Martin Cooper changed the world in 1973. He wouldn’t know how much the world would change, but the invention of the cell phone created new possibilities for communication which have only expanded over time.
Cooper wanted people to have the freedom to use a phone without being tied to their vehicle, home, or desk. Cellular technology concepts had already been created at AT&T, but he and Motorola that a more portable device was possible.
It would take ten years for the first cell phones to hit the market. Since then, the growth of cell phones around the world speaks of the explosive success of this technology. Statista puts the data into perspective.
- In 2019, the number of cell phone users in the world is expected to exceed 5 billion people.
- 63% of the global population already owns at least one cell phone.
- 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some type, with 77% saying that they own a smartphone.
- 100% of U.S. adults in the 18 to 29 age demographic said in a Pew survey that they owned a cell phone.
The advantages and disadvantages of cell phones involve how we communicate with one another, information access, and learning potential.
“We knew that someday everybody would have a cell phone, but it was hard to imagine that it would happen in my lifetime,” Cooper told CNN during an interview. “And now we’ve got almost 5 billion phones in the world. Wow.”
List of the Advantages of Cell Phones
1. Carrying a cell phone offers you another layer of personal safety.
When you have a cell phone with you, then there is an opportunity to contact emergency services. As long as you have a connection to your local tower, you can contact police, fire, or medical services should an unforeseen accident occur. If you get lost, GPS apps allow you to find out where you are. When you feel unsafe, grabbing your cell phone will give you solutions that will make sure you get home.
2. Cell phones provide fast access to the Internet.
Even flip phones today provide access to the Internet in some way. Most cell phone providers offer consumers an unlimited data plan which allows them to access information whenever they wish. Those online connections make it possible to communicate more efficiently over a variety of platforms, speak with loved ones, organize plans, or update social media profiles. The modern smartphone even streams music, movies, and TV shows to become an all-in-one entertainment and communication device which fits into a pocket rather conveniently.
3. The portability of the modern cell phone is undeniable.
Even in 1983, when the cell phone was first made available for sale to the public at $3,900 (about $10,000 by today’s standards), the portability of the device was undeniable. Instead of being tied to a landline, a pager, or a car phone, you could take the communication device wherever you went. Although there has always been a financial barrier to ownership for some, that issue is declining today as well.
A basic cell phone with limited online capabilities is priced as low as $25 today – and lower in some other countries. A basic smartphone begins at $75 to $150, depending upon the carrier you prefer.
4. The cost of maintaining a cell phone is competitive with other communication technologies.
We’ve had cell phones for long enough that the costs of long-distance phone calls, local calling areas, and connection fees are often forgotten. For just $40 per month, taxes and fees included, you can have a cell phone line with unlimited text, data, and voice minutes. In the past, you would be forced to pay for every connection and long-distance minute used over a landline.
5. It teaches children how to be responsible.
Despite the advice given by conservative bloggers like Matt Walsh, the statistics support the fact that cell phone use promotes more responsibility instead of less.
Dr. Dave Lommen, a clinical psychologist who practices in Grand Forks, suggests that between the ages of 8-11, using a phone for tracking purposes (without an internet connection) is appropriate. Internet access, he says, is appropriate for kids who are 15 and older, depending on needs versus necessity in the household.
Much of this issue depends upon the maturity of the child. Only 37% of teens actually have access to a smartphone. 56% of kids with phones use a password for their device. 70% of parents who have a teen with a phone review text messages sent and received.
6. Cell phones have become a powerful learning tool.
Devices which are used primarily for learning engagement create one-to-one computer access points which allow for better student results. School districts like Hershey, PA encourage a bring-your-own-device policy to maximize student learning opportunities. Although performance can be hurt when the primary reason for a phone is entertainment, coupled with low-income struggles that exist in other districts already, structured content access does provide benefits which are challenging to deny.
7. It serves as a necessary communications tool.
Cell phones make it possible for families to communicate more effectively with one another. They connect parents with their children, grandparents to their families, and even teachers to their students. Anyone can choose to use a cell phone for nefarious purposes, but it is that choice which should be the responsibility of the person using the phone – not the phone itself. Defenders of gun rights say that violence using these weapons involves the person, not the tool. Shouldn’t the same argument apply for cell phone use?
8. Cell phones store our photos and videos conveniently.
Most people don’t own a standalone camera today to take to special events. They bring their smartphone with them instead. Several cell phone models offer a camera which takes images above 10 MP. Top models offer front and back cameras which exceed 20 MP. When combined with apps which allow for photo editing, Bluetooth connections, email access, messaging, and much more it is easy to see why market saturation rates for phones are so high.
9. They offer useful entertainment options.
Although the entertainment a cell phone provides could be distracting and harmful, it can also provide healthy distractions. One example of this was the development of the free game Pokémon Go. Looking at the game forums, you will find people walking over 2,000 miles over the course of a single year with this game. Some people have traveled over 7,500 kilometers with their app.
You can access Yoga videos, exercise apps, nutritional health programs, step counters, and numerous other health options thanks to the convenience of the modern cell phone too.
10. You can share video in real time.
Thanks to the streaming capabilities of cell phones, you can stream live video directly from your device with an appropriate app. That allows you to connect with family and friends in real-time, wherever you happen to be in the world, assuming there is a data connection you can use. Combined with the banking, finance, and navigation benefits, modern cell phones have developed into all-in-one tools that make life easier.
List of the Disadvantages of Cell Phones
1. Cell phones cause many vehicular accidents each year.
Take any point in the day in the United States, and you’ll find over 660,000 drivers attempting to use their cell phone while driving. Even with strict laws about hands-free use, including Washington State’s driving under the influence of electronics statutes, the distraction of a cell phone creates alarming dangers on the roads. More than 1.6 million vehicular crashes occur because of cell phones. 94% of teen drivers recognize the danger of using a cell phone while driving, but one-third of them still use it anyway. 1 in 5 accidents involving a teen driver and a fatality include cell phone use.
2. Increased data access can lead to student cheating.
In 2009, CBS News reported that high-tech cheating was already on the rise in schools. About 25% of middle school and high school students said that they didn’t think storing notes in their cell phone to use during an exam was cheating. 35% of students admitted to using their cell phone as a way to cheat in school, while another 52% said that they used the Internet to facilitate cheating at least once.
Parents have a different perspective on this issue. Although 76% said that cheating with a cell phone was an issue at their child’s school, only 3% actually said that they knew their child had used the device to cheat in some way.
3. There is the cost to consider when purchasing new cell phones.
As of December 2018, the most expensive cell phone meant for the average person to use is the iPhone XS Max. The 64 GB version of this cell phone currently retails for $1,099. According to the India Times, specialty makers have created phones for wealthy customers which far exceed that price tag. The Vertu Signature Touch, for example, begins at $9,000 and goes as high as $19,000. The Tonino Lamborghini 88 Tauri retails for $5,250. Or you could opt for the Gresso Regal Gold, which retails at $6,000 and goes up from there.
4. Cell phones promote higher levels of e-waste in our trash and recycling systems.
Many cell phone owners trade in their device for a new one every 12 to 24 months. With old phones often discarded instead of being recycled, added e-waste comes into our processing systems around the world. Many of the elements of modern phones are toxic with a significant exposure, with lead being one of the greatest dangers.
5. The batteries on cell phones can overheat and potentially explode.
There is also the issue of the lithium-ion batteries to consider. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the most recent example of this issue with cell phones. After two recalls of the phone and $5 billion in costs, an irregularly-sized battery caused overheating. Combined with manufacturing issues with the device, even the replacement batteries became problematic for the manufacturer. From missing insulation tape to sharp edges protruding on the battery, the phone would eventually be banned on airplanes.
6. Cell phones create distraction points for children and adults.
Because smartphones are treated more as entertainment devices than communication or learning tools, they tend to distract people. You’ll see this almost every day in each community, as people look at their phones instead of watching where they walk or drive. The statistics on cell phone addiction can be quite terrifying.
The average person will check their cell phone 110 times during the day. 40% of people use their smartphones while going to the bathroom. 61% leave their phones turned on next to their bed – or even under a pillow. 75% of cell phone users admit to texting at least once while driving.
Most importantly, half of all cell phone users say that they feel uneasy when they leave home without their phone.
7. It increases the risks of cyberbullying.
Before the use of cell phones, students could come home and cope with bullying behaviors. Thanks to cell phones and their potential for communication access, cyberbullying can happen at all hours of the day. It even occurs on forums where the targeted individual may not know what is happening. 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, which makes the device the most common tool used for cyberbullying. 90% of teens who see cyberbullying on social media ignore the behavior. Only 10% of students will tell their parents if they experience this issue.
8. Cell phones can become addictive to people of all ages.
The average American adult spends almost 3 hours on their smartphone every day. People spend 36% more time on their cell phones than they do eating or drinking. There is a cell phone addiction test developed by the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction that communicates to you if this disadvantage might be an issue for you. There are 15 questions in total, with a “yes” answer to five of them indicating the possibility of addiction.
Created by Dr. David Greenfield, you must score a 1-2 to have your behavior classified as “normal.” With a score of 3-4, the test says that “your behavior is leaning toward problematic or compulsive use.” Anything at 8 or above offers a recommendation to see a specialist about behavioral addictions.
9. Sexual exploitation is a real threat with cell phones.
Outside of the assumption that everyone who uses a cell phone will access pornography, there are some real threats about sexual exploitation to consider. Although only 11% of teens admit sending sexting images to strangers, 80% who have done so were under the age of 18. 57% of teens say that they were asked to send an image, while 12% of girls say they feel pressured to do so. 2 out of every 5 teens say they’ve received sexually suggestive messages meant for someone else.
The advantages and disadvantages of cell phones make one point very clear. When responsible use is the top priority for this technology, for children and adults, the advantages become more prevalent. It is when cell phones are misused that the disadvantages tend to make themselves known. That is why it is up to parents, students, educators, mentors, family, and friends to encourage healthy relationships with technology. That support system will drive home the many benefits cell phones offer.