Young People Ask . . .
Do I Need a Mobile Phone?
“I feel very insecure and irritated if I don’t have a mobile phone with me.”—Akiko.a
MOBILE phones are becoming ever more popular in many lands. They are convenient. Your friends and parents can contact you anytime, anywhere—and you them. Some models allow you to exchange short text messages, which “is the latest way for young people to feed their urge to communicate,” says The Times of London. There are even mobile phones that can connect you to cyberspace, providing access to Web sites and E-mail.
You may already have one, or you may be planning to get one. In either case, you might consider the saying: “There are two sides to every coin.” A mobile phone may well have some benefits. However, you may want to think about the other side of the coin, for even if you choose to buy one, being fully aware of its potential drawbacks will help you use it wisely.
“Calculate the Expense”
Jesus stated the wise principle that one should “calculate the expense” before undertaking an important project. (Luke 14:28) Can that principle be applied to mobile phones? Certainly. Now you may be able to get the phone itself at very little cost, or it may even be free. However, as 17-year-old Henna discovered, “the bill can suddenly get very high.” There can also be constant pressure to keep up with additional services and to buy more-expensive models. Thus, Hiroshi says: “I have a part-time job and save money to get a newer model every year.” Many youths do the same.b
Even if your parents agree to pay the bill for you, it is still important to understand the costs. A traveling Christian minister in Japan notes: “Some mothers are taking on extra part-time work just to pay for their children’s mobile phone, which may not be necessary in the first place.” You surely would not want to put such a burden on your parents!
“A Time Killer”
Many who start out using the phone moderately may find it taking up more of their time than they expected—and crowding out more important things. Mika used to spend a lot of time with her family around the dinner table. “Now,” she says, “after we have our meal we go back to our rooms with our own [mobile phones].”
“A third of young adults aged between 16 and 20 prefer text messaging over all other means of written communication,” says The Guardian of London. Text messaging may cost you less money than voice conversation, but it costs you more time to key in text messages. Mieko admits: “If someone sends ‘good night,’ I answer ‘good night.’ Then, messages start flying back and forth for an hour. It is just silly talk.”
Many mobile-phone users might be quite surprised if they were to stop and add up all the time they spend using their phone in one month. A 19-year-old girl, Teija, admits: “For many people, a mobile phone is a time killer rather than a time saver.” Even if your circumstances justify owning one, it is important to be time conscious while using it.
A young Christian girl named Marja observes: “At Christian assemblies many young people keep sending trivial messages to others. It’s very common!” Similar behavior has been observed among youths engaging in the Christian ministry. The Bible advises Christians to buy out time for spiritual activities. (Ephesians 5:16) How sad when such precious time is taken up by telephone conversation!
Marie comments on another pitfall: “Since the calls come directly to the individual, not to the home, there is a danger of parents not being aware of whom their kids are talking to or even whether they are on the phone or not.” Some youths thus use mobile phones to establish secret contact with those of the opposite sex. Some have dropped their guard, bypassing standards they would normally observe when communicating with others. How so?
“Text messaging means that no one can monitor what [young people] are doing,” says The Daily Telegraph of London. Not seeing or hearing the other party can affect you. “Some feel that a text message is a more neutral way to communicate,” observes Timo. “In a message some may write things that they would consider too bold to say face-to-face.”
When Keiko, a 17-year-old Christian girl, started using a mobile phone, she let many of her friends know her number. Soon she started exchanging messages every day with a boy in her congregation. Keiko says: “At first we just talked about everyday things, but then we started sharing our troubles. We created our own little world by means of our mobile phones.”
Happily, she received help from her parents and the Christian elders before things got too serious. She now admits: “Even though before giving me a mobile phone, my parents had warned me so much about exchanging mail with the opposite sex, I mailed him every day. It wasn’t the best way to use the phone.”c
The Bible admonishes us to “hold a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:16) Doing so means that when you use a mobile phone, you must make sure that, as Koichi says, “you have nothing to be ashamed of,” even if someone else should see your messages or overhear you. Always remember that there are no secrets when it comes to our heavenly Father. The Bible explains: “There is not a creation that is not manifest to [God’s] sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” (Hebrews 4:13) Why, then, try to maintain a secret relationship?
If you are considering getting a mobile phone, why not first evaluate your situation carefully to see if you really need one? Discuss the matter with your parents. Some feel as did young Jenna, who says: “A mobile phone is too big a responsibility for many young people.”
Even if you decide to own such a phone, it is important to keep it under control. How? Set reasonable limits. For example, limit the number of features you use or the amount of time and money you spend on the phone. Since most phone companies provide a detailed report of your usage, you might want to analyze the bill with your parents from time to time. Some find it convenient to use a prepaid type of mobile phone to limit usage.
Also, give careful thought to when and how you respond to calls and messages. Make your own reasonable guidelines. Shinji explains: “I open my mailbox only once a day, and I usually reply to messages only when they are important. As a result, friends have stopped sending junk messages. If there is a really urgent problem, they will call me anyway.” More important, be selective as to the people with whom you communicate. Be careful about giving out your phone number. Apply the same standards you always use regarding good association.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
The Bible says: “For everything there is an appointed time, . . . a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) Clearly, there are times for mobile phones “to keep quiet” too. Our Christian meetings and ministry are the “appointed time” for worshiping God, not for using the phone. Restaurant and theater managers often request that their clients refrain from using mobile phones. We respectfully comply with such requests. Surely the Sovereign of the universe deserves no less respect!
If they are not expecting a crucial call, many choose to turn off their phone, or they switch to a silent mode when engaging in essential activities. Some put their mobile phone out of reach. After all, cannot most messages be attended to later?
If you decide to own a mobile phone, be determined to control it and not let it control you. Clearly, you need to stay alert and keep your priorities in order. The Bible encourages us: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5) If you decide to have a mobile phone, by all means resolve to show your reasonableness in the way you use it.
a Some names have been changed.
b For a discussion of after-school jobs, please see the article “Young People Ask—What Is Wrong With Making Money?” in the September 22, 1997, issue of Awake!
c Regularly talking to or exchanging messages with a member of the opposite sex over the phone could be a form of dating. Please see the article “Young People Ask—What’s Wrong With Talking to Each Other?” in the August 22, 1992, issue of Awake!
[Pictures on page 20]
Some youths carry on secret relationships via the mobile phone