Mobile and Youth
Abba Leneke1, Abubakar Sadiq Hussaini 2.

1American University of Nigeria.

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{abba.leneke, ash.hussaini}

Abstract. “The adoption of the mobile phone by young people has been a global phenomenon in recent years. It is now an integral part of adolescents’ daily lives and is for the majority, the most popular form of electronic communication. In fact, the mobile phone has turned from a technological tool to a social tool. This paper explores the impact of the mobile phone on youth peer relationships, on family relationships and on the institution of the school. Young people use the mobile phone in positive ways to organise and maintain their social networks. However, there are also negative impacts on young peoples’ peer relationships. These can include ostracism and cyber bullying. Similarly, the mobile phone has led to changed dynamics in the family, with issues of safety and surveillance from a parental perspective leading to negotiated changing freedoms for young people. While functional coordination can be beneficial for the family, other problems can arise such as financial difficulties, non-custodial parent access, as well as over reliance on the mobile phone for safety issues and intrusion into young people lives. The impact of the mobile phone on the school as an institution has not however, received as much research. Disruptions to lessons, incidences of cheating and bullying are some of the negative impacts, while texting parents of truants seems to be the only positive for the school. Further research is needed into the consequences of mobile phone use in schools”. Key Words: Mobile phones; Youth; peer relationships; schools; families
1 Introduction
“There has been tremendous growth in the use of the mobile phones in Nigeria. It is reported that the Nigeria’s telecommunication market is the largest in the Africa. The mobile phones are available to the people right from the age of 12 years. The mobile phone technology has brought the world closer. It provided great convenience in communication among people by way of either calling or texting. Now, the mobile phones are coming up with variety of features like internet access, sending e-mails, games, access to social networking sites like face-book, listening to music, playing radio, reading books, dictionary and so on. The mobile phones are also used to overcome the feeling of loneliness. The majority of the users are in the age group of 15 to 25 years. The contacts are established instantly with the help of mobile phones which was not possible earlier. However, though the mobile phone provided many advantages, it has also caused some problems also. Some people are using the mobile phones so excessively that it assumes the form of addiction. The use of mobile phones has reduced the face to face communication. It is observed that the people sending text messages while talking to others. Even the visitors, guests are kept waiting till the mobile phone use is over. The students are using mobile phones for playing games, sending messages, calling even when the class is in progress. The mobile phones are used at places like hospitals, judicial courts, petrol pumps where their use is banned. The mobile phone use during driving is commonly observed which may increase the chances of involving in accidents.”
“While these looks very scary, the rate at which young people have adopted the mobile phone in many parts of the world is even more impressive. The mobile phone had been in existence for about a decade before young people really adopted this technology. The reduction in the cost of the handsets, their smaller size and the introduction of the pre-paid phone card in the 1990’s contributed to the surprisingly rapid adoption rate by young people (Ling, 2001; 2003). Various surveys worldwide have found high rates of mobile phone use amongst young people.”
“The mobile phone is a status symbol for young people. The features of the phone, the appearance and personalised accessories all attest to the phone’s status, with sixty percent of adolescents reporting they were keen to upgrade their mobile phone (Netsafe, 2005). It is seen as a fashion accessory that satisfies the need for individualisation by having choices in mobile wallpaper, ring tones, phone covers, carry bags and other accessories (Srivastava, 2005) and yet also signifies being part of the peer group (Williams ; Williams, 2005). Indeed, even the ownership of a mobile phone indicates that one is socially connected, accessible and in demand.”
“The One of the main stated reasons for young people’s use of the mobile phone is functionality or ‘micro-coordination” of their social life.” “Adolescence is a time of transcending the family boundaries and generating more extensive networks with peers. As all social life is based on ongoing interpersonal interaction, the fixed telephone has been an essential instrument to enable young people to organise their social life (Manceron, 1997). This ability to communicate has been extended further by the use of the mobile phone which not only enables coordination free from the constraints of physical proximity, but also of spatial immobility; that is, the need to stay at specific places (Geser, 2004). The ability of the mobile phone to directly contact a person allows young people even more flexibility and spontaneity in their lives. Young people are able to arrange or rearrange social functions extremely quickly which leads to a” “more fluid culture of information social interaction” (Geser, 2004, p.20). “However, as with all things this does have a downside, for example, where the mobile phone is used to enable hundreds of young people to gate crash parties (Weston, Atkinson, & Giles, 2005).”
“Young people, in particular, appeared to be more vulnerable to high mobile phone use. However, the neuroticism could not predict high use of mobile phone. It was stated that the technical applications like MP3 players attract more male users while females used mobile phones for mixing with friends and relatives. A study conducted to examine the relationship between psychological attributes to smart phone addiction, face-to-face communication, present absence and social capital involving 414 university students aged below 30; it was found that the level of the loneliness, shyness and present absence was positively related to excessive smart phone use. The greater smart phone use predicted lower level of face to face communication (Casey, 2012). Lu, Watanabe, Liu, Uji, Shono, & Kitamura (2011) conducted the study on internet and mobile phone text messaging dependency in which 92 men and 54 women participated. Ages ranged between 22 to 59 years. The study suggested that psychological dependency on internet and mobile phone text messaging in Japan was not limited to students but also affects adults. The study showed that 34% of men and 25% of women showed mild internet addiction and 6.1% of men and 1.8% of women showed pathological use of internet. The study found no gender difference in internet use and mobile phone text messaging. The depression was associated with both internet dependency and mobile phone text messaging dependency whereas anxiety was associated negatively with text message dependency.”
“However, along with these positive impacts, there are negative aspects to young people’s mobile phone use. These include hiding behind the technology from emotionally distressing events, such as ending relationships, ostracism of those without mobile phones and cyber bullying. Some sociologists argue that as many young people choose to text rather than to talk about awkward or emotionally difficult situations that this will impact on their capacity to interact with each other (Srivastava, 2005). As Fox (2001) concludes from her focus group interviews, texting is a very useful way of undertaking one’s social obligations to stay in touch without spending time or energy on the encounter. Texting avoids awkward silences and having to make conversation. It enables shy or reserved young people to communicate without embarrassing emotions while encouraging candid or even cheeky text (Plant, 2000). Texting, because of the character limit, by its very nature needs to be brief, without the need for social niceties.”
“In relation to the ostracism of young people who do not have a mobile phone, there appears to be contradictions in the research. In the world now, researchers have noted that non-mobile phone owners are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion (Charlton, Panting, & Hannan, 20014). An Australian study reported that nearly half of adolescents who did not own a mobile phone reported feeling left out of social interactions, and a third felt pressured sometimes by their friends to get one (Matthews, 2004). However, the majority (91%) of adolescents who owned mobile phones reported they respected young people who decide that they do not need one. Perhaps this suggests that adolescents are not ostracising non-mobile phone owners by deliberating excluding them but perhaps do leave them out because they cannot be contacted easily. It is also possible however, that respondents answered this question in a socially desirable manner.”
“Another negative aspect of young people’s mobile phone use is to bully others. Cyber bullying, as coined by Canadian Bill Belsey bullying using technology, is a phenomena which children and adolescents seem to be increasingly using to harm others (National Children’s Home Study, 2002; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004). One of the few studies that have investigated this phenomena found that most of the victims of cyber bullying were bullied by texting (Campbell & Gardner, 2005). The consequences of face-to-face bullying include increased levels of depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms and even suicide (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Rantanen, & Rimpela, 2000; Kumpulainen, Rasanen, Henttonen, Almqvist, Kresanov et al., 1998; Neary & Joseph, 1994; Roland, 2002). The consequences of cyber bullying are yet to be researched but have the potential to be even more serious than face-to-face bullying. When bullies abuse verbally, the victim may not remember every word, but with texting the targeted student can read the message repeatedly. This could seem more concrete and “real” than spoken words. There is also the 24/7 aspect of the mobile phone which allows cyber bullying to occur at any time, day or night, with no escape.”
Impact of the mobile phone on the institution of the school
“The school and the family are the traditional agents of socialisation. However, because of the expansion of the educational system due to the need for highly skilled workers, the school system has taken on an increasingly larger role in socialisation (Ling & Helmersen, 2000). The impact of the mobile phone on the institution of the school has surprisingly attracted little research attention. This is surprising given the often conflicting priorities of young people, parents and teachers in relation to the device, with teachers concerned about discipline issues in the classroom and parents concerned about being able to contact their children at any time (Srivastava, 2005).”
“The majority of researchers have found that the mobile phone leads to problematic use in schools. As Ling (2000a) states, the mobile phone is” “at cross purpose with the mission of the school” (p.15). “Whilst in school grounds students take on their prescribed student roles, free from contact with the outside world. The mobile phone however, allows the blending of roles and interrupts students whilst in their student role. Fixed telephones in schools allowed minimal disruption but with their parent’s eagerness to maintain contact, the mobile phone is becoming part of the classroom. Thus, the mobile phone has the power to undermine the schools’ authority and weaken their control over students (Geser, 2004).”
“The main issue for teachers is the disruption to classroom learning that can occur due to the disruptive nature of mobile phone calls and texting. The functionality of SMS lets students send and receive messages unobtrusively (Geser, 2004). Combining this with the ease of hiding the device due to its small size, makes it very difficult for teachers to control. Because of the short time frame in which an answer is expected to a message (Kasesniemi & Rautiainen, 2002), the excitement of finding out who has called and what the message is (similar to snail mail letters), young people are reluctant to turn off their mobile phone during class time. In an Italian survey of 9- and 10-year-olds, 86% of students who owned mobile phones kept them on during lessons (Guardian Unlimited, 2003). The New Zealand survey also found that 66% of students who took a mobile phone to school kept it turned on at school (Netsafe, 2005).”
“One positive exception to these negative effects on learning is the Brisbane” “Txt Me” program. “Recognising that mobile phone use had become a pervasive communication tool among young people, the project aimed to use this technology to support sustainable learning with disengaged 15 to 19-year-old students (Ison, Hayes, Robinson, & Jamieson, 2004). Although SMS messaging was found to be highly motivational and supportive to these young people’s learning, the project was delivered outside the traditional schooling structures.”
“One negative impact of the mobile phone is the anecdotal evidence that students are relying on their parents to solve school problems such as forgetting sports clothes. Students call parents, who ring teachers to persuade them to allow their child to participate without the correct clothing. This supports Plant’s (2000) argument that young people might be becoming less self-reliant because of the ease of communication with significant others. They are therefore unlikely to be thrown on their own resources or to encounter adventure or surprise as much as previously.”
4 Conclusions.
“The mobile phone has impacted on young people’s peer groups enabling a truly networked society. It has also impacted on the evolving relationships within the family; especially by the increased negotiating power the mobile phone gives to young people in regard to curfews and safety issues. Schools and educational settings report that student’s mobile phone use disrupts teaching and reduces student’s attention in class, resulting in negative educational outcomes. However, the impact of the mobile phone on the social institution of the school has not been as widely researched and is one which has the potential to cause many problems in the future.”

My SEN 406 class mates’ contribution to this work has been amazing and they have supported me through the long night of typing. Prof. Abubakar Sadiq Hussaini who has guided me through my paper.


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