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Mobile Phone Usage Among College Students Essay

1. Introduction

A mobile phone or mobile (also called cellphone and handphone) is an electronic device used for mobile telecommunications (mobile telephone, text messaging or data transmission) over a cellular network of specialized base stations known as cell sites. Most current cell phones connect to a cellular network consisting of switching points and base stations (cell sites) owned by a mobile network operator. In addition to the standard voice function, current mobile phones may support many additional services, and accessories, such as SMS for text messaging, email, packet switching for access to the Internet, gaming, Bluetooth, infrared, camera with video recorder and MMS for sending and receiving photos and video, MP3 player, radio and GPS. The International Telecommunication Union estimated that mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide would reach approximately 4.6 billion by the end of 2009. Mobile phones have gained increased importance in the sector of information and communication technologies for development in the 2000s and have effectively started to reach the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The Indian telecommunication industry, with about 506.04 million mobile phone connections (Nov 2009)[update], is the third largest telecommunication network in the world and the second largest in terms of number of wireless connections (after China). India has become one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world. The mobile services were commercially launched in August 1995 in India. In the initial 5–6 years the average monthly subscribers additions were around 0.05 to 0.1 million only and the total mobile subscribers base in December 2002 stood at 10.5 millions. However, after the number of proactive initiatives taken by regulator and licensor, the monthly mobile subscriber additions increased to around 2 million per month in the year 2003-04 and 2004-05.

Kerala is the state with highest teledensity and the number of subscribers in the state has crossed 1.7 million. The increase in mobile phone usage in Kerala had been led by the growth in the state’s non-resident population and the fall in call rates. In its backward Malappuram district with a huge expat population, already there are more phones than people.

It is with this understanding and regard that the mobile phone market has been burgeoning in India that we proceed to conduct this survey as an attempt to understand the mobile phone use pattern among the specific group – youth, by narrowing down the study in the campus of Sacred Heart College, Thevara. Over the years the bad side of technology has also been brought to forefront placing the onus of bad behaviour as always on the youth. It is an accepted fact that mobile technology has corroded the lives of many young people and has reduced their productivity within the college campus. This study, then, while being a trend analysis survey, is also relevant in the context that it attempts to bring out solutions to this problem of “mob menace-on-campus” on the basis of the responses of the students (purported victims) in question.

2. Objectives

The objectives of this survey may be drawn out as follows; a. To identify the average number of students using mobile phones within the campus b. To identify the income versus consumption pattern with respect to purchase and further spending on mobile phones by students who use mobile phones c. Sketch the current trends in mobile phone usage among students d. Understand whether a majority have the propensity to get into trouble using mobile phones e. Come up with possible solutions to reducing mobile phone menace within the campus

3. Methodology

In keeping with the above stated objectives, we adopted the methodology of simple random sampling to attain a sample of 77 students in the ratio of 1:2:4 for 1st years, 2nd years and 3rd years respectively, accounting for a total of 11 departments offering undergraduate courses within the college. Therefore we have a total of 11 first years, 22 second years and 44 third years. The third years who have been acclimatized with the college surroundings provide the most reliable and consistent data, first years stand on unsure ground and 2nd years show rebellious tendencies. Of these, a majority of trends were analysed on the basis of responses of only 64 (out of 77) students who possessed mobiles within the campus.

The survey was conducted with the help of a written questionnaire consisting of a variety of questions numbering a total of 31 (see Appendix I).

4. Findings and Conclusions

Before moving to the major conclusions derived from the survey, it would be worthwhile to understand the basic characteristics of the sample of 77 students surveyed. 4.1 Basic Characteristics[1]

Among those surveyed: a. 58% are females, with relatively more male samples (55%) coming only among second years b. 56% fall under the age group 18-20, the remaining in 20-22 group c. Arts and Science groups together contribute more to the total sample strength, in keeping with the relatively greater number of departments that they have in the college. d. 75% of the respondents are day-scholars

e. A small percentage of 31% of respondents are engaged in any form of part-time or other income earning activities along with their studies, with the greatest contribution coming from 3rd year students of upto 34%. f. Overall 52% of the respondents claim monthly incomes of over Rs. 5000, but internal vagaries can be noted with about 36% of II year students putting their monthly income at only Rs. 1500-3000. g. Among those surveyed, a majority i.e. 83% confess to bringing and using mobile phones within the campus. The highest usage may be seen among the III years (91%) and lowest among II years (68%). From this we can deduce that on an average between 65 to 80% of all students in the college are using mobile phones within the campus.

4.2 Income-Spending Patterns in Mobile Use

As against popular belief, mobiles are mostly seen as utilities rather than prestige goods by the students in that while 52% claimed incomes above Rs.5000 only 31% of the respondents actually possessed mobile phones ranging above Rs.5000. The entire 5% of respondents, who possess mobile costing over Rs.10, 000 not surprisingly, consists of male respondents reflecting male fondness for gadgets.

A. Ownership of Mobile
We also see that parents consider it a matter of great necessity that their wards possess mobile phones as even though 31% of the respondents worked, only 28% had purchased the mobile out of their own income. A big majority, 72% students, possessed mobiles with the complete knowledge and acceptance of parents.

B. Monthly Spending on Mobile
It is interesting to note that females are considerably frugal when it comes to spending money on mobile phones in lieu of recharges or normal bill payments, never going beyond an average of Rs.500/month. Males still have a tendency to cross Rs.500 with 24% of then doing so and a very small percentage (4%) dare to cross Rs.1000 a month. On an average, however, a good majority of 67% are able to limit their monthly expenses to less than Rs.300. This may be attributed primarily to the fact they use pre-paid mobile connections offering minimal top-up recharge cards aplenty in the market.

4.3 Trends in Mobile Usage
To identify the current trends among mobile users in college we use the responses of 83% of respondents who confirm that they bring and use mobiles within the campus. The following are the major trends noticed.

A. The most used mobile handsets: Nokia

B. The most used type of mobile connection: Pre-paid
56 of the 64 respondents prefer to use pre-paid and not post-paid connections. The reasons may be that it allows cheap and easy recharge and prevents too much interference from the parents regarding usage and convoluted processes of bill payments. Further it also prevents over-the-budget use of mobiles by restricting the number of calls, messages etc that one can make during a given recharge period.

C. Preferred Mobile Network: Airtel
The top three mobile service providers among the students surveyed are Airtel, BSNL, and Vodafone. While Airtel being the leading provider was not a surprise result, BSNL emerging the second most popular service provider was quite against the expectations, given the recurrent troubles in connectivity and overall poor performance. However the attractively priced student plans must provide the incentive to purchase the connection.

D. Most Communications go to Friends/Classmates
While overall we see that friends/classmates surpass family in receiving communications from students, this marginal overtaking occurred in case of the III years alone. Among I years and II years family comes first in terms of maximum communications. Again, the 11% of people who agree to communicating most with their boyfriend/girlfriend may also seem as too small a percentage. Here again the III years (almost 9%, especially boys) were more given to accepting that they had relationships and frequently communicated with them.

E. Primary time of use: Evening
F. Service Most Used: SMS
The top two services for which the mobile is used are to send SMSes and to enjoy music. Calls (ironically, the primary purpose of mobiles) come only third. The fact that GPRS facility is least used points to the fact that a good majority of students are still not much acquainted with mobiles having higher end facilities. While analyzing the use of important mobile services, it would also help to separately present the behaviour of males and females in this regard. Even though females form a greater number of respondents, only 5% actually use the GPRS facility against 24% of males. A similar trend is seen in case of Camera/Video usage and also FM/music player.

G. Most Popular form of communications: Forwards
A whopping 42% of all respondents prefer to communicate via forwarded messages alone. This is primarily because of the numerous “free SMS” plans provided by the pre-paid connections. While they could make use of this facility to send personalized messages, a lack of sufficient personal thoughts to send to one’s friends and classmates (whom one meets everyday) and a relatively larger store of forwards traveling through the mobile networks, it affords a cheap and easy way to stay in touch. The second most preferred method of staying in touch is found to be missed calls.

H. Main reason for bringing mobiles to college: Family
While this may seem quite contradictory to the earlier result, note that earlier it was mentioned that only III years gave friends/classmates precedence to family. The trend is similar in this case as well. But over all keeping in touch with family is believed to be the main reason to bring mobiles to college. Our earlier conjecture that mobiles are no longer luxuries or prestige goods is revalidated here with only 4% of boys affirming that they bring mobiles in order to impress others. We can also safely state that the entertainment value of mobiles is of great importance to the students with an overall of 27% agreeing that they bring the mobiles to college only in order to listen to music or play games during free hours.

4.4 Mobiles: Danger or Saviour?
Now, it is necessary to tackle the issue of propensity of the youth to entangle themselves in serious problems by using/misusing the services of mobiles. The survey shows interesting results. A. Mobile as a tool for social networking? No!
A majority of students seem to be aware of the dangers of making friends through the mobile and hence have successfully avoided any attempts to network using mobiles. But among the 13% of those who have been adventurous, it is quite disturbing to note that 75% are male students.

B. Trends of Disturbing Calls/Messages?
While a majority claim that they have definitely at various times received disturbing calls/messages from random unknown persons, only 22% admit to having sent such calls or messages. Again, the propensity to do so is higher in males (40% in males as against 10% in females).

C. Knowledge of troubles related to Mobiles in college: Very Less

D. Mobile as a Saviour?
4.4 Possible Solutions to Mobile Menace
In order to postulate solutions to mobile phone menace on campus, we must first find out whether the students feel that mobile phones are actually a menace on campus. From the above section what we understand is that a good majority of students using mobiles are rational and mature preferring to stay away from troubles, known or unknown. And they have most often felt that mobiles are more helpful in contacting their close ones in times of difficulty. In this line, the result is that 44% don’t think mobiles are a menace (including those who don’t possess mobiles in campus).

But at the same time 30% are also undecided between the advantages and disadvantages of having a mobile in college. Hence these results cannot be taken at face value. We need to probe further with regard to two specific problems namely, camera phones and loss of attentiveness in class.

A. Yes to a Camera Ban
Females, naturally being concerned about their safety, over the 3 years of college, uniformly support a ban on camera phones in college campuses. The trend among males is quite peculiar. A majority of first years and third years are in support whereas the number drastically falls in the case of second years. This can only be attributed to the fact that a majority of second years often go through a phase of rebellion within the college, where rational thinking becomes faint. The result is purposeful disregard of all bans and regulations, which is very evident throughout the survey.

B. Yes to Mobile Jammer
In case of the possible use of mobile jammer too we see that I years in all eagerness to please and learn are willing to comply with its use during class hours. The II year students are more prone to bunking, disregard and involvement in extra-curricular activities and hence both males and females are quite against the idea of mobile jamming during class hours (as that is when they would require the mobile most!).

Again, once students enter III year being more conscientious and exam-oriented, they are more willing to comply with such a possible jam. Therefore the compliance behaviour of students varies greatly with their mental makeup, objectives and peer behaviour which changes from year to year. Universally it was felt that I year and III year responses were more grounded, rational and in keeping with objective decision-making process.

C. Provision of Mobile Phones by College: A Possible Solution

While camera ban may be partially effective, recurrent programmes and festivals prevent it from becoming fully functional. Mobile jammers (especially of partial formats) can involve huge technological costs and also real costs in terms of time lost in communicating between departments not only for students but also for faculty and other staff. Then what can be done? What we did with laptops/computers; make it available to students. It is obvious that even after successive bans mobiles are being used in the campus. The main reason as we have found is the need to stay in touch with family and friends, due to odd timings, blocks and other transportation problems, and also as a source of entertainment.

So what would be the response of students to a possible offer from the college to provide low end basic phones (all of which nowadays come with FM/Music player) to be used during the period of graduation? The only condition we put was an extra payment of Rs.500 (which can be seen as a refundable caution deposit) at the beginning of the course. And quite surprisingly, without any other incentive, 40% responded in affirmative; they are willing to use this facility. The most promising response came from III years where 50% said yes, and among I years 36%, but it was least in II years at 23%.

While 40% may seem as a small number, it is also important to understand that the remaining 60% doesn’t completely disown this scheme. Instead there is a very important group; the ‘Can’t Say’ group. It has always been seen that these are the people who make or break plans. As much as 17% are undecided regarding the adoption of the scheme. They represent the group of people who carefully weigh incentives and take decisions. Since they have not received all information they desist from committing to the programme. On the other hand a string of incentives such as – free connections, group calling cards, self-payment (without interference, atleast at superficial levels, from college), pre-fed numbers for emergencies etc. would considerably shift the 17% towards yes.

In case of indecision also we see that the II years are ahead, whereas III years who have confidence in the system, and understanding of the utility of mobiles have least indecision. One can ponder over the cost elements of making such a provision available, but doing that would not fall under the purview of this study. But a general note should be made that most companies would be willing to provide such facilities within the campus at low cost (in case of bulk supply).

It is also interesting to note that among the 17% of students who don’t possess mobile phones, 38% (comprising of 60% girls) said yes, an equal number were undecided and only 24% said a strict no. They perhaps represent those students who are totally averse to use of mobile technology itself.

Recent reports in newspapers surrounding this debate have also shown that parents are willing to accept such a provision (some parents themselves put forward this idea). Our survey shows that, if it is implemented when students enter first year itself, there is a high chance of gaining uniformity in mobile usage (preventing any possible demonstration effects), almost completely eliminating camera phones (with the agreement of students), and a knowledge that ultimately it is the property of the college and must be returned with the trust that authorities have reposed in them would decrease chances of misuse. The idea is to come up with an incentivised plan to encourage students to make use of the facility if put into effect. It would also encourage teachers and students to reduce barriers and open all channels of communications at all times.

In Conclusion: The mobile technology has undoubtedly spread through the college, but mostly as a utility rather than a luxury. But the fact that it provides outlet for entertainment makes it more endearing for the students. Male students are more likely to venture into the technological sides of the mobile while girls keep it basic. The spending is kept generally within limits of Rs.300/month. Other trends include a majority use of Nokia handsets with pre-paid connections, to communicate with family/friends. A good majority treats mobiles with safety and stay away from dangerous use. But the boys have a greater tendency to take risks in this regard. Generally mobiles are perceived more as a saviour than a danger.

There is no possibility hence that they will stop using mobile phones, thereby making a ban ineffective. But logical sense prevails in that they are aware that camera bans are meant for their safety and security. Overall 44% are also tending toward a possible partial (during class hours only) use of mobile jammers as well. But it seems that if the college is willing to invest in low-end mobile phones for students, while it may not ensure 100% compliance and riddance to technology related problems, it can go a long way in ensuring uniformity, constant communications and closer links between authorities and students on the basis of trust and confidence.

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