Pros and Cons of Cell Phones

by Rob Harris

Like many technologies, cell phones are mixed blessings. They keep us from being stranded for hours on the side of the road, but can be distracting while driving, which may lead to accidents -- although you can, at least, call emergency services immediately with your cell phone if the distraction led to the accident. Cell phones have affected our lives to the extent that local and state governments change and create laws regarding cell-phone use to try to moderate the negative features and accentuate the positive.

Pro: Keep in Touch

Did you forget to tell your husband to pick up milk on his way home from work? No problem -- just call him on his cell phone. Suffering with a long commute? Spend that time catching up with friends. Mobile phones make staying in touch with family and friends easy, whether it's calling your parents out of state or a giving quick reminder to your son to be home on time for dinner. Most phones also allow for texting and photo messaging, while more sophisticated phones are capable of Internet access or GPS tracking -- especially helpful for parents of teens who want to track their movements.

Con: Keep in Touch

Although keeping in touch seems positive, there's a dark side to it as well. Owning a mobile phone often means people expect to reach you anytime, anywhere. Work may call you when you're on a family vacation, or your in-laws might try to reach you while you're at a movie. Needy friends might call or text constantly.

Pro: Saving Money

Many cell-phone plans include free features, such as long distance and a certain number of free text messages. Both help you stay connected with family and friends that live far away without incurring extra charges. Most plans include convenient features such as free voice mail and caller ID. Some people choose to use mobile phones exclusively and rid themselves of a monthly home-phone bill.

Con: Spending Money

Most cell-phone companies charge for extra minutes, unlimited text messages, Internet and email access and picture messaging. Some charge high roaming fees if you travel outside their networks. Although cell phones can save money on some features, review your plan and bill carefully to ensure you are not incurring additional, unnecessary charges that can turn into hundreds of dollars per month for your family.

Pro: Safety

Cell phones provide a measure of security if your car breaks down, if you get lost or if you feel threatened while walking through a parking lot. No other technology has made people feel more connected with emergency services as well as family and friends who can run to their rescue.

Con: Safety

There are several safety issues associated with cell-phone use. The National Safety Council estimates 28 percent of all car accidents are caused by people distracted by using cell phones. The 2006 University of Utah study "A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver," by David L. Strayer et al., says people who talk on cell phones while driving are as impaired as drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. Also, studies have linked health risks to cell phone use. The National Cancer Institute cites several studies on its website linking cell-phone use with cancer, while others believe cell phones can contribute to high blood pressure and depression.

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