The possession of mobile phones by young people has become a global phenomenon in recent years and indeed an integral part of teenagers’ daily lives. For the majority, it is the most popular form of electronic communication and undoubtedly the most benefitting interactive hub for most teens around the globe.
An empirical study about uses and abuses of mobile phones has revealed that teenagers are the most affected among mobile phones users. According to a 2007 study by research firm IGR, 50-70% of 12-14 years teenagers make use of mobile phones and the number is higher among 15-17 years old. It has also been observed that one in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day or 300 texts in a month or less.
Do these teenagers really need mobile phone. They would undoubtedly say that mobile phone is essential to their happiness and social standing.
With the development of technologies, mobile phone which is firstly known for reaching out to families and friends through phone calls and text messages now performs multipurpose task/functions with the aid of in-built applications like games, cameras, videos, music, internet access and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Wechat, Skype, Whatsapp and so on. It has re-shaped, reorganized and altered several social facets particularly on teenagers.
Mobile phone usage among teenagers no doubt has got both positive and negative impacts in their lives. Some of the advantages include, having information at their finger tips. With the rise of smart phones and internet access, information or ideas are guaranteed. They source for information and familiarize themselves with things around them. Homeworks and general studies are no longer as daunting/challenging as before.
Moreso, with the help of some useful applications and search engines like Dichongries, Wikchonaries, Google, Bing,Yahoo etc, they search and research, information and at the same time gain more ideas on multiple issues and know what goes on in the wider society hence, improving their knowledge.
Mobile phones also enable them to develop their skills, become creative by having the chance to practice creative thinking with the use of digital contents.
However, in abundance of skills opportunities, they avail themselves at that tender age to new opportunities like making stories out of pictures, creating movies, documentaries and also ameliorate their reading and writing skills using mobile phones.
Mobile phones have, however, improved connection and networking among teenagers in reaching their families and friends with the availability of social networking sites on mobile phones like facebook, twitter, whatsapp, skype and others. They communicate/interact with their loved ones through chatting, exchange of pictures and video calls without missing a moment, especially when distance is a barrier.
It also enhances their living and provides them with security like being able to reach out for help while in dangerous situations or getting directions in unfamiliar terrains while their parents are also able to trace their whereabouts.
Mobile phones usage among teenagers acquaint them with so many things in the absence of their parents or caregivers. They are no longer ignorant of things around them; they read widely and explore by themselves, become knowledgeable on the difficulties formerly encountered. With internet access, they clear their doubts.
Nevertheless, amidst these advantages so outlined, mobile phone usage among teenagers, is still identified as one of the problems seen in the society today. Its negative impact has deluded the mind, behavior and attitude of many young people today. For instance, in schools where mobile phones are allowed to be used by students in classrooms, they get easily distracted while lessons are going on because instead of encoding what is being taught, they rather engage themselves in chatting with friends, visiting one website or another. They no longer give proper time to their studies, rather they spend much time playing games, listening to music watching videos, surfing the internet and texting with their mobile phones.
These teenagers who collect money from their parents for purchase of textbooks and other learning materials for school, in return use the money for recharge cards and mobile subscriptions which will enable them gain access to internet where they download games, music and videos of all sorts.
Due to over exposure to the internet, teens who are more vulnerable become victims of online bullying, intimidation and all forms of harassment by online preys. Sex predators trail minors who stay alone and try to take advantage of their innocence. How often we hear or read of teenagers whose lives are endangered after chatting with an “innocent stranger” who turn out to have diabolic motives.
Moreso, teenagers are easily impressionable. The pressure to feel at par with their peers who use expensive mobile phones, irrespective of whether their parents can afford it or not can cause self esteem issues in such easily impressionable teens. This may resort to stealing, lying and extortion of money to be able to afford such.
This great attachment to their phones, especially at home is capable of causing danger to their health like brain tumor due to the phone radiation, lack of concentration or sleep deprivation.
As vulnerable or impressionable as these teens could be, from exchange of phone numbers, the female gender thus begin to develop feelings towards the male counterparts and can be lured into deceitful act like sex, exchange of explicit photograph thus exposing them to sexual activities at that tender age .
Due to over exposure to internet activities, as they visit one website to another, downloading all sorts of applications, games, videos irrespective of age restriction, they become victims of harmful contents online. Sometimes, they are misled by the information seen online. As a result, they begin to see the world from another perspective.
Chisom resides in Port Harcourt.
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