According to a Pew Research study in September 2009, 45 per cent of teens in the United States own their own cell phone, which today is much more than a phone. Many cell phones function as small computers, with Internet capabilities, games, pictures, videos, texting and e-mail. Cell phones for youth are mobile communication devices that they can use in a wide variety of ways. There are many concerns about the impact of the constant media input that cell phones provide for youth, but there are many advantages as well.
The most obvious benefit of cell phones for youth is their ability to help teens communicate. Although this can be a disadvantage, it is frequently an advantage. A teenager who owns a cell phone is always able to call her parents. If she's at a party or a friend's house and finds herself in an uncomfortable or inappropriate situation, she doesn't have to find the landline or ask permission to use the phone; she can always call her parents from anywhere, at any time. This is even more valuable in situations where a landline might not be accessible, such as when her car breaks down or she has an accident. For her parents, knowing that their child can easily communicate with them at any time offers peace of mind. In addition, most cell phones allow users to make long-distance calls for free, making it easier for youth to regularly stay in touch with distant friends and family members.
For a teenager, having a cell phone available in emergency situations can make the difference between life and death. A teen who is suspects she is a witness of criminal activity can call 911 on her cell phone. If necessary, she can even make the call without other people being aware by dialling with the phone still in his pocket. Youths have also used cell phones with video and phone capability to record criminal events, making them into reporters and helping police identify criminals and observe exact events in a crime.
Engagement and Education
Cell phones have also been leveraged as an important tool for youth engagement, especially in developing countries and rural areas. In places where youth are less likely to have access to the Internet or landline phones, cell phones are becoming a way for them to connect with the global world and give their opinions on issues that affect them. For example, a radio program in Burundi in 2009 allowed marginalised rural youth to share their opinions on public policy questions, using cell phones to call in to the radio show.
Some teachers and campuses are beginning to take advantage of the educational potential of cell phones. On some college campuses, students can organise their schedules and take quizzes through their phones. Some high schools take advantage of educational games for cell phones. Educators can also teach students how to use their phones as research tools, which encourages youth to take more initiative in their own learning.