Lentis/Norms of Handheld Device Use

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The common uses of handheld devices vary widely across cultures, social groups, and individuals. This chapter explores the social conditions driving handheld device use and what has resulted from those changes. Handheld devices include mobile phones and portable media players, such as the Apple iPod.

The Evolution of Handheld Devices[edit | edit source]

One of the first handheld devices, the Motorola DynaTac 8000X.

Before handheld devices became multimedia machines, they were just phones. Martin Coooper developed the first mobile phone on April 3, 1973.[1] This innovation came to market 10 years later as the Motorola DyanaTac 8000x. The phone was large and weighed 1.87 pounds. It cost $3995. Advanced technology and consumer demand have produced a variety of sophisticated handheld devices. Portable media players have been expanding their capabilities past music players to entice consumers. After the introduction of the iPhone, Apple released the iPod touch. This handheld device incorporated all the features of an iPhone without the phone. Not only does this portable media player play music, it displays pictures, plays videos and has internet access capabilities.

By 2002, the number of mobile phones exceeded the number of landline phones worldwide.[2] Today, handheld devices have an array of features such as texting, e-mail, internet browsing, GPS, instant messaging, and camera capabilities. Many handheld devices have the ability to download and run applications.[3] These applications can fulfill a variety of purposes. Applications personalize handheld devices to fit the users needs. For example, price-conscious consumers can use Barcode Scanner, by BahnTech, to find a product's lowest prices from online retailers by taking a photo of the UPC through the camera.[4]

Functionality vs. Fashion[edit | edit source]

Though they are designed to make life easier, handheld devices are fashionable. According to Engineering and Technology magazine, handheld devices “have more to do with lifestyle.”[5] People buy them for their aesthetic design instead of their practicality. Handheld devices are common because they are affordable and they provide connectivity to friends, family, and work. Because handheld devices have saturated the market, their connectivity becomes a secondary interest. Consumers focus on their look and feel.

Consumers identify with their devices like they do with their clothing. BlackBerry produces handheld devices with a professional interface and a design to fit in the business world. Casio produces the Ravine, a phone targeted toward rugged users because of the phone's robust construction. Handheld devices represent a user's lifestyle. They also define social groups, which range from the teenage texter to the business-minded emailer. Handheld devices give a sense of identity just as a car does to its driver. For example, an AT&T commercial for the LG Shine, popularized by Lauren Conrad, appeals to fashion-minded individuals.

Intended vs. Actual Function[edit | edit source]

As with most technology, handheld devices are often created with a certain function in mind. The main function of mobile phones is to enable users to send and receive wireless calls when moving around wide areas. Portable media players are intended to give users the freedom of listening to music, viewing pictures, and watching videos on-the-go. However, society can shape technologies to perform various tasks unintended by the creator.

Teaching[edit | edit source]

In a bi-annual Teen Survey, representatives for Piper Jaffray polled high school students across the country. As of the spring of 2009, 92% of students reported owning a portable media player, and of these students, 86% had an iPod.[6] The iPod’s growing prevalence in student lives has led some educators to consider the possible impact they could have in learning environments. Grace Poli is a media specialist at Jose Marti Middle School in Union City, NJ, where 54% of students either have special needs or are not proficient in the English language. According to Poli, using iPods can transform a classroom by stimulating and engaging students, accommodating for different styles of learning. Additionally, since iPods are portable, students can learn anytime and anywhere they choose, allowing them to learn at their own pace. By accomplishing exercises such as hearing a song and arranging cut out lyrics in the right order or writing down the progressive verbs that were in the song, students use listening and oral reading skills.[7]

Health[edit | edit source]

In 2009, a study was done to test the effectiveness of using handheld devices (in this particular case, a Motorola Q Smartphone) to implement a protocol for pain management for patients with sickle-cell disease. “The device and software were designed to make coping skills practice, daily pain reporting, functional limitations, and self-monitoring of skill practice attractive and straightforward."[8] The study participants, patients with SCD ages 8–20, rated the device as being easy to use and were satisfied with the program overall. This study demonstrates the potential for handheld devices to improve upon monitoring symptoms and communication between patients and providers.

Social Consequences[edit | edit source]

Professional and Learning Implications[edit | edit source]

Work[edit | edit source]

Many companies depend on handheld devices to maintain employer accessibility, while working at home, on the road, or even on vacation. But as the line between company time and private time has blurred, employees depend on them to stay in touch with their private lives while at work, whether checking up on the kids, making dinner plans or just chatting with friends.[9] Handheld devices can contribute to distractions and counteract productivity in the workplace. Examples exist in a variety of forms, such as media players that deter a boss from getting an employee’s attention or hearing an important phone call. Breaches in etiquette are also concerning, as employees are focused on using handheld devices during meetings rather than listening to presenters.[10] Regarding the impacts of connectivity on employee behavior, much tardiness at meetings can now be blamed on cell phones when users feel they can quickly call and say they are running late.[11]

School[edit | edit source]

With more young people owning mobile devices at earlier ages, handheld device use has become an integral part of a student’s daily routine. It also introduces the need for increased supervision over its use. For example, teachers and professors have become intermediaries between mobile devices and students by implementing restrictions on mobile devices in most school districts. Shortened attention spans are an ultimate consequence because it gives people more of an opportunity to escape listening activities (presentations, classes, meetings, etc.). The president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation Ken Coran, made a statement regarding the debate of mobile devices allowed in the classroom. “It really does pose a discipline problem – it certainly provides many options for cheating and for other distractions in the classroom.” Teachers find the hand-held devices are a distraction for students and also create the potential for conflict when enforcing guidelines.[12] Researchers examining the role of media and child health are concerned with the risk is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to switching tasks constantly – and less able to sustain attention.[13]

Health and Safety Concerns[edit | edit source]

Hazardous Driving[edit | edit source]

Current research yields that handheld device use increases the risk of being involved in traffic collisions. Driving while texting is among the most lethal. Legislation is responding to these findings by increasing laws that prohibit cell phone use while driving. A report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on distracted driving states that in addition to cell phones, in-vehicle and other portable entertainment devices have complex interfaces for drivers to operate, drivers are facing more opportunity to be distracted. As of March 2010, 21 states have enacted bans against text messaging while driving, 9 states with partial bans and six states that ban the use of hand-held devices while driving.[14]

Health Concerns[edit | edit source]

Widespread mobile phone use has increased the concern and research done on the impact of radioactive waves absorbed by the human head. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no convincing research that indicates cancer is induced or promoted by cell phone use. However, there are current studies that may provide more concrete insight for consumer recommendations.[15]

Cyberbullying[edit | edit source]

Using mobile devices to capture video or images for the purpose of embarrassing or insulting others publicly has become an increasingly common form of bullying. Expert organizations such as StopCyberbullying.org endorsed by the National Crime Prevention Council, is an example of a social group that recognizes the crucial need to address this. Parents, counselors, and schools are crucial leaders in stopping the traumatic behavior.

Infiltration of Privacy[edit | edit source]

Now that handheld devices are ubiquitous and powerful enough to be considered personal computers, they’re an attractive target for hacking and misuse.[16] Threats to mobile devices can be divided into seven categories: malware, phishing and social engineering, direct attack by hackers, data communication interception and spoofing, loss and theft of devices, malicious insider actions, and user policy violations. The increasing development of security technologies are combating this, including firewalls, anti-virus and zero day anti-malware software, intrusion prevention systems, virtual private networks, data encryption, device control and data leak prevention technologies.[17]

Personal Relationships[edit | edit source]

Some social groups have also blamed handheld device use for the disruptions and lack of quality time spent with family. Some mental health professionals report that the intrusion of mobile e-mail gadgets and wireless technology into family life is a growing discussion topic in therapy.[18] These types of concerns have been the driving force for business campaigns to emphasize family values in their advertisement and public relations initiatives. An excerpt from the Journal of Electronic Commerce Research illustrates that “Needs related to strengthening contact with family” is an important factor in mobile marketing.[19] An example includes Apple Ipod’s 3Gs “First Steps” advertisement, focusing on sharing important milestones with family members.

Handheld devices can connect or divide adolescents.

Because owning a handheld device is popular, individuals stand out when they do not own one. Whether users are talking to people through the phone or in person, they purchase handheld devices to stay socially connected. While handheld devices keep people closer, these tools can divide social groups, such as adolescents. Context, an organization of anthropologists studying consumer trends, performed a study of 144 cellular phone users between the ages of 16–40 years. This study provided valuable analysis of adolescent behavior and handheld device use. It was observed that the cell phone has become a primary mode of socializing for teens and they will often avoid contact with peers that don't have cell phones.[20] The stigma of being socially shunned compels teenagers to own a handheld device. Teenagers depend on handheld devices to stay connected to peers. However, that dependence leaves out teenagers who do not own mobile phones.

Norms Among Different Countries[edit | edit source]

Handheld device use can also vary in its form and functionality according to geographical location. Handheld devices with mobile web and e-mail access has been prevalent n the case of Japanese youth, whose uses operate under the radar of adult institutions and surveillance. Mobile emailing on a handheld device has a low profile. This form of concealable communication avoids disrupting the normative structures of most places that young people find themselves in.[21] This highlights a cultural difference between acceptable public appearances and etiquette for device use.

Because handheld devices are providing an increase in convenience and availability, they can be favored over their predecessors that performed the same form of connectivity. South Africa has preferred prepaid mobiles to landline phones because of its low expenditures.[22] South Africans choose to pay higher rates on mobiles as opposed to monthly payments for landlines because they want to talk on their own terms. Mobile devices are also associated with progression for developing countries. In Tanzania, handheld devices uphold reputations and appearances for small businesses.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Economist. (2009, June 4) Brain scan: Father of the cell phone. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from http://www.economist.com/node/13725793?story_id=13725793
  2. Webb, W. (2010, Oct. 9-22). being mobile. Engineering and Technology. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete
  3. Webb, W. (2010, Oct. 9-22). being mobile. Engineering and Technology. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete
  4. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/barcode-scanner/id336944062?mt=8
  5. Batista, E. (2003, May 16). She's Gotta Have It: Cell Phone. WIRED. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from https://archive.is/20130630161303/www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/05/58861
  6. Oliver, S. (2009, April 8). Apple near saturation point for iPod, iTunes use by teens. AppleInsider. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/04/08/apple_near_saturation_point_for_ipod_itunes_use_by_teens.html
  7. Stansbury, M. (2009, May 11). iPods help ESL students achieve success. eSchool News. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/05/11/ipods-help-esl-students-achieve-success/
  8. McClellan, C., Schatz, J., Puffer, E., Sanchez, C., Stancil, M., & Robers, C. (2009). Use of Handheld Wireless Technology for a Home-based Sickle Cell Pain Management Protocol. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34 (5), 564-573. Retrieved from http://jpepsy.oxfordjournals.org/
  9. Belson, Ken. (2004, November 7). When Etiquette Isn’t Enough, a Cellphone Cone of Silence. The New York Times, p. 2.
  10. Gardener, Marilyn. (2006, April 17). Etiquette’s Electronic Frontier. Christian Science Monitor, p. 14.
  11. Batista, E. (2003, May 16). She's Gotta Have It: Cell Phone. WIRED. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from https://archive.is/20130630161303/www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/05/58861
  12. Artuso, Antonella. (2010, September 16). Talkin’ in the classroom; Province eyes cellphones in school. The Toronto Sun, p. 8.
  13. Richtel, Matt. (2010, November 22). An advance or a distraction? Learning in the digital world. The International Herald Tribune, p. 16.
  14. National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration. Overview of the NHSTA’s Distracted Driving Report. http://www.nhsta.gov/staticflies/nti/distracted_driving/pdf/811299.pdf.
  15. World Health Organization. December 2005. What are the health risks associated with mobile phones and their base stations? http://www.who.int/features/qa/30/en/.
  16. Viega, John, and Michael, Bret. (2010). Mobile Device Security. Security & Privacy IEEE. 8 (2). 11-12.
  17. Friedman, J. and Hoffman, D.V. (2008). Protecting data on mobile devices: A taxonomy of security threats to mobile computing and review of applicable defenses. Information Knowledge Systems Management. 7 (1/2). 159-180. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete
  18. Rosman, Katherine. (2006, December 9). BlackBerry Orphans: The kids fight back; Heavy use of e-mail gadgets is spawning a generation of resentful children. The Globe and Mail (Canada), p. B15.
  19. Bauer, H.H., Reichardt, T., Barnes, S., and Neumann, M. (2005). Driving Consumer Acceptance of Mobile Marketing: A Theoretical Framework and Empirical Study. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research. 6 (3).
  20. Batista, E. (2003, May 16). She's Gotta Have It: Cell Phone. WIRED. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from https://archive.is/20130630161303/www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/05/58861
  21. Ito, Mizuko (2005). Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Re-placement of Social Contact. Mobile Communications, Computer Supported Cooperative Work. 31 (2). 131-148.
  22. Donner, J. (2008). Research Approaches to Mobile Use in the Developing World: A Review of the Literature. The Information Society, 24, 140-159. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete