Mobile Phones Help and Hurt

When taking a technologically deterministic outlook on mobile phones, it’s hard not to think about all the ways they have changed us for the better and also for the worse. Personally, when I think about mobile phones, I simply think about communication and getting information from point A to point B. Based on the major topics in Tolu Ogunlesi and Stephanie Busari’s article, “Seven Ways Mobile Phones Have Changed Lives in Africa,” it is much more complicated than simply communication. So here is my list of “7 Possible Opposing Theories to those Purposed in the Article” to show that even though mobile phones have done great things for African people, they can definitely have harmful effects.

1. Mobile Phones for Banking : Mobile Phones for Identity Theft and Stealing

In a related article, Erik Larkin purposes that banking via mobile phones can be safe, but that the perception of security often leads to misuse (Larkin). Safety and privacy are major risks considering that paying bills, making purchases, and other transactions are performed via mobile phones by many Africans (Busari and Ogunlesi). Think about all the horror stories we hear in America about identities being stolen, or, think about losing your phone with all your banking information stored inside. What would you do?


2. Mobile Phones for Activism : Mobile Phones for Strict Governmental Control

Mobile Phones are a powerful communication tool. Who likes power? Oppressive governments. Egypt felt this fully when they cut the communication in 2008 by shutting down the mobile phone networks (Busari and Ogunlesi). While the article did mention this one major example of a negative outcome of mobile phone activism, there are more possibilities to explore. For instance, Rebecca MacKinnon of brings up many eerie possibilities, “companies running our Internet and wireless service providers, e-mail, and social networking services, as well as manufacturers of the devices we use to connect” (MacKinnon). How do think these possibilities could affect you?

3. Mobile Phones for Education : Mobile Phones as a Distraction

How easy is it for you to pull out your cell phone in a class and check your Facebook, Twitter, email, and text messages all under a minute? As an example, think about your own experiences in class. Have you ever wanted to tune out of a lecture because you had a text message conversation in progress? Or a new addictive game you just downloaded. Even though students will be distracted regardless of mobile phones, we’re attached to these devices and at times find it difficult to turn away from them for even a moment (Pottharst).


4. Mobile Phones for Entertainment : Mobile Phones as an Obsession

How often do you check your phone, even if it hasn’t made a sound, just to see if anything is new on there? A good friend of mine will ask me at least once a week if I have a phone charger, because if that thing dies he will have lost his prime medium for entertainment. Mobile phone addiction is more than just a teenage fad, it is a dependence on their use to satisfy needs for entertainment, communication, and many other necessities (Chan). Do you think you rely too heavily on your phone for entertainment?

5. Mobile Phones for Disaster Management : Mobile Phones as a Means to Create Disasters

Out of all the trillions of text messages sent in a year, some are sent from behind the wheel (Edgin). When you drive past a car accident, do you immediately wonder, “Were they texting?” The risk of causing a potentially fatal collision while driving rises 23 percent when texting is in the picture (“What is Distracted Driving?”).  While mobile phones do have the capability to bringing loved ones back together, it could also tear them apart by creating all new tragedies on the road and elsewhere.


6. Mobile Phones for Agriculture : Mobile Phone Reliance

The reliance on mobile phones creates a rift between those who do use the technology and those who don’t. It is hard for me to imagine that someday I might meet someone without a mobile phone, but for the extremely impoverished areas of Africa a phone might not be one of their main concerns. What do you think about the idea that those without mobile phones will be severely hindered in the market by those who rely heavily on them for their success? Do you think not having luxuries like the “iCow” will cause a problem for poor farmers without phones?

7. Mobile Phones for Health : Mobile Phones as False Trust

Even though stopping the flow of counterfeit drugs is an absolute necessity in Africa, the companies that supply fake or cheaply made drugs could create their own mobile phone drug databases to combat the efforts to stop them. It could be a case as simple as, “Don’t believe everything that you read (on your phone).” If one doubts a drug, they should turn to a professional or a doctor. While this may be harder to do in Africa, they should not place all their trust in the answers their mobile phones can give them when it comes to their health.

The article made compelling arguments on how mobile phones are changing lives, but considering all the questions stated above, what other ways do you think they can help and hurt?


Chan, Amanda L. “Cell Phone Addiction Driven By Impulsivity, Materialism: Study.” The Huffington Post., 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Edgin, Robert. “Don’t Text and Drive Blog.” N.p., 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Larkin, Erik. “Mobile-Phone Banking: Convenient and Safe?” PCWorld. N.p., 24 Sept. 2009. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

MacKinnon, Rebecca. “We’re Losing Control of Our Digital Privacy.” N.p., 29 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Ogunlesi, Tolu, and Stephanie Busari. “Seven Ways Mobile Phones Have Changed Lives in Africa.” Cable News Network, 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Pottharst, Sarah. “Cell Phones: A Classroom Distraction.” SMU Daily Campus. N.p., 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

“What Is Distracted Driving.” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

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One Response to Mobile Phones Help and Hurt

  1. minzunza says:

    Mobile phones are indeed a necessity in the society that we live in today. The technology in phones today allows people to do much more then maintain a conversation. If you think about what you could do with a cellphone 8 years ago and what you can do right now, it is pretty much incredible. But with every necessity comes a big responsibility.

    Banking with your cellphone is convenient, but dangerous at the same time. I’ll admit, I do check my balance and transfer money on my phone. What would I do if I lost my phone? However, I feel pretty safe about using online banking because in order for anyone to access my bank account on my phone they must first login. Although I’m pretty sure that hackers can access my account, but well a hacker can do anything.

    Activism on mobile phones is something that we see more and more in this world. Egypt is a great example, because the activism was so strong that the government had to shut down the mobile phone networks. In this video you can see how twitter was one of the biggest outlooks that people use to make their voice be noticed.

    I don’t think activism affects me because using your mobile phone to protest about something is using your right of freedom of speech.

    How much I rely on my phone for entertainment? Pretty much 50%
    It’s pretty sad but it’s true. I mean think about it, how many people when they have to go to the bathroom they take their phone to check facebook, twitter, etc. I have friends that they have to watch Netflix on their phone at night so they can go to sleep.

    Phones are not a luxury anymore; phones are a necessity to our society. I think phones are like a wild animal. You can train him to protect your house, help with manual labor, and play with him. But if you are not careful with him bad things can happen.

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