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     Volume 4 Issue 55 | July 22 , 2005 |

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Cell Phones
A Youngster's Favourite Toy

Shahana Ferdous

The use of mobile phones among adults is widespread but their adoption by youngsters is quite phenomenal. Mobile phone companies are introducing exciting services and features targeting this segment and are getting pretty good at it. Think about your own home. You will find your son or teenage brother deep in debt because of reckless use of their cell phones. Responsible behaviour regarding mobile phones cannot be expected from youngsters. In their excitement of talking to their friends, they literally forget everything about the high call charges but when their lines get barred or the monthly invoices come into their hands, they are aware of their excessive use of the mobile phone.

So why do youngsters want mobile phones of their own? Sakib, a first year student of a private university answered, "Mobile phones give the feeling of connectedness to the world from just about anywhere at any point of time and I like this aspect about these wireless gadgets."

But not all young people think philosophically like Sakib and there are so many among them who would like to have mobile phones simply because their friends have them. In many cases, parents buy cell phones for their children and they do so for security reasons. By giving mobile phones to their children, parents feel safer about letting them out more and allowing them to stay out longer.

Mobile phones are changing communication habits as well as social behaviour of the users but among youngsters this change has been the most dramatic. Meeting friends or hanging out together no longer seems as appealing as before. What they really like is just talking hour after hour with their buddies on the cell. They are so adept at establishing social networks sitting at home! When chatting on mobile phones gets tedious (which happens rarely), they resort to text messaging. Their texts range from stupid jokes to mid-term examination routines and their fingers rarely get tired of moving restlessly on keypads. Playing games, composing ring tones, downloading logos, all these are becoming popular among the young. Actually there is no need now to go to the playground since mobile phones themselves are turning into playgrounds for them.

Youngsters often carry cell phones like fashion accessories to school, college or university and forget to switch off their ring toners in classrooms, which can get very annoying and distracting. For many young people, owning a mobile phone improves their social status. They tend to discriminate between people who have mobile phones and who don't. They even sometimes consciously avoid contact with peers who do not own mobile phones.

Dependence on mobile phones among the youngsters is another common scenario. They have developed the habit of turning to mobile phones for every single need. Mobile phones are rapidly replacing address books, diaries, watches and alarm clocks.

Constant use of mobile phones is believed to have serious health hazards. Microwave radiation from mobile phones may cause cancer, affect blood pressure and damage body cell. Some studies have indicated that young people are more vulnerable to radiation emissions. Surprisingly, many youngsters are well aware about the health risks that involve talking on cell phones but this does not stop them from continuing to use the mobile. "Radiation emissions from mobile phones seem less threatening to me than the environmental pollution which is much worse," says Bonna, a bright young university student.

Mobile phones are, in fact, emerging as a controlling force in the lives of young people. Their approache to mobile phones is also changing. They no longer regard mobile phones simply as communication tools. Rather, mobile phones are becoming like intimate friends. Continuous use of mobile phones by youngsters is giving rise to serious concerns such as increasing debt problems, an exaggerated sense of superiority and bratty behaviour, not to mention possible health hazards. All these issues need careful and judicious consideration. Young people can be given proper education and training both at school and home on debt management skills, mobile phone etiquette and on the ways of using mobile phones safely and sensibly.

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