What Are the Positive & Negative Aspects of Cell Phones?

Technological advances change the way people live. Cell phones are no exception to this and can be found in the hands of everyone from teenagers to the elderly. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, CTIA, estimates that over 290 million people in the US have cell phones as of 2010. Some companies even go as far as issuing cell phones to employees. Yet, like all technologies, negative aspects of cell phones offset some of their positive aspects.

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A man talks on his cell phone while looking out the window at an urban landscape.
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Pro: Personal Safety

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A young woman uses her cell phone to get help with a car engine problem.
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Many situations can place a person in danger, and cell phones help when you're in an unsafe situation. Car accidents, medical conditions and traveling alone can necessitate contacting someone quickly for assistance. With direct or roaming coverage in all but the most remote areas of the US, cell phones enhance the ability of people to resolve emergency situations. The AARP reports that, as of 2006, over half of cell phone users over the age of 65 maintain cellular service specifically for safety reasons.

Con: Dangerous Driving

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A person reads a text while driving a car.
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The research on the effects of talking or texting on a cell phone remain unclear, but point to cell use as a cognitive distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety estimates that 25 percent of crashes trace back to driver distraction, to which cell usage contributes. Despite the uncertainty of the research, state governments take the threat seriously. As of early 2011, 39 states and the District of Columbia maintain laws or regulations that impose some limits on cell phone usage while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Pro: Communication Convenience

Man with smartphone and tablet computer in restaurant
A man uses his smart phone and tablet in a restaurant.
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Cell phones allow people to touch base with friends, family and co-workers. This lets family members inform one another about changes in their respective schedules, which can reduce worry. It allows co-workers to coordinate meetings and reports or repair a crisis before it spirals out of control without waiting for someone to get back to the office. Smart phones add to this convenience by allowing you to check email and even send files from remote locations.

Con: Health Risks

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A doctor makes an explanation in front of MRIs.
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The research into the connection between cell phone use and health risks remains controversial and contradictory. However, a 2008 article appearing in the "International Journal of Oncology" reports that a meta-analysis of existing research reveals an association between cell phone usage and two types of tumor: gliomas and neuromas. The counter-argument is that the radiation emitted by cell phones is non-ionizing and cancer is normally only associated with ionizing radiation (radiation that damages DNA).