Mobile phones and teenagers: Impact, consequences and concerns - parents/caregivers perspectives
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Citation:Ravidchandran, S. V. (2009). Mobile phones and teenagers: Impact, consequences and concerns - parents/caregivers perspectives. Unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Computing, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/1270
BACKGROUND: It is a common sight - cell phones (mobile phones) in the hands of people, especially teenagers. Literature has provided in-depth evidence of the uses, advantages, disadvantages, impact, consequences and concerns about the use of mobile phones. Why teenagers fancy this device, is an interesting observation where the experts attach its significance to teenagers’ identity factor. The usage of mobile phones has re-shaped, re-organised and altered several social facets. Particularly focussing on teenagers’ mobile phone usage, literature has provided evidence of them being used for both positive purposes and negative reasons. Is the gap between uses and negative impact widening? Are consequences and concerns superseding positive uses? How do parents/caregivers perceive the overall usage of mobile phones by their teenagers? Are there any solutions, possibilities and avenues to address such problems? These are the basic queries that drive this study. PACG is the acronym for parents/caregivers used in this document. OBJECTIVES: This study is centred around parents/caregivers’ (PACG) perceptions of their teenagers’ mobile phone usage: • To gain an overall understanding of teenagers’ mobile phone usage (positive purposes and negative impacts) • To understand the influence of texting on teenagers (such as text language on proper language, text messaging on communication skills) • To understand the effects on teenagers’ physical (such as driving, health) and psychological (such as bullying, un-monitored time usage, family time) safety issues. METHODS: A mixed methods approach was employed to explore the research problem. Quantitative data was collected through questionnaires (18 closed and 02 open-ended questions) and qualitative data through interviews (approximately 21 questions). The survey and interview participants were parents/caregivers of teenagers aged 13 to 19 years irrespective of their teenagers’ mobile phone possessions. They were broadly divided into seven ethnic groups. 115 PACG completed the questionnaires through survey and 07 participants from the survey sample were interviewed (one from each ethnic group). RESULTS: Teenagers possessing mobile phone/s were 96.5% (n=111). A further breakup of age groups indicated that all the 17-19 olds had mobile phones. In addition, not possessing mobile phone/s is higher in the age bracket 15-16 year olds when compared to 13-14 olds. Chi-Square tests established significance between independent and dependent variables, in the following relationships. The results are briefly mentioned. • ‘Gender’ with ‘teenagers sharing with PACG, if bullied: A high percentage of PACG said that their teenagers share with them if they are bullied. It was also evident that girls share more with PACG, if bullied, than boys do • ‘Ethnicity’ with ‘Interruption of personal time with PACG’: A high percentage of PACG said that their personal time is to ‘some extent’ interrupted due to social bonding enabled by their teenagers’ mobile phone usage • ‘Ethnicity’ with ‘PACG feeling secure with teenagers’ un-monitored times usage’: A high percentage of PACG said that they feel secure with their teenagers’ mobile phone usage during un-monitored times • ‘Ethnicity’ with ‘PACG feeling using mobile phones while driving is risky’: A high percentage of PACG said that using mobile phones while driving is risky • ‘Ethnicity’ with ‘PACG feeling to ban mobile phone use while driving’: A high percentage of PACG supported a ban to use • ‘Ethnicity’ with ‘PACG feeling to have an age limit to possess a mobile phone’: More than fifty percentage of PACG supported a minimum age limit for possessing a mobile phone either by saying ‘yes’ or ‘probably’. CONCLUSION: Parents/caregivers of this study express both positive and negative impact towards teenagers’ mobile phone usage. On a positive note, PACG perceive that mobile phones are very useful devices for communication and co-ordination of activities. They also find that they are compulsory as they are used as safety devices especially in emergencies. Voice and text features are considered as the basic required facilities in teenagers’ mobile phones by PACG. On the negative side, PACG express that teenagers are addicted and obsessed with texting, while some of the PACG feel that it distracts the teenagers from their study time and other important activities. Some PACG hold the service providers responsible for this because of texting plans. Bullying and abusive messages have been perceived as the major problem mediated by mobile phones. PACG express that teenagers with their mobile phones are out of control for them. They also add that teenagers lose control over the information enabled by their mobile phones. Every interviewed PACG expressed concerns on internet access via teenagers’ mobile phones. The overall findings from this study reveal that parents/caregivers’ perceptions of teenagers’ mobile phone usage are not satisfactory. Although they express a mixed opinion, they lean towards negative impacts. A very high number of interview participants expressed the view that negative impacts outweighing positive purposes with teenagers’ mobile phone usage. This further leads to recommendations from PACG on proper usage, future research, avenues and possibilities to implement solutions for problems. PACG mainly perceive that educating teenagers (on consequences and tackling issues) and providing mobile phones to teenagers from the age of 14 years (the legal age to stay home unsupervised and mature enough) will help in ameliorating the negative impacts. In addition, PACG support to ban using mobile phones while driving. These are the outcomes of the study.