Blocking untraceable numbers can be a big step in crime reduction.

UNSAFE DRIVING & MOBILE PHONES

The use of cell phone while driving has been observed hazardous. This phenomenon has been rampant world wide and in many countries a ban has been imposed on using phone while driving. The ban is inflicted after taking into account the growing number of fatalities caused by incautious drivers. In Pakistan also the incidence of road accidents is up surging and proper legislation is required to prevent any probable losses.

DISFIGURING STUDENT'S PERSONALITIES

The use of cell phones inside classrooms or in the premises of institutions proves very distracting. Students don't pay full attention to their studies, as they are busy using their cell phones all the time. As far as girl's colleges are concerned they use the contraption to call their boyfriends to the university to pick them up. This way the girls don't attend classes, miss out on their studies without the knowledge of their parents. Boys misuse cell phones more than girls. They use their phone cameras to take pictures of girls without them knowing. The availability of such technology to students who are at a vulnerable age spoils them. Many students use their cell phones to cheat during exams. It is also observed that in the class room students are constantly texting each other. Teenagers and young people are also using mobile phone accessories to become "hip & happening" among their own peers and friends. More than anything else, teenagers are using different varieties of mobile phone accessories to flaunt their attitude to the outside world. Cell phone theft has become rampant in schools, a show off culture has started, as students bring expensive phones and then show them off and pictures are being taken from cell phones without the consent of people. With the introduction of Multimedia Message Service (MMS), using a mobile has become a necessity for teens, as most of them want "hand phones with a camera," since that is the style cherished by all. These pictures and video clips are put up on the Internet, which is humiliating.

UNINHIBITED PUBLICITY AND ALLURING OFFERS

Telecom companies are employing the unbridled use of media to enhance sales. Their media campaigns are promoting useless fads and trends and mainly targeting teens and eliciting students. Call rates drop are offered during night hours which are certainly not beneficial for any productive activity. These packages and free hours can only give benefit to young boys and girls who talk to each others and involve in frivolous activities. This gives rise to a new bent of mind amongst folks and a unique frustration arises. People are so crazy that they get email address from business magazines and send cell numbers for friendships and pass times.

THE HEALTH HAZARD

Using mobiles can be harmful, especially for teenagers as they are young. The addicted teens are affected by the radiation from mobile phones. According to doctors, there is strong evidence to suggest that the pulse of the microwave used in GSM could affect the normal brain activity in children. Symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and burning sensations on the skin are noted on those who made longer mobile phone calls.

SUGGESTIONS

REGULATORY MECHANISM

Fraudulent activities can be curtailed if instead of relying on distribution channels and retail outlet holders' mobile phone companies intervene and streamline record of all connections. To keep authentic data of the subscribers and proper documentation of system pay phone companies ought to provide drop box facility to their users at various public places where a standard format of information published in the newspaper should be copied and completed by the users, along with a photocopy of their NIC. This procedure or a similar one will help mobile companies to carry out the verification and authentication of SIMs.

All those SIMS that are not presented for verification within three months should stand cancelled at the end of the deadline. And in anticipation there will be many SIMs bought and sold hand to hand will never be presented for verification, thus making room for new business for the mobile companies. Those SIMs which could be verified successfully must be restored back. For all new SIMs the government should direct companies to fix a reasonable price homogeneously for all mobile companies, thus removing competition among them at this point. The mobile companies should sell the new SIMs only after obtaining personal details of the applicant, supported by a copy of his national identity card. In a move to curb the illicit sale of SIMs, the PTA should take preventive measures and assist law enforcement agencies in reaching criminals who misuse mobile phones.

Mobile companies should be made to develop control software so that if a SIM does not answer incoming calls for a certain period of time, the SIM is cancelled forthwith and made invalid for any further use of it. Thus a heavy penalty imposed on those who commit misuse of cell phones in this manner will help check the present attitude of free will to receive only selected calls. The SIM holder should have the facility to report shutting off his SIM for a minimum number of days on the sole grounds of overseas travel for a maximum of 30 days. The caller should then hear a tape: user out of country till so and so date.

BAN WHILE DRIVING

The ban on using mobile phone while driving and the law for fastening seatbelt can reduce the rate of accidents. The use of handheld phones should be discouraged however in case of emergency hands free kit is to be allowed with a voice activated dialing feature.

MONITORING STUDENTS

Young people do deserve freedom, but in a repressive society such as Pakistanís youngsters tend to misuse technology. It is therefore necessary to impose check and balance mechanism to avert ruining the moral values of coming generation. Government has recently imposed a ban on use of mobile phone in all educational institutions which is strongly criticized by students, parents and some of the human rights activists. They are of the view that communication and access to technology is the basic right of every citizen. Parents have also condemned the ban on grounds that they can no longer keep in touch with their offspring and are unable to keep a check on their children now. The ban has received flak from many quarters and it is unlikely to prolong or work effectively. But all university teachers have praised the government's decision. They think the ban is great and if all schools implement it, it would get rid students of many vices.

It is the responsibility of teachers and parents to keep an eye on students and also teach them the pros and cons of misusing the phone. They should make them realize that fun features on cell phones like texting, downloading ring tones or instant messaging are great, but it is important to use them in the appropriate time and place. Not only does this relate to courtesy toward others, even more important is to remind teens to remain aware of their surroundings (such as crossing a busy street or walking alone at night) while using the phone. Remind them not to use their phone at school. They should give out their cell phone numbers only to people that they know and trust and they should never respond to text messages from an unknown or unrecognizable number. Teach teens how to block suspicious or unwanted numbers from their cell phones

PRUDENT MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

TV commercials of cell phone companies are promoting a texting and endless talking culture amongst students. Such ads should not be aired, as they distract students and give them a non-serious attitude towards life.

PREVENTION OF INJURIOUS WAVES

The use of mobile phone should be curtailed to avoid exposure to harmful waves. If it is really necessary to make frequent and long calls, using a hands-free set could reduce the risk of radiation.