Friday, April 12, 2013

Cellphone syndrome

Last week an investigation into the fatal crash of a medivac helicopter in Missouri revealed that the pilot had been texting at the time of the accident.

Google "texting car crash" and you'll get millions of results. Folks who would never dream of getting behind the wheel after a glass of wine has passed their lips think nothing of sending half a dozen texts on the way home from work.

A teacher at the local high school tells me that students are so cell-addicted that the devices have become a regular feature in every classroom all the time. There is an official policy against using cellphones in the classroom, but there is no enforcement, and students often become abusive if a teacher asks that they shut their phone off.

Somebody is profiting from this digital opium. Look at that high school for a minute. A thousand students. Nine out of ten have cellphones. If we postulate an average fifty bucks a month, which I'm guessing is extremely conservative, we're seeing $45,000 wafting out of the building into cyberspace every month.

Fifteen years ago the equivalent number was zero.

If the student body at a smallish rural high school was spending $45,000 a month on drugs, there would be a public outcry and a Royal Inquiry. Commissions and task forces would be struck. Editorials would be penned by the dozen. Political campaigns left and right would develop policy to combat this scourge.

But somehow the mobile phone industry has managed to convince the public that this is all good. Your children "need" those phones you pay for. After all, you need to be able to get in touch with them instantly at any time, do you not?

No, you do not! Nor do they need to text their pals half a dozen times from English class!

The cellphone has become a must-have accessory for insecure teens. They are socially excluded without one, and it's a very small minority of adolescents who can buck the social pressures and step outside the mainstream. The cellphone providers have become masters of exploiting the insecurities not only of those teens, but their parents as well.

Then, when those kids start to drive in their late teens or early twenties, they've been conditioned to check their messages constantly, whether they're at home, walking to school, or in class. It's only natural for them to check them while they're driving. It's what they've been conditioned to do.

There is a word for this.


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