The Social Effects of Increased Mobile Phone Usage

Mobile phones might as well be considered as the greatest communication tool of this generation. It has greatly changed the way that people communicate. Initially, the mobile phone was merely a tool for making calls. However, its use has become so widespread and mobile phone technology has evolved so much that it has become a gadget of all sorts. It now also transcends social boundaries and as more people use it, it has started to greatly affect the daily lives of people both negatively and positively. It has brought about new dimensions that need attention and even requires legislation to adapt to technologies provided by mobile phones.

Numerous other social issues arose because of the rise of mobile phone usage. Youth Mobiles Phones Usage in Japan Since mobile phone usage is so widespread, most people can now be contacted at any time. While this may be good, this may have some negative drawbacks as this may cause social disruptions. While mobile phones can be a convenient tool, it can also become an “intrusive social presence”. During a cooperative activity such as a conversation or while inside a movie house, a mobile phone ringing can be interpreted as an “impolite” gesture (Che, 2001). The mobile phone is an effective tool for overcoming social boundaries.

In Japan, while both the pager and the mobile phone were marketed for business-oriented people, teenage girls quickly got a hold of the technology and used it for personal communication. While it was perceived that mobile phone usage of Japanese teenage girls is undisciplined, the communication is still within the sphere of institutions run by adults such as family and school. According to Matsuda, “young people are becoming more selective rather than superficial in their social relationships”. Also, the youth in Japan only very rarely hang out in their houses and a mobile phone transcends this social boundary.

At home, mobile phones allow the Japanese youth to communicate with each other without the prying eyes of parents and siblings. Also, young Japanese girls would prefer to call their friends on their mobile phones especially male friends (Ito, 2003). In the school setting, the use of mobile phones has also become a problem. Teachers deal with mobile phones differently but almost all educational institutions ban the use of mobile phones inside the classroom. Even as mobile phones are banned in a classroom, many students can still be seen with mobile phones on their desks claiming that they use its other functions such as the clock or notepad.

While all students said that they would not make or take calls while inside the classrooms, they admitted that they sometimes read or send messages. The use of mobile phones in school happens mostly during lunch break or after class hours where students usually meet up with their friends (Ito, 2003). In the public sphere in Japan, mobile phone usage has faced very little prohibition since it is practically safe to use mobile phones even in public transportation. It was only when young users started using mobile phones that it faced some restrictions.

As the media is starting to notice that there is increasing poor mobile phone manners, use of mobile phones in public transportation such as trains and buses were banned. Sending text messages is not a problem in public transportation but voice calls become an issue as many complain of listening to idle chatter. When people take calls when in public transportation, they usually make it short or speak in a low voice sometimes even covering their mouth when speaking. It is also common that a person taking a call will receive glances or glares from other passengers.

Because of this, if the caller is uncertain if the person he/she is calling is at home, the caller will first send a text message to confirm this and ask if he/she can call. The Importance of Mobile Phones in Jamaica Mobile phone usage in Jamaica upped mostly in the spring of 2001 when Digicel entered the telecommunications industry in the country as its services started to include remote areas which previous providers failed to address. Digicel also sold mobile phone handsets that are affordable for Jamaican citizens.

Basic handsets were sold for an amount equivalent to one week’s salary of a person with a domestic job. The mobile phone service became more attractive compared to home phones because users can control their expenditures with prepaid phone cards. Mobile phones in Jamaica also allowed for better communication in the transnational family. Emigrant parents who leave their children to study in Jamaica have better communication with their children because of the mobile phone. Also, communication between couples who live far from each other because of work is.

What used to be one conversation in the span of three months can be a weekly or even a daily thing. While mobile phones have been a great help to communication in the transnational family, it also comes with drawbacks. Calling outside of the country is not cheap and people usually have to put constraints on their budget to be able to buy prepaid cards to make calls outside of the country (Horst, 2006). The Rise of Text Messaging Text messaging or SMS (short message service) has become a very popular feature of mobile phones. It has been patronized by a lot of countries because it is a cheap way of sending messages.

Data indicates that 72 percent of Western Europe owns a mobile phone and more than a billion messages are sent in a span one month. Text messaging is mostly patronized because it is instant, location independent and personal. In one survey done by Nokia, 80 percent of 3,300 people under the age of 45 claimed that text messaging was the most used function of their mobile phone. It is usually the lower age groups that patronize text messaging. Ninety percent of teenagers claimed that they use the text messaging more than making calls (Reid & Reid, 2004).

Text messaging has gained much popularity in many countries one of which is the Philippines which is considered as the text capital of the world. Filipinos developed a love for text messaging for a number of reasons. In the past, calls were charged per minute even if the call made is less than a minute. Per minute charging is priced at P8. 00 and much of the population cannot afford to make too many calls. Filipinos then realized that they could send the message in an SMS spending only a peso. Now, even as providers modified call charging rates to per second charging, texting has already been embedded in Filipino culture.

Filipinos have also made texting as an avenue to make friends, send jokes or anecdotes and even build relationships with the opposite sex. Since the use of text messaging is so widespread, local providers have established an unlimited texting service wherein the subscriber is charged a certain amount to be able to send an unlimited number of text messages for a limited time (Andersohn). Anthropologist Bella Ellwood-Clayton delved deeper into the texting and dating scene in the Philippines. In her study, she observed that “A man might send an innocuous text message to a woman.

If she replies quickly and with warmth, the texts back and forth increase in familiarity—and innuendo. ” She also explained that text messaging is a “non-threatening way to initiate communication with someone versus a phone call or face-to-face methods, which demand greater bravery and often directness of intention” (Moore, 2007). Another study noted that text circles form close groups of “textmates” whom they text regularly and perpetually. In a study, texting was also found to be an avenue for a person to express his real-self. These people are usually those that are socially anxious and lonely.

For people identified as “texters”, texting is used to help them develop new and closer relationships (Reid & Reid, 2004). Mobile Revolution Mobile phone technology has also brought the age of E-Revolution. If in the United States the Internet is the main tool for E-Revolution, in the developing countries, it is the mobile phone. In the developing world, mobile phone usage exceeds internet usage. In China in 2005, there were 350 million mobile phone users but only 100 million internet users. In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile phone users also exceed internet users with 52 million mobile phone users and only 5 to 8 million internet users.

In the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, mobile phones did not replace the land line phones but it became a hit as it provided a personal communication channel (Zuckerman, 2007). Mobile phone technology has brought about political changes in countries such as the Philippines and Ukraine (Zuckerman, 2007). In the Philippines, text messaging was the key to the success of the second People Power Revolution in the country which resulted in the ouster of President Joseph Estrada.

Text messaging allowed the quick sharing of corruption charges against Estrada. After impeachment complains were junked, it took only 88 hours for demonstrators to assemble and hold protest at the Edsa Shrine. The mobilization or “mobile-ization” was so large and people gathered so fast that it was so decisive. Even Estrada himself admitted that text messaging led to his downfall. During the week of the People Power II Revolution, it was reported that over 70 million text messages were sent. The Philippines may as well be considered a trendsetter in political standards.

The first People Power Revolution in 1986 in the Philippines which ejected dictator president Ferdinand Marcos from power led to similar uprisings in other countries like South Korea, Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe. The events of People Power II can be made an example for other countries. In Ukraine, text messaging helped broadcast election fraud in 2004 as people protested in the streets of Kiev to demand a revote which was ultimately given to them. Using text messaging to initiate protests is difficult for police and authorities to trace and even block because of anonymity (Zuckerman, 2007).

Privacy Issues Before, a phone was something which originates in the home or an office. Phone booths are used to make public calls, but even then, phone booths have doors with partition and standing to close to someone using a phone booth may be considered an invasion of privacy. With the age of mobile phones, privacy becomes an issue. In the article by Tsirbas (2007) entitled Cell Phones & the Age of Rudeness, he narrates an incident when you would be in a restaurant or any other public place and someone is talking loudly on his/her mobile phone.

You cannot help but hear the conversation in great detail. And the caller turns to you and says, “Do you mind? ” In this scenario, you are suddenly violating his/her privacy. The real problem lies in the reality that communications devices such as mobile phones demand that we reconsider and redefine our notions of public and private space, and how these are used. Consider the iPod. Slipping on its white ear buds gives the signal that you are unavailable. You do not wish to be disturbed. You exist in your own private world with its own private soundtrack wherein you are the DJ and you’re in control.

And that’s fine. You have signaled your need to be left alone and are not impinging on the freedom of others to do as they please. (Tsirbas, 2007) Talking on a mobile phone in a public space is not like listening to your iPod as the conversation takes place in the public sphere in a “mediated private space created by the wireless connection” (Tsirbas, 2007). Mobile Phones Theft/Crime The use of mobile phones has also brought about other dangers. Mobile phone theft is increasing in many countries. In one research undertaken by Halifax Home Insurance, Britain loses ?

390 million every year because of mobile phone theft. It is estimated that there are 2 million stolen handsets in the UK every year. In Merseyside, schools have calling for banning school kids from using mobile phones after Merseyside Police indicated that using mobile phones unconcealed in public attracts thieves and increases the probability of personal injury resulting from thievery (Mobile Phone Theft Increasing Across The UK, 2006). In New South Wales, mobile phone theft is also a worsening problem as mobile phone theft increased by more than 100 percent in the last three years.

Unarmed robberies aimed at stealing a mobile phone increased by 275 percent. According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, mobile phone theft is still increasing because carriers fail to block phones that have been reported lost or stolen. If the mobile phone is not blocked, the thief only needs to replace the sim card in order to use the phone again. Bureau director Dr. Don Weatherburn, “the spread of mobile phones had created new opportunities and incentives for crime which need to be blocked as soon as possible” (NSWBCSR, 2001).

Since mobiles phones are small items of great value and are usually used in public would make it a good target for thieves. The increasing ownership of phones marks it as a very likely item to be stolen but this does not necessarily mean that the phone is to blame since it is a handy and a convenient gadget. Stolen phones can also be sold easily because even as stolen phones can be blocked from use, it can easily be unblocked by changing the IMEI number. This can be done by using equipment available in the black market. Every phone has a distinct IMEI number (Harrington & Mayhew, 2001).

The advent of mobile phones has also brought about new ways for people to commit crimes. Text scams are quite popular now. Many phone users receive text messages that they never asked to receive and they are being charged for it. While services such as receiving news, jokes and football scores can be fun and useful, some can be misleading. Many mobile phones subscribers are mislead into subscribing into a service they do not want and they are being charge a premium rate for this. Many network providers have been found to be showing unscrupulous behavior because of text scams.

If someone receives a text message about subscribing to a service and the person replies with something like “no thanks”, the computer might take as an agreeing to the subscription for the service. Another common mistake is when taking free ringtones, as this may also mean subscribing to a service hidden well within the terms and conditions. Some unscrupulous companies also break the rules on purpose by not mentioning the need to pay for the service in the terms and conditions and sometimes even refusing to stop sending messages.

Complaints against these text scams have skyrocketed over the past thus there is a need to set things straight (Emmet, 2005). Using mobile phones while driving Drunk driving can land you to jail but did you know that using a mobile phone while driving can land you to jail too. Two new studies have concluded that talking on the phone while driving or even just walking increased pedestrian and driver accidents. The study recommends the crackdown on mobile phone usage by pedestrians and drivers.

The study discovered that mobile phones used to help curb pedestrian and driver deaths as people are quickly able to call for help in case of an accident. However, the effect was reversed when phone users reached a “critical mass” of 100 million (Rutgers University, 2009). These studies looked at cell phone use and motor vehicle accidents from 1975 through 2002, and factored in a number of variables, including vehicle speed, alcohol consumption, seat belt use, and miles driven. The studies found the cell phone-fatality correlation to be true even when weighing in factors such as speed, alcohol consumption, and seat belt use.

(Rutgers University, 2009) A similar study also discovered that drivers who talk on a mobile phone while driving have a four times increased likelihood of being involved in a serious crash. Whether handheld or hands-free, the likelihood of being involved in a serious accident is the same. Many states have suggested the use of hands-free when there is a need to make a call while driving. However, the results of the study indicated that using hands-free or handheld does not matter since the likelihood of an accident is just the same (WebMD, 2005). A number of states have already enforced laws that ban texting while driving.

Washington is just one of these states (Cellular News, 2008). New Jersey also adopted similar laws (Hester, 2007). Camera Phones and Privacy Another social concern regarding mobile phones is camera phones. Before, taking pictures was limited mostly to special occasions and this is largely because bringing a camera all the time can cause inconvenience and having to develop a film is not cheap (Dunphy, et. al, 2003). While it does not raise any other concern raised by an ordinary camera, it is different and it does have a few extended social impacts.

A person with a camera phone can easily take photos of other people without them knowing since the person might simply appear as sending/reading a message or using the phones other features. Pictures taken on a mobile phone can also be easily sent to other people or posted in the Internet. The camera phone has become a nifty tool for voyeurs. In some countries like South Korea and Japan, camera phones must make a distinguishable sound when a photo is taken to avoid photos being taken in secret (Swensen). Some facilities and movie houses have also banned camera phones as a security measure.

In Ireland, many negative reports about the camera phone appeared on the media immediately after its release. Parents were concerned that their children might be photographed in “inappropriate settings” and are calling for the ban of camera phones in schools. Security staffs in Parliament buildings have also been advised to keep a close watch on camera phones as these gadgets are banned inside Parliament buildings. Restaurants have also been clamping down on camera phones to protect their customers. Additionally, camera phones have been banned in gyms so as to prevent snaps of gym-goers on equipment or in changing and shower rooms.

On the other hand, camera phones in Japan have been abused differently. There are many widely reported cases of men taking snaps up the skirts of women which urged legislation to impose penalties for those that resort to such acts. If convicted, the offender can spend up to six months and jail and must pay a fine. As the use of camera phones become more widespread, privacy will become much more of an issue (Dunphy, et. al, 2003). According to Crawford (2005), camera phones can also be a tool for sexual harassment in the workplace and employers must address this issue.

“By not having a camera phone policy – or failing to enforce it if one is in place – your company is left wide open to significant liability for sexual harassment and invasion of privacy actions, among others. ” (Crawford, 2005) Corporate espionage is made easy by camera phones. A disgruntled employee can snap and transmit photos of a product in development, the specifications of new products, or secret ingredients, as well as pictures of your well-designed manufacturing and/or distribution center that keeps you ahead of your competition. (Crawford, 2005) Conclusion Mobile phones have brought about a plethora of social concerns.

While it came with a lot of benefits, it has also become an avenue for abuse such that legislation required that new policies be put in place. In Japan, it gave young people better communication channels with their friends. In Jamaica, it allowed transnational families to better communicate with their children and loved ones. The mobile phone, particularly text messaging, has also become an essential tool for E-Revolution. It helped bring about political change in the Philippines as well as in Ukraine. Mobile phones have also brought about the rise of new crimes such as text scams and mobile phone theft.

Also, because mobile phone ownership has reached a critical mass, there has been an increase in vehicular accidents as more drivers use their mobile phones while driving. Just like any new form of technology, it is useful but later on, its negative social effects started to manifest. There is great need for the people to adjust to the new age brought by mobile phones.

References Andersohn, M. The Text Capital of the World. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from http://www. isnare. com/? aid=242485&ca=Culture Cellular News. (2008 January 2). Washington State Bans Texting While Driving.

Retrieved March 19, 2008, from http://www. cellular-news. com/story/28343. php Che, A. (2001). Impact of Cell Phone Disruptions on Perceptions and Impressions. Crawford, N. (2005 October). Misusing Camera Phones at Work: Employers Run The Risk of Liability Absent Written Policy. Atlantic Coast In-House. Lawyers Weekly. Court, J. People Power II in the Philippines: The First E-Revolution?. Dunphy, J. , Prendergast, G. & Scolai, P. (2003). The Emergence of Camera Phones – Exploratory Study on Ethical and Legal Issues. Communications of the International Information Management Association, 3.