Title: Impact of Cell phone Usage on the Behavioural Patterns of Undergraduate Students in Pune
Name of the Researcher: Ramaa Golwalkar
Name of the Guide: Prof. Dr. Kiran Thakur
Department: Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune
Faculty: Mental, Moral and Social Sciences
Date of Passing of the PhD examination: September 2013
Information Technology gave rise to Personal Communication Technology (PCT). Cell phone is the outcome of the galloping development in PCT. It is also the best example of media convergence. It facilitates the user to access, generate, store, edit and transfer the information in permutation and combination of text, picture, audio and audio-visual format. Its latest models are providing more user-friendly, faster and efficient versions. The cell phone gadget manufacturing companies are focusing more into converting the gadget into a complete ‘communinfotainment’ (communication + information + entertainment) experience.
The society is experiencing ‘mobile ecosystem’ due to technological advancement. The two most important features of this ‘mobile ecosystem’ are (i) the explosive growth of SMS based on a humble 160 character strings, and (ii) near addictive behaviour in the youth user segment which is now referred to as ‘Screenagers’ or ‘Generation Txtor’ or ‘Generation Y-erless’.
Focus of the present study is to analyse the impact of cell phone usage on the behavioural patterns of undergraduate students in Pune. It was also designed to track the socio-cultural ramifications of introduction and wide acceptance of cell phone as a communication medium by the society.
The cell phone screen is referred to as a ‘personal screen’ and is the most used third screen in everyday life besides Television and Computer screens. Cell phone technologies are distinctive from other network technologies (e.g. the computer) and thus known as Personal Communication Technologies. PCTs are often worn on the body, highly individualized, and regarded as extensions of the self. They make us individually addressable, regardless of where we are.
PCTs developed a unique environment in the society. It helped common people to access, gather, generate, edit, store, transfer variety of information in a fraction of seconds. This free flow of information includes entertainment, education and other variety of information wanted and / or unwanted. The young generation is exposed to the information implosion available on their finger tips. The dynamism in PCTs provided plenty of opportunities to users to change the socio-cultural environment. To locate these changes, this researcher used theories of renowned scholars such as Harold Innis namely ‘time and space bias of media’ and ‘technology and social change’, Marshall McLuhan’s ‘Hot and cool media’ and Karl Mannheim’s ‘Theory of Generations’ as a touchstone to test the impact of mobile phone technology on the undergraduate youth in Pune. The study was intended to find the answers of following research questions:
i. What are the cell phone usage patterns of undergraduate students of Pune city?
ii. What impact has the cell phone, as a medium of communication, created on the communication pattern of undergraduate students?
iii. What is the intensity of cell phone addiction of undergraduate students of Pune city?
iv. What is the influence of the usage of cell phone on relationships with family members and friends of undergraduate students in Pune?
v. How do undergraduate students use their cell phone when they are alone and when they are in public places?
vi. Whether Indian society is experiencing the shift in the power centre with reference to cultural values? For example, is the young generation becoming a part of the decision making process of the family? Is their opinion given preference over the opinion of elders?
The researcher focussed on five colleges affiliated to University of Pune offering various undergraduate courses and completed a minimum of 40 years of imparting formal education in the jurisdiction of Pune Municipal Corporation.
Design of the Thesis:
The outcome of this research has been presented in the following format:
- Chapter one: Introduction
- Chapter two: Review of Literature
- Chapter three: Research methodology
- Chapter four: Data Analysis – Quantitative and Qualitative
- Chapter five: Discussion, Conclusion and Suggestions
- Chapter six: Summary
The first chapter contains a detailed overview of the primary issues related to human communication and Information Technology. It lays down the theoretical foundation of the present study with theories propounded by eminent communication scholars like Herald Innis, Marshall McLuhan and Karl Mannheim. Further, it takes stock of present day scenario of Information Technology and underlines the necessity of this study.
A review of literature available on the subject (Cell phone and The Society, Cell phone and Generation Y) and related subjects (Cell phone and Market, Cell phone and Negative Effects) is presented in the second chapter. There are studies available on the impact of cell phones on users with reference to psychological and physiological impacts as well as economic aspects, but very less was found in terms of Communication Studies, that is ‘Communicology’. The impact of user friendly media convergent cell phone technology or Personal Communication Technology on human communication needs special focus. This study tried to concentrate on the same with the above perspective.
The third chapter describes the research methodology adopted for the study. The nature of study was exploratory, ex post facto and descriptive in nature. Both quantitative as well as qualitative approaches were employed in combination to achieve maximum possible accuracy while arriving at the conclusions. The quantitative method was used to measure the nature of impact of cell phone usage by undergraduate students as perceived and reported by them with greater precision. The qualitative approach was used to provide a broad philosophy as observed by the representative opinions of the people observing and reporting the impact of cell phone usage on the behavioural pattern of undergraduate students.
Instead of independent and dependent variables, the researcher identified a few indicators to gauge the impact of cell phone usage on undergraduate students.
They are as follows: 1) Emotional dependency – cell phone as companion; 2) Challenging the authority – family norms and social relationships; 3) Time spent on cell phone – amount of exposure to the technology; 4) Use of cell phone in a variety of spaces – in personal, social and public spaces / zones.
The Method, the Tool and the Procedure
The method employed for quantitative data collection was survey and the tool used was questionnaire. The qualitative data was collected with the help of interviews and interaction.
The pre-testing for the questionnaire was conducted between 12.11.2011 to 16.11.2011 on ten undergraduate girls and ten undergraduate boys. The results of this study were presented as per schedule declared by the Head of the Department on 22.12.2011, in the presence of the Head of the Department, eminent scholars of media and communication and the fellow students in the Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune, Ranade Institute Building, and Fergusson College Road, Pune. The refined questionnaire was then put for Validation Test wherein 50 undergraduate girls and 50 undergraduate boys, which is a total of 100 undergraduate students, were asked to fill the questionnaire.
The data collected for the validation test was thereafter sent to the statistician for testing the consistency reliability of Part I and Part II of the questionnaire. Cronbach’s Alpha value for Part I of the said questionnaire is 0.78 = Acceptable; and Part II is 0.85 = Good.
Overall Alpha value for the Reliability test is 0.80 which is ‘Good’.
Sampling Method / Scheme
Multi-stage sampling method was employed in 3 stages. First stage: Assembly constituency for college listing. Second stage: Random selection of colleges. Third stage: Purposive selection of the students meeting sample characteristics.
The undergraduate students who were using cell phones for more than one year and who were full-time students from the selected colleges affiliated to University of Pune formed the final sample of the present study.
The study was conducted on the 582 undergraduate students (305 boys and 277 girls) of the five colleges affiliated to the University of Pune and located within the jurisdiction of Pune Municipal Corporation.
After digitization of the data frequency distribution, the percentile was calculated. Similarly, with the help of a statistician, t Test was carried out for attitude and behavioural Likert Scales using SPSS.
Utility of the Research
The aim of the research was to study the impact of cell phone usage on the behavioural pattern of undergraduate students in Pune. The outcome of the study would be helpful for interdisciplinary verticals like Communication Study, Sociology, Cultural Studies, Socio-psychology and Behavioural Science, especially family counsellors and socio-cultural scientists who wish to understand the effects of cell phone as a communication medium on the young generation.
Chapter four presents a detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data collected by the survey method and questionnaire tool and detailed discussions with the samples for qualitative analysis. The tabular and graphical representations of the data were also included for better understanding of the analysis.
Discussion and Conclusion
The combined data collected and analysed in the fourth chapter is discussed in the fifth chapter. Following outcome of quantitative analysis:
1. Majority of the undergraduate students changed nearly four cell phone handsets since they started using it independently. About half of the undergraduate student population continued using the same cell phone set till they practically could not use it. Less than one tenth of the undergraduate students changed their cell phone set whenever a new model was introduced in the market. It clearly means that mobile phone companies’ ad campaigns designed to target the adolescents had negligible impact on the target audience.
2. More than half of the undergraduate students had a tendency not to save the contact details with the original names. They preferred to save them either with a pet name, a code name or favourite names. More than three fifth of undergraduate students accepted saving contact details with different names. However, they did it for the sake of convenience and had no explicit intentions to mask the information of their contacts. Thus, no lying behaviour regarding hiding the information of the contact details was found in three fifth of the undergraduate population.
3. Unfortunately awareness level of the undergraduate students about the emergency helpline numbers was very low and the parents’ concern about the child to provide her/him a gadget to alleviate emergency was ignored by the respondents.
4. Large number of students used multimedia phones, and not simple basic handsets.
5. Most students used phones every day, for voice calls and texting. Most of the undergraduate boys talked on their cell phone and most girls sent preferred sending SMSs. More boys used alarm than girls; nearly three fourth of them used cell phone alarm every day instead of the traditional alarm clock. About two third of undergraduate boys reportedly listened to pre-recorded music on their cell phone. Similarly more number of boys accessed internet as compared to the girls. More than one third of undergraduate boys and more than quarter undergraduate girls played games every day on their cell phones.
Habit of putting every day the reminder notes in the cell phone was found only in one fifth of undergraduate boys and quarter of undergraduate girls.
One third of the undergraduate students used their cell phone camera every day. They used it to click photographs of important information like notices displayed on notice boards and even the power-point presentations in the classroom rather than going through them wherever displayed and jotting down or keeping them in memory.
Viewing a film on cell phone screen was not a preferred option by them.
6. Maximum number (80%) of the undergraduate students had multimedia cell phone sets and internet browsing facility on their cell phones. Quarter of the undergraduate students checked emails and social networking. About one fifth of undergraduate boys as compared to about one tenth of undergraduate girls used their cell phones to check their mailboxes, send e-mails, access social networking sites, browse educational material, to hit any other website and to down load applications too. Nearly one fifth of undergraduate students visited any website while accessing internet on their cell phone. Less than one fifth of them browsed educational material while surfing on their cell phones. Application downloads was done by slightly more than one tenth of the undergraduate students, less than one tenth of them were checking only important e-mails.
7. Nearly three fourth of undergraduate students used pre-paid connections and nearly one third of them used the post-paid alternative. More than four fifth of undergraduate students had limited their monthly cell phone expenditure up to `750. Girls spent more on communication facilities than boys. On the other hand, boys spent on internet browsing, buying mobile accessories, and value added services more than the girls.
8. Nearly one third of undergraduate students spent more than 3 hours of their daily routine to use their cell phone. On an average quarter of undergraduate students spent 1 to 2 hours per day on their cell phones. Equal percentage of undergraduate students spent 2 to 3 hours. Nearly one fifth of them spent less than an hour.
9. More than three fifth of undergraduate students admitted to spend majority of the cell phone activity time on texting, out of which more than one fifth of undergraduate students added emoticons like J, L to their text messages. Slightly more than one third of undergraduate students spent their cell phone activity time on voice calling. It was also seen that girls use SMS facility more than boys. Practice of adding emoticons to the text messages is found more in girls than boys.
10. About three fifth of undergraduate students had a habit of regularly carrying cell phone near their pelvis which may affect their reproductive system.
11. Nearly two fifth of undergraduate students used ‘qwerty’ keypad. Less than one fifth of undergraduate students used Devanāgari or/and Indian script fonts while texting. Boys were found using more of Indian scripts than that of girls.
12. Maximum (88%) undergraduate students used ‘missed call’ to communicate variety of messages without verbal or text message which can be taken as an electronic improvisation of the beating the drums in ancient times. The only difference is that this improvisation is a strictly one to one, that is, interpersonal communication and not a group communication.
13. Undergraduate students used SMSs to share decent jokes; thought of the day; business cards; to greet family members, relatives and friends on special occasions; to avoid unwanted conversation; to save money on voice calling; to convey inability to attend call; to maintain secrecy. Nearly one tenth of undergraduate girls and only 4% undergraduate boys admitted sending SMSs out of habit.
14. It is also revealed that cell phone as personal communication technology blurred the socio-cultural boundaries of behaviour and gave a casual approach towards communication. More than three fifth of undergraduate boys regularly sent and received SMSs containing bad (indecent) language/ sexually explicit text to and from girls of same age. Also, equal percentage of undergraduate boys sent and received ‘not so decent content’ and / or ‘indecent jokes’ to and from elderly people. Half of undergraduate girls did the same. It means that two third of undergraduate boys’ and half of undergraduate girls’ population used cell phone to communicate indecent content with the population of same age and also to the elder generation.
One third of undergraduate students’ population found it important to stay connected hence they were calling, talking and remaining in touch. One third of undergraduate students found it easy to kill time in calling and talking on cell. Nearly one tenth of undergraduate girls and 3% of undergraduate boys were habitual callers. There were 5% more girls who were habitual callers and hence calling out of habit.
15. Cell phone conversation gives four types of gratifications to the undergraduate students, out of which relaxation prevails over other types. Quarter of undergraduate students felt satisfied after a cell phone talk. Quarter of boys felt relaxed after talking on cell phone as compared to slightly less than one third of girls. More than one tenth of undergraduate students felt cell phone talking boosts self confidence. Equal percentage of undergraduate students found it as exhausting. More than one tenth of them felt stimulated after talking on cell phone.
16. Nearly half of undergraduate boys and less than half of undergraduate girls had a strong feeling that the quality of their life had improved because of cell phone. Nearly one third of undergraduate students would feel unwanted or ignored if they would not receive a call for an hour or even a day. More than one third of them had the realization of their anxiousness caused out of thoughts of probable missed calls when their cell phone is out of coverage area. Nearly half of undergraduate boys and about three fifth of undergraduate girls would feel helpless without a cell phone and they frequently kept checking their cell phone for a ‘missed call’ or SMS.
17. On an average two fifth of undergraduate students, invariably spent their time playing with their cell phone when they were alone.
18. Statistical tests also confirm that there is hardly any difference in the percentage of undergraduate students dependent on cell phone. One third of undergraduate boys and slightly more than quarter of undergraduate girls preferred to use cell phone to talk to their friends even if face-to-face communication could happen. Equal percentage of undergraduate students was found using cell phone conversation as their frequent method to counter loneliness and elevate the mood. Similarly they were regularly cutting down their expenses on canteen, petrol and other minor vices like cigarette and other tobacco products, pubs etc.
19. It is observed that the concept of privacy in Indian society has expanded with the usage of cell phone. The personal communication technology (Campbell & Park) is responsible not only for the extension of the communication facilities to connect the people with never before ease; but also for the expansion of circumference of personal space and privacy. The parent-child relationship is very fragile where on an average one third of late adolescent population expected their parents to observe some constraints while interfering in their lives especially when it comes to the usage of cell phone. About quarter of undergraduate students was more comfortable talking to their parents on cell phone than face-to-face conversation.
20. There is a power shift in the family as social institution. Nearly three fourth of undergraduate boys and more than three fifth of undergraduate girls were frequently asked for their opinion by the parents, which was then valued for. Slightly more than three fifth of undergraduate boys and two third of undergraduate girls were recurrently found superseding the elderly members of the family in the decision making process, as their parents gave importance to their opinion over the opinion of the elderly members. Secondly, about half of undergraduate students were reported playing regularly with their cell phone while interacting with parents or elderly members of the family. That means slightly less than half of the young population fiddle with the cell phone while talking to their parents and elderly family members. This behaviour is against the prevalent social behavioural norms and communication pattern; which indicates to insult the elders, that is to restrain from any other activity which distracts the attention while interacting with elders.
About three fifth of undergraduate students were often found talking and SMSing the people keeping their parents in dark. Less than three fifth of undergraduate students regularly found to be lying on cell phone specifically about their location with their parents, relatives and friends. Thus on an average, three fifth of undergraduate students’ population had deceitful behaviour with their parents, friends and relatives time to time.
20. Overall more than one third of undergraduate population used cell phone without any embarrassment in the social function.
Slightly more than two fifth of undergraduate students took into account cell phone set as one of the qualities of personality.
Nearly three fifth of undergraduate population frequently gave preference to the cell phone caller than their close friends and / or family members, and also the formal communication with elders, especially teachers. It can be inferred that the person present in person becomes insignificant, irrelevant and standing apart without any purpose.
20. It is confirmed that personal technologies used in public space respatializes (that means rearranges or transforms the attributes related to space around) the public space
(Green & Haddon, 2009). It is therefore clear that the
mobile telephony has extended the personal space of the user, rather the
personal space is now encroaching the social and public space. Average half of
the undergraduate students used cell phone in public places. One third of
undergraduate boys and more than quarter of undergraduate girls did not bother
about the ‘use of mobile phone prohibited’ type notices displayed in the public
places. More than two fifth of undergraduate students enjoyed to be plugged in
while driving vehicles means that either they listened to music or they attended
calls on phone.
More than three fifth of undergraduate students regularly talked on cell phone while walking on the streets and equal percentage of them, frequently made or attended call and continued to talk on cell phone for a long while travelling in public transport or standing in a queue.
21. An average of three fifth undergraduate students generally had heated SMS Communication, thereafter very often sent an additional SMS containing LOL or a smiley to reduce the tension.
22. In SMS, slightly less than three fourth of undergraduate students used short forms of the spellings which are phonetically correct but grammatically incorrect, thus in a way they considered SMS text as a verbal communication in written form. It is implied that they actually wanted to manage with maximum 160 character limit of SMS to express themselves. It has a palpable impact on formal written communication as the similar language was found in the written examinations’ answers; using short forms and minimal space of answer-sheet.
In a way, one can say that cell phone is responsible for expanding the personal space and shrinking the written space. The long term impact of such a practice may result in reducing the ability of in-depth comprehension and analytical approach in thoughts & expression in the formative years of late adolescence.
23. On an average slightly less than two third of the undergraduate students preferred to click photographs of important information like notice board, Power Point Presentations presented in the classes etc. On one hand it is an easy and time saving way to store the information as it is; on the other hand this act eliminates the prospect of writing; thereby using the motor skills that is coordination of voluntary muscles of finger and hand controlled by brain.
24. When it comes to the cell phone dependency of undergraduate students the statistical tests found that no gender differences on the nature of cell phone dependency. Although the dependency quotient is equal in both boys and girls, it is important to note that undergraduate boys were more under the influence of cell phone than undergraduate girls in terms of their behavioural pattern and their relationships with their parents, other family members and friends. On one hand the perception towards cell phone and the life of undergraduate students no gender difference was found, on the other assess the reported behavioural pattern undergraduate boys’ behaviour was more influenced by the cell phone than the undergraduate girls’ behaviour.
The qualitative analysis revealed that -
1. Cell phone usage pattern was a classic case of ‘abuse of resources as an unalterable habit of human beings.’
2. Due to cell phone the virtual world had become more active than the real one.
3. The undergraduates stuck to their phones as if this gadget was the source of their oxygen intake. In other words, cell phone had apparently become as essential as food, clothing and shelter to this generation.
4. Cell phones became an integral part of the life of the youth as these carried photographs, phone numbers, messages, music, college notes, and documents etc. and after internet integration, offers Face Book, Twitter and other social media to connect to the rest of the world.. The cell phone became a tool for the person’s identity to be expressed.
5. Cell phone use would cause lack of concentration.
6. Exposure to 24 hour-access to internet and also social networking sites through mobile phones since early and late teen age (13 years to 17 years) had negative impact. While these users are in the process of forming self-image, this virtual world could foster their hunger of having a larger than life image among the members of their social network but it took them away from the real world. Now through cell phone they could be online for 24 X 7. Thus they could carry this larger than life self image of the virtual world with them everywhere.
7. 24X7 cell phone usage was liable for the expansion of the private space. The undergraduate students talked on phone regardless of the space. They even talked on such subject, which, otherwise they would not have discussed in the presence of others.
8. The young generation grew up looking forward to upgrade their technology instead of upgrading their lives.
9. Certain oral and textual degradation of language, considerable increase in impatience and decrease in tolerance among the youngsters was observed.
10. Two-wheeler Plus cell phone was a combination which could invite accidents.
11. On an average majority of the young population were found spending nearly `500 per month.
12. The mobile phone saved lot of time but at the same time the same consumed most of it.
13. The teenage girls were more prone to use SMS and teenage boys were more prone to use voice calling. This difference in the usage pattern was because boys had less patience to type the message, hence they resorted to talking.
14. The late night hours on phone chatting with friend and getting up late in the mornings was a routine practice of young generation.
15. The undergraduates talk on cell phone for the sake of talking and staying connected. There is no serious content in the conversation. Most of the time it is just a ‘time pass’ and gossiping.
16. People in general fluently talk fallacious things in their cell phone conversations. The percentage of teenagers was considerable in this lot; they found to be deceiving very often about their location.
17. The major impact of cell phone usage was that the anyone present in person would become insignificant once a call or SMS was received.
18. Cell phone proved to be an effective tool to escape from the unwanted situations.
19. The undergraduate students were all the time plugged in. The user using the earphone continuously might get permanent damage to the hearing ability.
20. The parents felt proud in confessing that their children did not listen to them.
21. Out of 100 youngsters on the road 99 were found using cell phone either for communication or for texting or for listening to music. More than 40% of the road accidents were caused due to using mobile phones while driving. Nearly half of the young generation using mobile phone on road got annoyed and back answered the police on duty who expressly raised objection on their mobile phone use on road.
22. Economically backward young people compromised on the quality of the battery of their cell phone set.
23. Sometimes teenage couple was found watching something objectionable like pornographic clip on the mobile screen in public space such as a hired auto rickshaw.
24. They appeared to take all the safety instructions very lightly. They even found using cell phone without bothering for notices displayed there preventing use of the mobile phones.
25. The youngsters involved in multiple relationships were found using mobile phones to deal with their multiple girl/boyfriends. The examples of deceitful behaviour with the lover using mobile phones resulting into serious crimes like murder appeared to be rare cases at present but their number would certainly grow in future.
26. Every medium had its impact on language so did cell phone have. The size of the screen and the limitation of the characters to be texted cannot afford the luxury of grammatical, syntactical and other linguistic precisions like spellings. Therefore, it is obvious that this generation which is brought up with the cell phone as a medium of communication is using the abridged, condensed and so called distorted text language. Since these days, most of the linguists are for the descriptive grammar instead of prescriptive one; this form of language should be looked at as one of the phases in the voyage of development of language.
27. There would be a paradox that there would be a reduction in educational discipline, while providing greater exposure to the user.
28. The privacy provided by cell phone was responsible to change the traditional, cultural and behavioural set, and also to homogenize the nation into one. This would necessitate educationists, teachers, parents and social scientists to revisit teaching pedagogies, content and evaluation systems and look at their students more holistically – not just as domain learners at the tender undergraduate stage.
29. If human interaction got to be entirely dependent on technology then there lurked a danger of breakdown of civil society. Civil society entails on not only collective communication but also collective action. Although communications technology facilitated the spreading of thought faster than before, people had to act collectively and with a physical presence.
30. Karl Marx’s famous quote ‘religion is the opium of the people,’ should be applicable for mobile phones.
Summary and Suggestions
This chapter summarises the thesis. Based on the findings this researcher has pinpointed sensitive areas where the young generation may fall prey to the ill effects of Personal Communication Technology.
Limitations of the study
This research revolved round the PCT (Personal Communication Technology) which is ever-changing with galloping speed. The study was conducted during September 2010 to September 2012 and thus limited to the PCT available during the above mentioned time frame. Thus it could not include the technology introduced after the study. It was restricted only to the undergraduate students of University of Pune. The topic was delimited for the sake of making it practically achievable within the given time frame. The topic was interdisciplinary and hence the researcher was at times dependent of the scholars of other disciplines for example Psychology. Hence, the questionnaire took a long time to be finalized. The sample design was purposive as the main objective of the study was to assess and analyse the impact of cell phone usage on the behavioural pattern in general and communication pattern in particular of the undergraduate students. The results of the study are with the specific reference to the undergraduate students studying in the colleges affiliated to University of Pune. The study gives a broad indication about the impact of cell phone usage on the undergraduate students in Pune. The findings thus cannot be generalised in respect of students in colleges everywhere in the country. A larger sample from urban and rural India may offer better perspective about the behaviour and communication as well as relationships of late adolescents of in the country.
Budgetary and time constraints were other important limiting factors.
Suggestions for Future Research
The field of communication is vast. While carrying out this study, and reviewing literature available on the subject of impact of Information Technology and Personal Communication Technology, the researcher realised that studies and research in many areas seems called for. Communication of the Cell phone Generation (childhood cell phone users), Cultural and social variance caused due to cell phone communication, measurement of communication effectiveness, are some of the areas that need research.
Ramaa Golwalkar Dr. Kiran Thakur
Research Student Guide