These days, cell phones are as common a sight as the local supermarket or gas station. Rutgers University communications professor James Katz states, "In the United States, 66% of the population owns a cell phone: U.S. population stands at 297 million, with 197 million cell phone users." With the commonality of cell phones has come a change in how people act and relate towards one another.
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Social Effects of Cell Phone Use
Katz notes that a large percentage of students use cell phones in class, and some dating websites have taken to warning daters away from cell use during meetups. Cell phones have also become a way for women to ward off unwanted attention from men on streets. In many instances, phones have become a way to close out others, and help to form an invisible wall that isolates.
Cell Phone Use and Language
Cell phones have materially affected language use. These days, it's a common sight to see people write "LOL" or "srsly" instead of expressing themselves through fully realized action and language. Text speak is now acceptable in school testing in New Zealand and Great Britain, even though school administrators feel that it's harming correct English usage.
Language has become compacted even further by cell phone linkages to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Because of character count restrictions on these sites, messages are restricted to 140 characters. These shortened thoughts often necessitate abbreviation of words that could become habitual, given enough time and use, with the potential to spill into normal conversation. However, studies show that the shortened speech may help children with reading comprehension, and that there are no negative effects from texting.
Cell Phones and Health
The biggest health risk one could take with a cell phone is to use one while driving. In the summer of 2009, a YouTube video showing the wreckage of a car made news headlines around the world; the teen driver had been texting while driving, causing a fatal collision. Many states actively ticket drivers that are speaking without a hands-free device or texting while behind the wheel.
Other health risks exist for cell phone use. Cell phones emit low-level radiation over time, and cell phone technology hasn't been prevalent for a long enough time for tests to be conclusive. However, the radiation potentially poses a risk of causing tumor growth with enough exposure. Jeneen Interlandi of Newsweek says, "In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration recommends minimizing any potential risk by using hands-free devices and keeping cell-phone talk to a minimum."