Sherry-Go-Round: A topic for debate — cell phone use
by Sherry Kughn
As usual, whenever I create a project for my high school students, I learn more than they do.

Last week, I paired my students for a debate project. One of them lacked a partner, so I joined him as we began researching information about the use of cell phones among students. My debate partner began his research on their positive use. I chose the downfalls.

I thought the task would be easy, as I had heard the common stories about how students have used cell phones to cheat on tests and how they have sent inappropriate messages to their love interests. However, when I completed my initial research, I was startled. There were many more issues than I had ever thought about.

Here are a few:

Loss of sleep – Studies by the JFK Medical Center in New Jersey and other medical entities revealed that students not only stayed up late to use cell phones in their beds, but also their friends often interrupted their sleep throughout the night.

High cost – An article that appeared in the fall in the “Wall Street Journal” stated that some parents were spending as much as $4,000 a year to outfit themselves and their children with cell phones and services. Interviews with parents revealed that they had reduced spending on food, clothing, and other basics of running their households to afford cell phones.

Addiction – Too much of anything is dangerous, but cell phone use is creating psychological disorders, namely anxiety about being separated from one’s cell phone. The condition is call nomophobia. “Time” magazine focused an entire issue in August, 2012. It explored the impact on our lives of mobile digital devices. An article in the magazine stated that twenty-five percent of us check our cell phones every 30 minutes, twenty percent every 10 minutes. The Pew Research Center reported that students spend almost two hours a day using their cell phones.

Social engagement – We do not need statistics to tell us that young people (and us older ones) spend less time taking part in face-to-face communication because they (and we) are busy talking or texting with others via cell phone. Socially, interruptions of any kind are rude and affect face-to-face communications in a negative way. Such behavior gives social psychologists plenty to think about in order to determine where the impact of cell phone communications will lead.

There are many more issues: some students report feeling intimidated because their friends have better cell phones and accessories than they do; students who text or talk too much while driving or walking are in danger of accidents; students are vulnerable to becoming addicted to playing games on cell phones; drug dealers in schools have a perfect way to communicate with buyers; and some students steal cell phones because they are so plentiful, small and, well, “steal-able.

I’m sure there are other negative issues, too, that I have not thought of.

Any new thing brings about change, and cell phones are no exception. I can remember back in the 1960s when my parents purchased our family’s first telephone. I am sure they had some concerns at the time, as no one knew how landline phones would affect our lives. Today, just like back then, parents and teachers would be wise to discuss such issues with each other and with young people. We must avoid the pitfalls and embrace the advantages. Such are the benefits of sound debate.

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© 2013