Many people consider cell phones as a harmless way to make their lives easier. Indeed there are many reasons why cell phones are a beneficial part of life. However, simply accepting this level of technology, that is now by most individuals’ sides twenty four seven, is dangerous in ways that were not necessarily predictable. The insidious nature of cell phones are one reason why they can be so harmful. People do not always realize the attention they are devoting to their devices. Not only does this distract people from the best moments in life, but it can also put them in harms way without realizing it. There have even been instances of individuals walking directly into traffic or into a body of water because they were too distracted by their cell phones to notice the impending doom (Current Science, 2000). Additionally, there is limited longitudinal research available to determine whether or not constant cell phone use can cause negative physiologic changes in the body (Volkow et al, 2012). Certainly, physical safety is a huge reason why cell phones are harmful. Aside from threatening physical safety, cell phones detract from meaningful one on one conversations, can be costly and are extremely problematic to solely rely on because technology can fail us. For these reasons, it is important to consider limiting cell phone use dramatically.
One of the most obvious dangers of cell phone use occurs when an individual is texting or talking on the phone while driving. Texting while driving may be particularly dangerous as ones eyes are not on the road; however, research suggests that even talking on the phone can impair reaction time as much as being drunk beyond the legal limit (New York Times, 2009). Not only is this a danger to the driver, but also to any passengers, pedestrians and other drivers on the road. Even though laws are in place to prohibit hand held cell phone use, having an emotional conversation on speakerphone can be just as distracting (Health Risks of Using Mobile Phones, 2016). This is an obvious danger that should be prohibited.
Driving and using a cell phone is an obvious danger, but there may even be hidden dangers to cell phone use in general. The World Health Organization (WHO) collected research on cell phone use to determine whether or not the radiation, termed Radio Frequency-Electromagnetic Radiation, is harmful to human beings (Firstenberg, 2000). Results suggested that the radiation might be “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” however, results were not conclusive enough to fully answer whether or not cell phones are safe for daily use. Because tumors can take 10 to 20 years to develop, there is limited longitudinal research in this area and it may be years before we know of all the harmful effects (Cable News Network, 2016). Some proposed side effects from a 2015 study that was completed in Germany include: dizziness and migraines, less sleep and poor sleep quality, decreased sperm count, limiting certain proteins in the cell, skin irritation and behavioral problems in children (Stop Cancer Fund, 2011). While these side effects are not confirmed, one should seriously consider whether or not they wish to be the guinea pig in this experiment without knowing the long-term consequences.
The questions of physical safety and cell phone use are many. Yet, that is not the only problem with overuse of cell phones. As people reduce communication to simple presses of the button, they are missing out on one on one interaction that is so essential to human life. Isolation is a scary thing to think about. It can result in depression and anxiety or just a general sense of disconnection (Wartella & Jennings, 2000). One might not realize that their social contact is limited until they are already experiencing the symptoms. And, because cell phone use is too prevalent, if they are causing these issues they may not necessarily be attributed to cell phones. More research is needed in this area. Yet, one area that has been researched regarding communication and cell phones is in young people. As growing children develop in a world that is overrun with technology, they are no longer learning communication skills from their peers (Lopez-Rosenfeld et al, 2015). Even when peers do communicate online, they often use unchecked grammar and even are more likely to speak disrespectfully to another (Lopez-Rosenfeld et al, 2015). Bullying is prevalent via cell phones and parents and teachers are not always able to keep track of this because there are privacy features on phones. Individuals should be aware of these potential harms and reconsider their children’s and their own constant use of cell phones.
When considering what we do know about the harm involved in cell phone use, it certainly constitutes a need for additional research regarding what we do not know. The unintended consequences of using a cell phone will eventually reveal themselves whether we wish them to or not (Consumer Reports, 2003). It is important that we be able to predict these harmful consequences and stop them in their tracks. Some research even suggests that one should hold a cell phone an inch away from the face and avoid holding the device in a pocket or other means of close proximity (Current Science, 2000). Few consumers are aware of these suggestions. Even fewer understand how little research exists on this topic. It is unethical for consumers to be making such serious and uninformed decisions. Cell phones are dangerous in many contexts and it important that people understand these risks before using them on a daily basis.
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- Firstenberg, Arthur. “Radio Waves: Invisible Danger.” Earth Island Journal 15.4 (2000): 25. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
- “Health Risks of Using Mobile Phones.” Health Risks of Using Mobile Phones. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
- Lopez-Rosenfeld, Matías, et al. “Neglect In Human Communication: Quantifying The Cost Of Cell-Phone Interruptions In Face To Face Dialogs.” Plos ONE 10.6 (2015): 1-9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
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- Volkow, N. D., Tomasi, D., Wang, G. J., Vaska, P., Fowler, J. S., Telang, F., … & Wong, C. (2011). Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism. Jama, 305(8), 808-813.
- Wartella, E. A., & Jennings, N. (2000). Children and computers: New technology. Old concerns. The future of children, 31-43.