The Impact of Mobile Phones on Teenagers' Socialization and Emancipation

The Impact of Mobile Phones on Teenagers' Socialization and Emancipation

Kalogeraki Stefania, Papadaki Marina
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch002
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The mobile phone has become an indispensable mean of communication in the world today, and for teenagers specifically has become de rigueur in everyday life. The eagerness of teenagers to embrace mobile devices can be associated with such devices' instrumental as well as social and expressive functions. However, these functions are intertwined with critical impacts on the interaction between teenagers and parental/peer groups. On the one hand, the mobile phone acts as a symbolic “umbilical cord” that provides a permanent channel of communication, intensifying parental surveillance. On the other hand, it creates a greater space for interaction with peers beyond parental monitoring and control. This article summarizes current research and presents an empirical example of the impact of teenagers' mobile phone communication on the dynamics of parental and peer group interactions during their socialization and emancipation from the familial sphere.
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The mobile phone has become an indispensable mean of communication, as according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2013 there were almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world (ITU, 2013). The device constitutes an important tool of communication of individuals with diverse demographic traits but its critical role has been emphasized specifically for teenagers who have adopted mobile phones with a surprising speed (Lenhart, Ling, Campbell, & Purcell, 2010; Ling & Bertel, 2013).

Teenagers’ proneness to adopt mobile phones is primarily associated with its functions including instrumental (for instance, micro-coordination, accessibility and safety issues) as well as social and expressive uses (Ling, 2004; Castells, Fernandez-Ardevol, Qiu, & Sey, 2007). With respect to the former, perhaps the most fundamental function is micro-coordination that allows teenagers to plan and re-plan their social activities with parents and peers providing both temporal and spatial flexibility (Ling & Yttri, 2002). Similarly, accessibility contributes to a sense of permanent availability; situation that has been described by Licoppe (2004) as “connected presence”.

The mobile phone may also act as a safety link in cases of actual emergency; hence security reasons are critically important for both parents and teenagers to have mobile phones (Pain et al., 2005). For instance, Oksman and Rautiainen (2002, p.29) underline that the device is characterized from parents “as a small investment for the child’s safety”, whereas others advocate that the mobile phone acts as a “magic helper” that aids parents to monitor teenagers’ location in order to guarantee their safety in mobility, especially during the night (Fortunati & Manganelli, 2002, p.19).

Through the instrumental components of mobile phone communication, social and expressive uses are accomplished (O' Brien, 2010; Ling & Bertel, 2013) as the device enhances social interactions and bonding with those in teenagers’ intimate sphere. The mobile phone provides a direct communicative channel between users and peer groups, parents and children; hence the device allows teenagers to develop intensive interactions and reinforce their ties with their family and peers (Oksman & Rautiainen, 2002; Ling & Yttri, 2002; Green, 2003; Srivastava, 2005; Matsuda, 2005; Castells et al., 2007; Ling, 2004, 2007, 2009). However, the instrumental and social functions of mobile phones are intertwined with critical impacts on teenagers’ parental and peer group interactions. For instance, Pain et al. (2005) underline that:

Mobiles may reduce the fears of parents and young people by allowing contact which is not spatially or temporally bounded…Mobile phones may expand young people’s geographies, allowing them a wider spatial range unsupervised, and thus empower young people in reclaiming public spaces, or contract them as a further means for parents to monitor and control young people’s movements (Pain et al., 2005, p. 815)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Micro-Coordination: Individuals’ nuanced coordination of every day activities.

Socialization: The process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the social norms, values, skills and behaviors that are necessary for participating within his or her own society.

Self-Identity: The awareness of one’s own identity or individuality.

Parental Surveillance: The parental restrictions and control over teenagers’ lives to ensure their safety and protection.

Adolescence: The transitional period from childhood to adulthood.

Bonding: The development of close ties and relations between an individual and his/her family members and/or friends.

Safety: The feeling of being safe due to the ability to call for help in case of an emergency.

Social Interactions: The process by which individuals act and react to those around them including among others family members and peers.

Emancipation: The process of being set free from parental authority and control.

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