Mobile phones these days have become an inseparable part of our lives. They bring about a high degree of convenience and comfort to us. But the disadvantages of mobile phones should also be given some thought before declaring what a complete boon they are. They have negative impacts on a variety of fronts. Among the various disadvantages of mobile phones, we shall be specially examining the social, economic and health angles. Although they influence our lives greatly, the disadvantages of mobile phones are no longer insignificant to the extent that we can ignore them. For instance, there is even a unique phobia attached to being out of mobile phone contact – nomophobia! Some of the major disadvantages are listed as follows.
Mobile phones use Radio Frequency (RF) waves in order to transmit signals to and fro. The RF signals from mobile phones fall within the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Now these microwaves are responsible for heating effects, the very concept which a microwave oven utilises in order to heat food. Thus holding a mobile phone to our ear for a substantial part of the day, as many of us today do, is effectively equal to holding an electronic microwave emitting device which shoots microwaves into our head. The mobile phone towers generously dotting all our cities also emit the same radiations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the USA states that public exposure from cellular telephones at a Standard Absorption Rate of 1.6 watts per kilogram is the safe limit. In other words, microwave emissions which cause a temperature increase of no more than one degree Celsius are deemed to be safe. However, the non-heating effects of microwave radiations also need to be examined closely before we reach a stand on the topic.
A compelling instance of health hazards as one of the disadvantages of mobile phones was an experiment performed by Swedish researchers where they studied the effects of exposure to microwave radiations for two hours on rats’ brains. They found that a large number of dead brain cells were found in the rats’ brains after fifty days. Degeneration of brain cells in humans leads to serious diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease among others. Although, the linkage of mobile phone usage with Alzheimer’s and cancer are not completely established, however, even a modicum of truth in these findings has major ramifications. Mobile phone usage in USA has gone up from 13 million mobile phone subscribers in 1993 to 223 million in 2006, almost twenty times in thirteen years. This implies that now, a much higher number of people are exposed to these harmful radiations than thirteen years back. Although not yet completely proven, mobile phones are also associated with a number of other ailments such as cancer, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, headaches and sleep disturbance to name a few.
Mobile phones today display a host of features apart from the usual calling and texting functions that they were originally associated with. From checking email to storing all kinds of files to streaming music and videos, they can perform all the functions an average computer can. And it is this very feature that allows people in the possession of mobile phones to become anti-social at times. Teenagers and young children often get addicted to mobile phones and use them for watching videos, messaging and gaming. Thus along with the real purpose of the mobile phone, a large chunk of their time is also lost due to these unnecessary activities. Mobile phones can be very distracting in certain settings such as schools and offices.
The fact is mobile phones allow any-time, any-place connectivity which may not always be a good thing. Landlines allowed people to remain in touch while maintaining a certain level of privacy which mobile phones do not. The ubiquity of mobile phones could prove to be a source of irritation at times. So while it is good to remain in touch, continuous incoming calls and the need to answer them could be highly annoying. Also, advertisements and constant sales calls by mobile phone companies is a glaring disadvantage of mobile phones today.
In recent times, distraction due to mobile phones has also led to serious incidents. For instance, the use of hand-held as well as hands-free phones while driving has been banned in countries like Japan and India due to their potential accident hazard. In a report on distracted driving fatalities released by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2009, out of 5,474 people killed, roughly 20% were killed by drivers distracted by cell phones. Though this is not a generalised statement, it does to some extent display the level of danger that mobile phone usage in inappropriate situations leads to. A number of crashes and accidents have been attributed to the drivers responsible for them being distracted by texting or answering calls.
The requirements which used to be fulfilled by land lines a few years back have now speedily been taken over by cell phones. Due to the high degree of connectivity, portability and convenience they offer, almost every member of the family finds it useful to own a personal mobile phone. This results in a greater number of handsets per household and ultimately higher expenses as compared to landline bills. The spending on mobile phone bills has laready overtaken landline expenditure in the US. Businesses have issues with employees making frivolous calls through mobile phones assigned at work. This increases unnecessary costs, however, there are a number of ways by which these calls can be monitored and non-official usage can be singled out.
With the rise of mobile apps, games and mobile internet mobile has also become one stop shop for entertainment. Companies suffering from poor productivity and efficiency due to mobile distractions is becoming common these days.
Mobiles have also been used for thefts using their built in camera systems etc. This is one of the reason that why camera phones are not allowed in sensitive areas of many companies. Certain companies do not allow camera mobile phones at all!
all said and done, but we still need them!
Majority of us are mobile phone users and it is important to be educated about the risks and benefits of mobile phone usage. While there are a number of disadvantages of mobile phones, their benefits ultimately outweigh the negatives as has been seen from the rising trend of mobile phone usage in the past two decades. Caution should be exercised when using mobile phones while driving and in offices and schools. However after taking into account all of these facts, it is easy to concede that mobile phones bring a whole new level of comfort to our lives. Thus, the disadvantages of mobile phones, while being highly significant, do not pose a serious threat to their existence.