Cell Phones’ Influence on Social Life

Nine out of ten Americans own a cell phone, and more than six out of ten own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center.  Worldwide, cell phone usage is expanding rapidly, with 3+ billion currently subscribed, and an estimated 6.1 billion subscribed by 2020, per the mobile communications company, Ericsson.  With this rapid technological diffusion comes social impacts that the following five facts explore.  

Thanks to Learning Life intern Samantha MacFarlane for helping to research and draft these facts.

Cell Phones in SchoolThe Mass Phone-Checking Compulsion

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. cell phone owners check their phones even when their phone does not alert them of a new message.  Forty-four percent sleep with their phones so as not to miss messages during the night.  Twenty-nine percent view their cell phones as “something they can’t imagine living without.”  

Source:  Aaron Smith.  2012.  The Best (and Worst) of Mobile Connectivity.  Pew Research Center.   

To Be Young, Part 1: More Texting, Faster Irritation

Younger Americans on average text far more than they call or email, and expect faster response than older Americans 50 and over, who, in contrast, prefer calling and emailing, and don’t get so easily irritated with slower response.

Source: Ira Hyman.  2014.  Cell Phones Are Changing Social Interaction.  Psychology Today.   

To be Young, Part 2: More Text Breakups

Fifteen percent of young adults report ending a relationship via text message, and 25% report being dumped via text.  Older Americans reported fewer text dumps, and those 50 and older reported none whatsoever.  

Source: Ira Hyman.  2014.  Cell Phones Are Changing Social Interaction.  Psychology Today.   

Phones, Class and Performance: The Impact of School Phone Bans

Students in British schools that banned cell phones performed better on high-stakes tests than students in schools that did not ban phones.  Moreover, low-achieving students exhibited the best test improvements, while high-achieving students experienced no improvements, suggesting that low-achievers are more likely to be distracted by cell phones.  

Source: Beland, Louis Philippe, and Richard Murphy.  2015.  Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction and Student Performance.  Centre for Economic Performance.  

Cell Phones Facilitate Impulse Giving

About 20% of American adults have donated money online, and 9% via text message on their mobile phones.  In at least one famous case of “impulse giving” — the January 2010 Haiti earthquake — text donors alone donated an estimated $43 million to relief efforts.  Most (89%) of these donors saw the “Text to Haiti” appeal on television, and 50% made their contribution immediately, with another 23% making their donation the same day.

Source:  Aaron Smith.  2012.  Real Time Charitable Giving.  Pew Research Center.