The current prevalence of smart phones is presenting a threat to the young generation’s intellectual development ability. To start with, there is an issue with verbal and written communication skills which are on the decline with preference being given to texting using slang language and gibberish rather than properly written sentences; this reminds one of the drop in the ability to do calculations in one’s head once calculators became very cheap and accessible a couple of decades ago.
Another concern is the short attention span with young adults exhibiting addictive behavior, it is very common nowadays to see teenagers walking down the street or driving while typing messages. This addiction results in disruptive behavior in the classroom where it has become widespread for students to hold a “textual conversation” in the middle of the lecture regardless of rules that forbid such actions. The most serious concern is the use of smart phones for cheating using techniques that teachers cannot keep up with no matter how much they try, except for a total ban on having a mobile phone on one’s person during a test, which can be inconvenient and difficult to enforce. On another front, the availability of Internet services on mobile phones means that parents have a limited ability to monitor their offspring’s activity on the internet.
On the positive side, mobile phones have facilitated the communication between instructor and student with an around the clock exchange of messages regarding teaching material, exam and project deadline reminders, and class schedule changes. Additionally, they have proven to be good tools for parent-child communication especially in countries with volatile security conditions such as Lebanon, although they sometimes result in a class of 20 students collapsing in midstream to 5 attendees or less, when some parents have a panic attack and instruct the “child” to return home immediately!
It is interesting to note that when mobile phones first became popular there were many concerns about their potential harm in terms of their possible positive correlation with the incidence of cancer; the industry has succeeded tremendously in burying and suppressing such apprehension. In Lebanon even children as young as one year are allowed to listen to music or play games using the parent’s mobile phone despite its being risky and quite expensive. It is getting to the point of cell phones replacing TV sets as the new baby-sitter, with a total disregard of their impact on the child’s health.
It is true that the mobile phone technology has contributed positively to mankind on several fronts including increasing global awareness, supposedly spearheading and facilitating political uprisings, in addition to accessing real-time rather than censored news. However, like everything else in life, this technology has had a downside which needs to be monitored and controlled.