Nobody can live without a cell phone these days and it seems like everyone has one within reach 24 hours a day. While a mobile phone can do many things that were unimaginable just 20 years ago, it's still just an instrument like any other. Cell phones come with both advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Positives of Cell Phones
Mobile phones have many uses, both on a personal level and beyond. They can be used to help make your life, career, and business better and easier.
Reduced Call Costs
It cost around $12 to make a three-minute call from Boston to London in 1950. The same call was $3 in 1960. Today, you can do it for free with Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp, among others. This fact alone opens many new opportunities that were previously impossible. You can call friends and relatives in other countries without worrying about costs. You can also make new business connections with minimal overhead.
Increased Productivity With Mobile Hotspot
Turn on your phone's mobile hotspot and tethering functionality to start enjoying the Internet on other gadgets. In effect, this takes the cellular (3G/4G) connection on your cell phone and opens it up as a Wi-Fi access point for your other devices, like tablets and laptops. This can be very convenient when away from your home or office. It is also generally more secure than connecting to free Wi-Fi connections, like those offered at coffee shops.
M-Commerce Business Opportunities
For those with strong business acumen, the total user base of six billion people reveals the massive market of m-commerce (mobile commerce instead of e-commerce). This translates to an unprecedented number of opportunities for those who sell things with m-commerce and anything related to mobile phones. The thousands of iPhone and Android apps are good examples of people (app developers) who are aware of the massive potential of mobile commerce.
Easy Monitoring While Away
Mobile phones are equipped with a GPS system so that the user can be tracked. This feature provides security, especially in monitoring children and improving crime prevention. There are, however, cell phone location tracking laws that were issued by states to protect user privacy. A cell phone also provides convenient access to real-time monitoring when used in tandem with Internet-connected cameras (IP cameras). This makes it easy for parents and business owners to monitor their homes and stores remotely.
Access to Social Networking
Having ready access to your social media accounts through your smartphone anytime you need it can be a big plus and this is part of why over 70% of social media users access it through a phone. With platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, responding immediately about events can be critical for your company's mission and it's easy to do when you're not tethered to a desk and computer. It's also a more affordable option for many people who can't afford a computer but can still use social media on a phone.
A Learning Tool
Cell phones can be wonderful learning tools for adults and children and there's a wide variety of educational options that can be accessed from a smartphone. You can literally engage in learning anywhere, whether killing time on an airplane or subway ride or hanging out at the beach. Some schools are even using smartphones in the classroom to help students with their lessons in an attempt to leverage this new technology positively.
Phone Access Anywhere
People born after a certain age can no longer remember the days of owning a landline as your primary phone. Smartphones have made it possible to "cut the cord" for more and more people, not only saving money but also allowing them to use a phone anywhere they want. As a result, the percentage of Americans with a landline in the home continues to drop each year as smart phone use rises.
Having a cell phone can be a life saver in many emergency situations. It used to be if your car broke down on the side of the road you would have to walk until you found a phone. Now you can simply call from your car for assistance. Likewise you can quickly contact emergency personnel if someone is having a medical issue without needing to find a landline, and this can be critical if you are outdoors or in a more "remote" area where finding a phone will take too much time. Cell phones are not only great for contacting help but also providing it as you can find a variety of apps with basic medical information, survival advice and even tools to use such as a flashlight or compass app.
Alarm Clocks and Watches
Many cell phone users no longer use such once common devices as alarm clocks and watches. These can both be easily replaced by the cell phone, make them a very useful and often indispensable tool for daily living. It also reduces the need to spend money on multiple items as well as new batteries for your watches.
One interesting aspect of cell phone use that was not anticipated was the rise of "citizen journalism" using a phone's video and photo options. People can now take on-the-spot instant video of new events such as traffic accidents, protests, natural disasters and more and upload these media files to sites like YouTube and Facebook. Many times news organizations will access these files to play to larger audiences and even provide monetary compensation. Even professional journalists have begun integrating their cell phones into their reporting jobs.
Parent Child Contact
Another benefit of having a cell phone is the chance it gives parents to reach their kids easily throughout the day. This can make coordinating busy schedules, school pickups and outings with friends much easier. It also allows children to get in touch quickly with their parents in case of an emergency. While there are many articles highlighting the downsides to cell phone use by children, any busy parent can attest that they can make life much easier and improve communication and safety.
Ease of Taking Photos and Video
Having a cell phone has completely changed how we take photos and videos. In the past one would need a camera and a video camera separately, as well as other expensive equipment. Film needed to be processed which meant the chance you could lose potential photos. This is no longer an issue as you can take as many photos and videos as your phone's storage can hold, and viewing and saving them is instantaneous. This has allowed many more people an affordable way to preserve memories, engage in social media and even become amateur photographers and videographers.
Increasing Time Out of Office
With a cell phone one can easily conduct many facets of their normal work life. This makes it easier for people to not feel tied to a physical office and has allowed greater flexibility to handle "life" issues such as doctor appointments, personal errands, school pickups and even sick or vacation time. If you no longer are stuck only being able to do work at a desk in a building, employers are more willing to allow staff to spend more time working remotely leading to happier, more balanced workers.
More Productivity in Work and Personal Life
The use of apps on a cell phone has literally changed some people's lives just through the use of productivity apps. There are apps that can make your business life easier such as mileage tracking, calendars, to do lists, and project management apps. Likewise you can find an app for almost any personal tasks, such as shopping lists, fitness trackers, travel planning and even apps for improving your sleep and meditation.
Negatives of Cell Phones
Anything that's used in excess can result in negative outcomes. The same is true with using mobile phones. Here are several drawbacks for consideration.
Changes in Reading Habits
As people are getting more accustomed to reading brief texts, they're starting to read fewer actual books. According to research by the Pew Research Center, teachers and parents have confirmed that teenagers have been avoiding reading books, which are many times longer than text messages. Reading habits have changed across the age groups. Publications have been forced to adapt.
It's not only concerned parents who are telling their children to stop calling and texting while driving, but also the National Safety Council (NSC) and the state legislators. According to the NSC, someone is hurt in a car crash every eight seconds and 47 percent of them are due to using cell phones while driving.
This explains why state legislators have approved laws banning the use of cell phones while driving. While select states ban calling while driving, which is allowed with certain safety conditions, almost all states ban texting while driving.
Teen Drivers and Cell Phones
While the dangers of distracted driving due to cell phones affects all age groups, it's particularly at high risk to teenagers. Teenagers are less experienced drivers than adults which makes texting while driving more likely to result in accidents. In fact texting while driving makes teens four times more at risk of an accident than adults who text and drive, and over 20% of fatal crashes involving teens were due to cell phone use.
Cancer and Health Risks
According to an article written by Patrick J. Skerrett, the former executive editor of Harvard Health, cell phone use stimulates brain activity, which in itself is neither good nor bad. However, the primary concern is the possibility that excessive cell phone use could cause brain cancer. Cell phone antennas are known to emit radio frequency energy, which is a form of non-ionizing radiation. And since tissues nearest to them can absorb it, health experts at the National Cancer Institute are concerned about how cell phone use is affecting the health of users.
The first Apple iPhone was introduced in 2007. In the decade that has followed, the environment impact has been tremendous. The Greenpeace report "From Smart to Senseless: the Global Impact of 10 Years of Smartphones" gives a glimpse into how the production of new and the recycling of old smartphones affect the environment long term.
It takes about 70 kilograms of carbon dioxide to produce one iPhone. And it takes about 1,000 years for a used electronics, which includes mobile phones, to decompose in the environment. And don't forget about the 50 million tons of electronic waste dumped into landfills worldwide every year either.
An unfortunate outcome of the rise of the internet and social media is cyberbullying, which can happen at any age but hurts children in particular. One of the reasons parents often struggle with giving their child a cell phone and internet access is the chance their child may become a victim. Research has found that having a cell phone not only opens teenagers up to more cyberbullying but also raises the potential that they may engage in bullying others.
Along with cyberbullying, another hazard that is potentially more harmful to children is sexting and the sending of pornographic images. A cell phone can make it very easy for unsavory individuals to get access to your child and send inappropriate material to them, as well as the possibilities of more pernicious predatory behavior. In another common scenario, immature teenagers may send nude photos and sexual texts to each other without thinking about the long-term consequences. These can become easily shared to others across social media which can be a humiliating and upsetting ordeal. Of course this can happen as well to adults and cell phones make it very easy to engage in behaviors one can regret soon after.
Cell phone use has had a negative effect on how people relate to each other. It's common to see couples and even whole families out to dinner with each person fixated on their phone without relating to each other. Research has also found cell phone use can make couples less trusting of each other and have decreasing levels of satisfaction in the relationship. When your cell phone becomes something you feel dependent on every day, even when you're spending time with a loved one, it damages the bond and makes your partner feel less needed.
Unable to "Turn Off" Work
While having a cell phone has made remote work so much easier for people, the flip side is it has made it difficult for many people to "turn off" their jobs and achieve a normal work-life balance. It even can lead employers to expect your constant availability since a cell phone makes that possible. The constant input from your cell phone can even lead you to longer work hours whether it's been requested from your employer or not. Many people find it hard to ignore the emails and notifications that pile up on their phone during their off hours and will continue working when it's much healthier to take a break.
Cell Phone Addiction
Overuse of cell phones has become so strong among a portion of the population that cell phone addiction is now a very real mental health disorder. Approximately 10 to 12% of the population that uses a cell phone are believed to have a cell phone addiction. It often occurs in concert with other addictions, such as online gaming and pornography addictions. It can be damaging to one's relationships, work life and exacerbate health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
In this modern age, not using a mobile phone would be almost impossible. Most activities depend on communication with others and with using certain mobile apps. Simply take the time to be aware of habit changes, as well as growing concerns over health, safety and the impact on the environment. Like all tools, use cell phones responsibly.