Ring. Ring. “Hello, this is the Wood household. Please leave your name and number, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks. Have a nice day!” This situation is a typical replication of an answering machine for a landline phone, a once common object found in every home. In the past, people were not even able to move into another room to have a private conversation on the phone due to the fact of a cord; however, today is a different story. Most individuals own some type of mobile device, whether that be an old-fashioned flip phone or the latest smartphone. In fact, many people forgo their landlines because they feel that everyone can just contact them through their cellular number. Society today always expects a person to be able to be contacted no matter where he is or what he is doing. Different viewpoints on the topics of cell phone usage exist and are debated. Cell phone usage has changed dramatically through the years, with an increase in usage amongst children, and the capabilities that these devices can handle have both negative and positive consequences.
A Brief History
Cell phones have transformed through the years, both in popularity and specifications. Motorola was the first company to commit to the cell phone industry by producing the DynaTAC 8000X, which weighed two pounds and stretched thirteen inches long. The first carrier to release the phone was Ameritech. To advertise the new technology, characters in television shows like Zack Morris used these devices (“Could you hear me then?” 2015). These phones were the beginning of a new age where people could be contacted when they were not in a building with a landline. Although these phones were somewhat bulky with their large antenna and buttons, individuals were excited about the new technology of the time. At the very beginning in 1985, there were 340,213 cell phone users. The number drastically increased to 33,758,661 in 1995 and 207,896,198 in 2005 (“Could you hear me then?” 2015). People had just started to comprehend what benefits could arise from carrying around a mobile device.
In the early 2000s, the cell phone industry started to grow, evolving into the creation of smartphones. One of the most popular brands of smartphones, Apple, released its first model in 2007 called the iPhone. Steve Jobs, the innovator, had a central idea in mind when he was creating the phone: to make it “fit comfortably in [a person’s] hand and in [his] pocket” (Ross, 2018). During this time, Jobs knew what the consumer was looking for: a smaller device with more functionalities. However, a few years later, the market increased the mobile phone size. Samsung, another major cell phone company, “was the first to release a truly huge phone in 2011” (Ross, 2018). Ever since, the competitive market has been increasing the size of these devices and the technologies they can perform. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans own some kind of cell phone today. Smartphones lead the cell phone user population at 77%, up from 35% in 2011. Some adults are solely dependent on their smartphones for internet access since the device is always carried with them (“Demographics of mobile,” 2018). People have jumped on the bandwagon that a person needs a smartphone for communication and daily functions. The original inventors of the cell phone never imagined how complex the average mobile phone would be now compared to the 1985 edition.
Cell Phone Usage Pros
Cell phones have lately become an essential part of the American life. From the useful applications and location services to security and communication, smartphones are the primary phone in the cell phone market today. One of the latest features includes communication to users during emergencies like flash floods or tornado warnings. Based on a user’s location, “cell phone towers that are within the warning will send out a ‘blast’ of the information and all cell phones within the range of that cell tower will receive the warning as a text message” (Yasumiishi, 2015). This system’s goal is to limit the number of deaths and injuries from natural disasters. As technology is always advancing, just recently, FEMA tested a “national emergency notification system…in the country with the words ‘Presidential Alert’” (Fearnow, 2018). This new system allows the President to communicate to every cell phone user in the country at once if the United States is in danger. Many believe this new system will succeed since everyone always carries their phones with them. When cell phones have access to users’ location, safety alerts can be obtained.
Another key feature that cell phones provide to consumers is security, both physically and mentally. In a London Security Journal, some of the different ways that the mobile devices can make a person feel safer are discussed. One such way is that the technology gives people the opportunity to connect to anyone at any time with the press of a button. Additionally, photos, videos, and recordings can be used in criminal cases and offenses since it is extremely easy to save the evidence (Tennakoon, 2012). People feel a sense of safety knowing they can reach a family member in any emergency, a fact that was not always the case. Also, cell phones have allowed people to take more risks and travel since they always have a way to communicate with someone; no one ever feels like they are alone.
The largest benefit consumers receive from having a smartphone today include the access to unlimited applications. In general, “a mobile app is a software program [a person] can download and access directly using [a] phone” (“Understanding Mobile Apps,” 2018). From listening to music to playing games and working on school assignments, the devices offer endless opportunities to everyone. Many times, these applications are free or have minimal costs. As schools and businesses become more technologically advanced, mobile applications can be used for communication between many people and to efficiently complete tasks. This modern software streamlines many actions today and opens the door to a new world of endless opportunity.
Cell Phone Usage Cons
When it comes to having a smartphone or any cell phone in general, not everything is all fun and games; there are important negative associations to be familiar with. One side effect that is a concern for many people is cell phone usage causing cancer. Cell phones work by communicating to nearby cell towers through RF waves. When a person is calling someone else and holds the phone next to his face, the RF waves are transmitted into the body. The American Cancer Society and other laboratories have been conducting research whether these RF waves cause damage to the body. Although the organizations have received mixed results so far, The American Cancer Society recommends limiting exposure by texting and using the speaker phone instead of physically talking with the phone next to your face (2018). Cancer is a dangerous disease and knowing it may be an effect to cell phone usage is a huge worry. Using cell phones to communicate is possibly a major health concern even though the devices are extremely useful.
Aside from cancer, another concern for cell phone users is the distraction the applications can cause for both driving and sleep. If people talk on their cell phones while they are driving, the drivers are more likely to have “slowed reaction time and increased crashes and near crashes” (Tennakoon, 2012). People are unable to concentrate on both their phones and the driving conditions, so one of those aspects is neglected; all a crash takes is for a driver to not pay attention to the road for a second. On the sleep side of distractions, Dr. James Schroeder, a pediatric psychologist, believes sleep deprivation is a huge concern for young people with cell phones. Specifically, sleep patterns can be interrupted due to having the device in bed or interacting with the phone right before a person goes to sleep (Loesch, 2017). The applications and light exposure will increase brain activity when a person is trying to shut down and sleep. Although this article focuses on effects of cell phone usage on children, the concepts can pertain all cell phone users. Cell phones create many distractions for users because of the addictive nature of the technology included in the device.
A major concern for many cell phone and smartphone users today is addiction. Most cell phone addiction is caused by the device’s applications. However, the applications are built to maintain the user’s attention for long periods of times, which is why people are on the phones almost all day long. In 2017, the typical American adult spent two hours and fifty-one minutes on their smartphones every day. David Greenfield, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, even developed a Smartphone Compulsion Test for people to determine if they have a problem (Karnasiewicz, 2018). A recent American study found that young people feel “physiological symptoms, like increased heart rate and blood pressure” when they do not have their mobile phone with them (Karnasiewicz, 2018). These experiences are withdrawal symptoms from using a cell phone constantly. Cell phones are a dangerous technology that cause many to have an addiction problem.
Children with Cell Phones
Children and teenagers are receiving cell phones and smartphones at younger and younger ages as the years go by. Many parents feel pressured as society almost forces them to provide the technology for their children, whether the parents want to or not. In fact, in a 2017 Nielsen report, “45% percent of US children 10 to 12 had their own smartphone with a service plan, as opposed to using just Wi-Fi” (Howard, 2017). This statistic is just the children that have a smartphone with a data plan and excludes those who may have other types of phones or no data plan. Little do these privileged children know that having a mobile device, like a smartphone, was not always a commonality and is still not one in other countries. In fact, many countries’ children do not receive cell phones until they are older than the age many children receive phones in the United States. The varying ages that children have phones is the reason parents wonder when they should present their child with a phone.
Many experts have different opinions on when children are ready for their own mobile phones. Dr. James Schroeder, a pediatric psychologist at St. Vincent in Indiana, “uses a three-tier system for his recommendations on mobile devices” (Loesch, 2017). The first tier consists of a person not receiving a mobile phone until he is eighteen years old; on the other hand, tier three states a child will obtain a cell phone at the start of middle school. Schroeder is hesitant to provide children with mobile devices because he acknowledges some of the dangers like sleep deprivation and distraction. His focus includes placing the power of shifting society’s viewpoints on children with cell phones with the collective body of the parents. Another doctor, Tatiana Falcone of the Cleveland Clinic, believes it is important recognize a child’s sense of responsibility before handing him a device where he has access to the entire world (“Study links cell phone,” 2018). Dr. Falcone understands that each child’s situation may be different, so the parent should evaluate the child’s character qualities to help make a decision about a mobile phone. With today’s technology, there are ways to restrict a child’s access to certain applications to protect them from predators or other negative effects. From setting passwords to turning off the Wi-Fi and setting passwords, parents invest time in exploring ways to shelter their child while still exposing them to all the positives associated with a mobile phone (“Understanding mobile apps,” 2018). Parents today are cautious when presenting their children with mobile devices.
From the original cell phone to the latest smartphone, technology has changed drastically; whether for the better or not is debatable to many. Mobile phones started out large in size with a small amount of capabilities; interestingly enough, after the decline in size for phones, they have started to become larger due to the interest in the market. Cell phones have many pros and cons associated with their applications and abilities. Finally, the discussion whether children should be receiving phones and at what age they should be given to them is a topic with different viewpoints and ideas. Cell phone usage keeps progressing faster than ever as more people can invest in this new technology. The question that lies ahead is how the next generation of cell phone usage will impact society?