Cybertrap for the Young: Mobile Phones and Smartphones

It is my pleasure to welcome Frederick Lane to the EIE Blog. Fred is an author, attorney  educational consultant, expert witness, and lecturer who has appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He has written seven books, including most recently “Cybertraps for the Young” (NTI Uppstream, 2011). All of his books are available on amazon.com or through his website. Fred will be joining us for the next 4 weeks as a guest blogger on the EIE blog sharing excerpts from his book “Cybertraps for the Young.”

In terms of capability and communications, no category of consumer device has changed as

dramatically as the mobile phone. First introduced in the United States in 1983, early

handheld phones were widely referred to as “bricks,” and did nothing more than allow

people to free themselves from fixed phone locations (though that seemed amazing enough

at the time). Around the turn of the twenty-first century, the development of faster cellular

networks (first 2G, then 3G) allowed for the transmission and downloading of multimedia

content. Ringtones were the first media content to be widely distributed, followed quickly by

games, photos, and eventually even streaming video.

The idea of the mobile phone as a connectivity tool began to creep into mainstream

consciousness in 2003, when Motorola Inc. released its hugely popular Razr phone in the

U.S. The sleek, slim, clamshell phone was equipped with a low-resolution camera, a 2.2-inch

LCD screen, and various communication options, including text messaging and a simple

Web browser that could be used to send e-mail. In many ways, it was the first device that

was as much a portable tool for surfing the Web as it was a phone (in fact, during the height

of the phone’s popularity, the Web browser Opera released a Razr-specific version of its

software, which offered more features than the phone’s own browser).

In the seven years since the Razr was released, the percentage of kids using mobile phones

has risen from twenty to approximately ninety-five. Part of that growth was the result of a

conscious effort on the part of mobile-phone companies, beginning in 2004, to target

advertisements at the teen market, a move that was obviously highly successful. Another

factor was Motorola’s success in making the mobile phone a fashion item—the Razr not

only looked cool, but came in a variety of attractive colors. But it was SMS messaging, or

“texting,” which did the most to bring teens and mobile phones together. More recent billing

data is still being analyzed, but between the first quarter of 2006 and the second quarter of

2008, the number of text messages sent in the U.S. skyrocketed from 65 million to 357

million. It’s not surprising, then, that in October 2010, 43 percent of teen mobile-phone

users reported that their primary reason for having a phone was to send texts to friends. The

SMS feature was the most frequently cited benefit of phone ownership, with “safety” and

“keeping in touch with friends” a distant second and third, respectively.

Games and Web surfing didn’t even make the list of top reasons for owning a mobile phone,

but it’s likely that will soon change. Apple Inc. ushered in the real era of handheld

computing and surfing with its release of the iPhone on January 9, 2007. What makes the

iPhone so remarkable—and so potentially troublesome for parents—is its seductive

combination of well-designed and powerful hardware, flexible software, and wireless

connectivity. It has been a tremendous hit.

In early 2008, Apple announced the creation of the iTunes Store, which allowed

programmers to sell their own applications (“apps”) for use on the iPhone. There are now

hundreds of thousands of apps for sale, and iPhone users have logged well over a billion

downloads in the three years since. Although Apple has aggressively policed the iTunes Store

to prevent the sale of obscene, indecent, and even politically provocative apps, there are still

hundreds, even thousands, of iPhone (or Android or Blackberry) applications that can land

kids in trouble. For instance, every major social network site—Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,

etc.—has its own app for posting photos or comments, and dozens of third-party apps offer

additional tools for interacting with those sites. There are also hundreds of apps—Pixelpipe,

Instagram, and so on—that are specifically designed to make it easier to take and upload

photos to social networking sites.

The enormous popularity of the iPhone has fueled a mobile computing arms race. Hardly a

month goes by without a new phone or mobile operating system hitting the streets. A year

after the iPhone debuted, for instance, a consortium of companies (including Google)

announced the release of Android, an open-source mobile operating system. Other

manufacturers, including Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), Nokia Corporation, and Microsoft

Corporation, have announced the release of updated versions of their mobile operating

systems, along with their own platform-specific app stores. Not to be outdone, Apple has

released an upgraded version of its iPhone on a yearly basis; the most recent model, the

iPhone 4, allows users to conduct face-to-face video conversations using “FaceTime” (a

feature which the adult entertainment industry is already exploiting for pornographic

purposes).

Right now, only 23 percent of U.S. teens have a smartphone such as an iPhone or Android,

but that percentage will no doubt climb quickly.

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2 Comments

  1. Sofia Telfer

    Hiya!!! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask.. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa??? My site discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail.. I look forward to hearing from you! Superb blog by the way! Mission Viejo Roofing Service, 26161 Cordillera Drive, Mission Viejo, CA, 92691, US, 949-238-6004

    • Hey Sofia

      Thanks so much for reaching out to us here at Enough Is Enough. Yes we would be interested in exchanging links. You can do that by going onto our website and clicking link request. We would also love for you to do a guest blog for us as well. So when you have something written please email me at lillians@enough.org

      Thank you and I wish you and your family A HAPPY FOURTH! Be safe!

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