To: En. Muhammad Ali Hanafiah, Director of Occupational Safety and Health.
From:Babayaro Untel, Manager of Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
Date: 17th July 2018
Subject: The social and health effects of mobile phone usage amongst students.
In today’s emerging world of digital era, mobile phones are being used by each and every one of us regardless of age and gender. Mobile phones can also be the primary cause of social and medical problems especially amongst students. Excessive usage of mobile phones without any limitation and relevant knowledge can lead to harmful and unsafe consequences. The primary objective of this report is to focus on social and health effects of mobile phone usage amongst students. Action that needs to be taken shall also be discussed in this report.
The Disadvantages of Mobile Phones
We are living in a digital era of smartphones. Information sharing and communication has never been so easy. Due to this reason, we are always connected to our friends, families, and millions of other people no matter where we are. Messages and information can be swiftly exchanged at a fraction of the cost. Pictures and videos can be shared easily via Social Media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. As long as there is a mobile phone connected to the internet network, all of these can be done easily and rapidly.
Mobile phone can be defined as a device that is designed to accept and make voice calls over a cellular frequency spectrum network. These cellular network covers vast geographical area. There are many cellular network available for students to subscribe. All of these network are maintained and provided by different mobile phone operator. Thus, mobile phone operator shall have their own brand, unique network frequency, specific coverage area and distinctive technical specifications. Students’ mobile phone will be connected to a cellular network as subscribed which is provided by its respective mobile phone operator. Students have the choice to subscribe their own preferred cellular network according to their needs and requirements as different mobile phone operator will have its own distinct packages; prices, internet speed, coverage area, privileges, amount of data given per month.
Other than that, in addition to basic telephony functions, all mobile phones also support broad range of other services such as text messaging, email, on-the-go internet access, near-field communications, business applications, gaming platform and high definition camera. Due to high demand for more unique and robust design, mobile phones with more advanced specifications are introduced into the market every day to meet the ever growing market condition.
In the last two decades, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions have increased tremendously from 14 million users to over 6 billion users. This lead to market penetration of about 70% of the global total population. Due to this matter, excessive usage of mobile phones among students have become a critical issue that must be addressed accordingly especially in the field of public health. There were numerous reports that described the effects of excessive usage such as health threat, both mental and physical hazards that affect people of all age groups. On the other hand, there are also critical effects like cancers that contribute towards the increment of cases in physical and mental morbidity. In the middle of 2011, World Health Organization which is an agency of the United Nations that is concerned with public health confirmed in one of their reports that excessive mobile phone usage indeed represents a worrying health hazard, and classified mobile phone radiation as a carcinogenic hazard and thus possibly dangerous to humans.
Despite this published knowledge regarding mobile phone health impacts, the use of mobile phone has expanded drastically particularly since the time they have turned out to be more reasonable and accessible everywhere throughout the world. Just about 87-90% of the whole population in this world utilize mobile phones, and a sizeable number of these is students.
In urban regions, regardless of education level and students of all age group are now very dependent on mobile phone. The shocking fact is that many of these devices are easily available in the market everywhere without any safety measure and testing on their electromagnetic radiation. Constant continuous usage addiction to mobile phone has affected most of the students physically and psychologically. It makes them suffer from various kind of aches and pains and in some cases, severe disability too. Other than that, students lose their required number of hours of daily sleep, get easily angry and scrap over trivial issues. The effects of mobile phone excessive usage in the general population have been studied and carried out by many qualified academicians. Unfortunately, just a few studies had been done on specific groups like teenagers, younger generation or college students.
The most common side effect of using mobile phone is that there could be recurring episodes of headache, fatigue and burning sensations on the skin. These can occur as little as 2 minutes after mobile phone use. This is because mobile phones operate by transmitting low levels of radio signals from their antennas to a nearby telecommunication tower. A mobile phone transmits microwave radiation within the network communication spectrum. Several research papers suggest that these radio signal waves change our brains activity levels significantly and a study in September 2014 proves that mobile phone radiation activates inflammatory reactions in dormant cells. Just how microwave frequency radiation induced inflammation or other microwave frequency radiation factors trigger each person painful headaches is going to be different with each person. Unfortunately until today, there is still no conclusive and official statement by research center or medical institution to address this issue. Analysis of the data collected from statistical research has become much more complex and this makes the task much more difficult for researches to studies.
On the contrary, Carina Storrs in her well-known published research titled: “Cell phone radiation increases cancers in rats, but should we worry?” that “high-dose exposure to cell phone radiation increased brain tumors in male rats,” however “most studies in humans have failed to find a link between cell phone use and greater cancer risk.” Thus, researchers in different science field commented “that more work is needed to interpret the results, which some called “puzzling.” The statement that mobile phone can cause cancer has been not confirmed. The research failed to present concrete evidence that mobile phones lead towards a major risk in developing cancer among frequent users. The main issues while conducting research and studies was that some students may not report accurately their usage as they don’t exactly remember how often they use their mobile phone (headphones, earbuds, handsfree speaker excluded) and it is still difficult to measure the impact of other factors that may hasten the cancer development for excessive mobile phone users.
As research require accurate findings and results, many scientists moved their experiments to rats or rodents. In these experiments, the scientists exposed mice or rats to known doses of radio signal radiation that was equivalent to what people get from their mobile phone. Based on the latest research paper publised by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the group of scientists found that 5% to 7% of irradiated male rats developed brain tumors, and 9% to 11% of irradiated rats developed heart tumor. It is fascinating that female population is less prone to impact of radio signal radiation waves and it made up around 1% developed brain tumor and 2% of heart tumor of the total population of the tested mice or rats. According to another research by John R. Bucher, Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program, states that the tumors were of the same category and homogenous to those in other research that found radio signal radiation from mobile phone is a possible carcinogen.
On the other hand, Lindsay Marzoli in one of her published article in Kosmo (November, 2013) states that excessive usage of touch screen mobile phone can cause students to have long term health effects. This is due to the fact that when using touch screen mobile phone, students do not use and train the corresponding muscles that are used for writing. This can cause their hand muscles to get weak over time. Next, for students that use their mobile phone in incorrect body posture; lying down, sit for a long period of time; can increase their risk in developing back bone problems. For some students, concentration during class can also be affected if they are to obsess with their mobile phone. From social interaction and communication point of view, students will become much more quieter, more introvert, impatience and weak command of languages.
Excessive usage of mobile phone among students can also cause student to having less human contact. It is a sad reality that nowadays many people especially students have this trait. Unfortunately, students try hide this issue by compensating it with mobile phone communications, which is not enough and adequate substitute for personal satisfaction and fulfilment. Growing up is not an easy period in life, and at that time students are vulnerable to all sorts of distractions. This issue causes psychological problems, as students start to feel uncomfortable and try to avoid face to face communication.
Recommendations and Suggestions
Based on all the reasons above, changes must be done accordingly in order to address this matter professionally and in a timely manner. The most basic step to reduce mobile phones usage and addiction is that students should literally set their mobile phone alarms specifying how often they can check it. Students should start with every 20 minutes, then move to every half hour, every 45 minutes, or every hour. When the mobile phone alarm sounds, students are allowed to spend one minute going through any and all notifications and then reset the timer. Students can also tell their close friends or family that they may not respond to their messages as quickly as they used. This method is proven in order to prevent and reduce response-anxiety syndrome and it helps in a way to hold students accountable in their effort to reduce mobile phones usage.
Next, students can also turn off as many push notifications as possible. This can be done in order to keep students from being interrupted by social media applications such as facebook “likes” notifications, twitter news feed notifications and this method applies to all other “entertainment based” social media applications too. Push notifications for other essential applications can be left turn on; email, calendars, work related applications. If this method is done accordingly, students can expect their productivity in class increases due to the fact that there are less distractions now. There was a study done by university in South Africa regarding turning off notifications for mobile phones, the immediate findings of the research showed students were more productive and less distracted after their first notification free period in 12 hours’ time. There were also some students discussed their anxiety about the possibility of missing messages from friends, families, and colleagues.
On the contrary, students can also keep their device away out of bed when it comes to sleep-time. This is to avoid students from playing with their device close to their bed time. Mobile phones LCD screen emits “blue-light” and this light can interfere with student biological clock known as circadian rhythm. It can also affect the production sleep hormone known as melatonin in our body. While any kind of light can affect the circadian rhythm and natural production of melatonin, blue light from mobile phone does so much more powerfully. Our body is very sensitive towards light during the night, even dim light can disturb with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin production. Light at night is one the reason why so many students do not get enough sleep. If students insist on using their device at night, they can opt to buy blue light filters. These filters are available for all types of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computer screens. It blocks significant amounts of blue light emitted from these devices from reaching their eyes without affecting the visibility of their device display quality. Another health effect of blocking blue light is that our eyes can function properly because blue light can actually lead to poor vision if exposed in the long term.
Other than that, students can also seek professional medical help if their addiction towards mobile phone is at critical level. Psychiatrists all around the world are pushing and recommending medical authorities to recognize mobile phone addiction as mental disorder. A well-known Psychiatrist in Singapore says that this new mental disorder is very much prevalent in young adults especially millennials. Symptoms of this mental disorder are inability to control craving from check mobile phone, restlessness when separated from a mobile phone, loss in productivity in studies or at work and the need to constantly check one’s phone. Students should not feel ashamed to seek professional help to address this issue. This is due to the fact that mental health should be treated equally and the same as physical health. With some good effort, discipline and treatment, students can truly feel well again.
Last but not least, students can opt to use traditional mobile phone without all those specific to a smart mobile phone. Regular mobile phones offer messaging and calling functionality only. Whereas smart mobile phones offer a list of features including email, internet access, video chatting, gaming, applications downloading, video taking and music storage. Cost is the main area where traditional mobile phones still hold an advantage over smart mobile phones. For instance, purchasing a smartphone starts around RM800, and that’s only if you’re a new customer or eligible for a phone upgrade; for others, the cost is much higher. Then there’s the mandatory network data package, which costs about RM100 per month in addition to text and talk plans. Regular mobile phone users don’t pay for data plans. Traditional mobile phones are also much cheaper that those high tech devices. Other than that, traditional mobile phones are stronger, much more durable that smart mobile phones compared to smart mobile phones which are intricately designed, incredibly sensitive devices. They also have large, glass screens covering at least 50% of their body and once it hits the floor, one can expect to fork out a huge amount of money for screen replacement.
In a nutshell,