It’s no secret that mobile phone use has increased over the last decade. Every teenager I see, in public and private spaces, has their eyes glued their iPhone or Samsung screen. And if you haven’t got one of those types of mobile phones, you must be behind the times.
Personally, my iPhone is my organizer. I have my messages, contacts and photos on it, just like everyone else. But I also use the other applications like the calendar to keep track of my busy schedule or the GPS when needing directions. These features are important to me, and the convenience of the accessibility to the Internet and social networking sites through apps make communication a whole lot easier. However, I use my phone when I need too, unless I am in an awkward situation or am dying of boredom. What do I mean by this? If I need to check my work roster and let my friends know when I’m working, I’ll use my mobile. However, if I’m the passenger in a car, or out to lunch, I don’t find it necessary to be on my phone stalking my own Facebook news feed. I do that in my own, free time. My best friend though, is always on her mobile, to the extent where I wonder if she’s even listening to me half of the time. Unless she has ten times more interesting apps on her phone than I do, I can’t understand the appeal.
When discussing the topic of mobile audiences in our tutorials, our tutor asked us what is the difference between saying something through a text message, than in real life, face-to-face. My peers and I came up with similar answers. Talking via text message is easy. You can hide your emotions and feelings when text messaging, avoid confrontation, yet also have the courage to say something you wouldn’t normally say face-to-face. This makes text messaging very impersonal, especially compared to hand-written letters. Writing a letter requires more time, effort and practice. You cannot simply delete a misspelled word without having eraser smudges or add a happy or sad emoticon to express your tone of writing. With new mobile text messaging features such as auto-correct, text messaging has become increasingly easy to do without proper concentration, almost in a way making us dumber and lazier. Even I am guilty of texting my mum when she is only a room away from me in the same household.
In a 2009 survey conducted by the Princeton Survey Research International, the report stated that, for teenagers, “the phone has become such an important conduit for communication and content of all kinds that turning it off is nearly unthinkable.” The report also revealed, “Older teen girls aged 14-17 lead the charge on text messaging, averaging 100 messages a day for the entire cohort…Text messaging has become the primary way that teens reach their friends, surpassing face-to-face contact, e-mail, instant messaging and voice calling as the go-to daily communication tool for this age group.”
Although mobile phone use is an important form of communication, it also raises a number of moral panics, such as:
- Teenagers being exposed to explicit images and “sexting”
- Encouraging people to be lazy and “dumb-down” their grammar and punctuation
- Health risks associated with radiation from the device
Since texting has become the primary method of communication for teenagers, it has also taken a role in the sexual lives of teenagers and young adults, introducing a practice called “sexting”. Another 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project discovered that “…4% of cell-owning teens [in America] aged 12-17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging.” Author of the report, Amanda Lenhart explains “[Sexual images] have become a form of relationship currency. These images are shared as a part of sexual activity, or as a way of starting or maintaining a relationship with a significant other. And they are also passed along to friends for their entertainment value, as a joke or for fun…Teenagers have always grappled with issues around sex and relationships, but their coming-of-age mistakes and transgressions have never been so easily transmitted and archived for others to see.”
When it comes to these issues regarding mobile phone use and teenagers, the only way I believe to resolve it is to take control in the home. By having older figures educate their children on the consequences that can occur, teenagers may think twice before they click on the send button. These consequences can result in damage of reputation, bullying, blackmailing and Internet exposure which can lead to more serious issues in the future regarding working jobs. I believe it is also important to encourage a healthy living active lifestyle and to set leisure time aside, away from technology.
To read more surveys and reports on teenagers and mobile phone use, visit the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Lenhart, A., 2013, Teens and Sexting, Pew Internet and American Life Project, viewed 26/09/2013, http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/Teens-and-Sexting/Overview.aspx
Lenhart, A., 2013, Teens and Mobile Phones, Pew Internet and American Life Project, viewed 26/09/2013, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Teens-and-Mobile-Phones/Summary-of-findings.aspx?r=1