Impact of Mobile Technologies and Gadgets on Adolescent's Interpersonal Relationships
Jigisha Gala (M.S.University of Baroda, India) and Bhuvan Unhelkar (MethodScience.com & University of Western Sydney, Australia)
Copyright © 2009.
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This chapter discusses and depicts the wide range of changes induced in the lives of adolescents by the use of mobile gadgets, as viewed by a certain cross-section of the society–the adolescents themselves and the teachers of young adolescents. The various stakeholders who view the effect of mobility on adolescents include the parents, the teachers, peers and friends, and the young adolescents themselves. This chapter particularly focuses on the view of the adolescents and teachers on the effect of mobility on young emerging adults within the Indian context.
This chapter describes the investigations into the effect of mobile gadgets on interpersonal relationships of adolescents in the Indian Context. The chapter is based on the research work carried out by the lead author in order to identify the various ways in which adolescents are affected by location- and time-independence. As a part of this study, it was discovered that there are various stakeholders who are affected by the use of mobility by adolescents – these stakeholders include not only the adolescents themselves but also their parents or guardians, the teachers and their peers or friends. In order to ascertain the full effect of mobility on adolescents it is important to study these four stakeholders, depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Top
Adolescents and the various stakeholders for mobile influence
Background To This Research
a. Mobility and Adolescents
The changes and effects of mobility on adolescents include the opportunities to develop intimate relationships, maintaining secrecy and privacy, satisfying the intrinsic needs of ‘contact’, and at the same time freeing them from physical proximity and spatial immobility associated with land-based communication techniques. Moreover these location-independent mobile technologies function as stress-busters, owing to the multi-functionalities they provide to their users. These are some of the interesting aspects of mobility and adolescents described in this chapter. Furthermore, this chapter also delves into the issue of ever growing ‘consumerism’ that influences adolescents; this is so because mobile gadgets also serve a ‘status symbol;’ both - due to the status resulting from possessing a “cool” gadget and also due to the increasing opportunities for cross-gender interactions.
b. Indian Context
The use of mobile gadgets has increased at a remarkable rate in less than 5 years in India. The present chapter focuses on mobile telephony and its impact on adolescents’ social networks and its dynamics. In the year January 2003, India had just 10 million mobile subscribers which increased to 28 million by the end of December 2003 (Ahmed, 2004). Various surveys across the globe indicate that youth are the most important drivers of mobile business (Macro, 2004) and this is also evident, as companies keep adding features such as ‘cool’ ring tones, screen savers etcetera that appeal to the youth. It would be interesting to understand the adoption of this relatively new technology by this characteristic life phase.
The study is descriptive in nature and has adopted a quantitative survey method to compare the two groups under investigation. A survey was created by the lead author and administered to a group of adolescents and teachers from schools within Vadodara (erstwhile Baroda city) in India. The survey questions were based on ascertaining the views of the adolescents and teachers pertaining to mobile adolescents.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Adolescents: Young individuals in the transition phase from childhood to adulthood in the age range of 16-19 years for this study.
Interpersonal Relationships: Establishing and maintaining social connections and associations which may range from casual friendships, professional contacts to intimate friendships and kinships.
Multi-Functionalities: Capable of serving more than one purpose.
High-Context Cultures: These cultures are relational, collectivist, intuitive, and contemplative and emphasize interpersonal relationships for example much of the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America.
Mobile Gadgets: Portable devices which confer mobility to the users through mobile technology which may include a combination of hardware, software, operating system and networking.
Quantitative Survey: A formal, objective, systematic process in which numerical data is generated and utilized to obtain information about the topic under study using a survey questionnaire on a fairly large sample group.
Mobility: Ability to send and receive communications anytime anywhere with the help of mobile technologies and gadgets.