Youth and Cellphones

Cellphones have been widely adopted by pre-teens and teenagers for everyday use. Cellphones are used to micro-coordinate day-to-day activities between friends and acquaintances or with parents. The cellphone also offers a sense of security if the child needs to contact a parent in an emergency.

A cellphone provides what the sociologist Rich Ling in The Mobile Connection (2004) has called an “anytime-anywhere-for-whatever-reason type of access” to a youth’s social network. A cellphone allows for flexible planning when arranging social events. It is the immediacy of cellular communications that typifies mobile youth culture.

The main uses of cellphones by youth

  • Fostering social interaction skills,
  • A communication channel to others independent of the family,
  • Coordination of weekend, especially nightlife, activities,
  • A means of exploring their sexuality, and
  • As a safety net when there is a need to contact a parent in an emergency

Youth with mobiles are usually, or learn quickly to become, technically competent in their use of their cellphone’s features such as SMS messaging, picture messaging, or using mobile chat services. In addition, their model of cellphone, ringtone or wallpaper all offer youth a way of showing off their social status or fashion consciousness in the digital age.

The cellphone plays a role in youth identity formation – fostering a sense of self-esteem, showing social connectedness, and providing a teen with an independent means of communication. The mobile phone therefore plays a key role in a child’s development as an adolescent. In many instances, this mobile youth culture adds to the generation gap between parents and youth.

Reasons Why Parents Want their Child to Have a Cellphone

As a parent you cannot escape the fact that cellphones are part of today’s culture. If your child doesn’t already have a cellphone you probably feel the pressure to provide them with one. There are several reasons why you may feel you want your child to have access to a cellphone:

  • A concern for your child’s safety,
  • To co-ordinate transport for your child,
  • To enable your child to fit in with their peers that have cellphones,
  • The desire to ensure there is an umbilical chord open between parent and child within the home,
  • To provide a child with way of communicating with divorced parents, and
  • To provide your child with a means to learn how to budget.