Mobile phones and their use by different generations: an analysis of the use ofmedia by Portuguese families.Kárita Cristina FranciscoFCSH-UNL/FCT/CIMJkaritafrancisco@gmail.comAbstract: Nowadays mobile phones have been the fastest adopted technology ever. Thegreatest part of its relevance lies in empowering people to engage in communication andat the same time freeing people from the constraints of physical proximity and spatialimmobility.Based on these thoughts, this paper intends to verify and analyze the use of mobilephones by different 26 people from 13 different families 1 (an adolescent and a parent).This includes usage intensity and also the variety of use these people make of theirphones.Keywords: mobile phones, young people, parents, social capital.The digital divideWhen talking about technologies, especially the new information and communicationtechnologies, a subject that comes up more frequently is the digital divide. Livingstone(2007:3) affirms that the “digital divide” has received considerable attention fromacademics and policies lately, “drawing attention to divisions within and acrosssocieties according to those that have access to digital technologies (including theinternet) and those that do not”.To Peter and Valkenburg (2006: 294) the term “was coined in particular to describeinequalities in access to the internet as a result of varying socio-economic, cognitive,and cultural resources”, but some authors have criticized that the term has been usedonly as way to refer “to the gap between “have” and “have-nots” regarding internetaccess, while other digital divide phenomena such as differences in internet use areignored”. Although the majority of studies regarding the digital divide analyses the 1 This study is part of the Project Digital Inclusion and Participation. Comparing the trajectories of digitalmedia use by majority and disadvantaged groups in Portugal and the USA being developed by a group ofresearchers from Portuguese Universities and from the University of Austin/Texas. The project iscoordinated by Cristina Ponte (FCSH-UNL), José Azevedo (FL-UP) and Joseph Straubhaar (UTA).
possession and use of the computer and internet, other devices have to be considered, asthe mobile phones.One of the theoretical approaches to the digital divide phenomena described by Peterand Valkenburg (2006:297) is the emerging digital differentiation approach. It statesthat the “adolescent’s use of the internet, for example, will depend on their socio-economic, cognitive, and cultural resources”. This relationship regarding the use ofinternet can also be applied to the use of other ICTs, as the mobile phones, respectingthe differences of the medium (Peter and Valkenburg, 2006: 297-298).Similar thoughts are shared by Rojas et at (2010:3) who verified in their studies 2 thatother factors besides income remain in place regarding to the digital divide as: “theability to afford access, notably group dispositions or habitus, based in part on incomedisparities, but also education, cultural patterns, family trajectories, and the structure ofopportunities”. The authors have based their approach on Bourdieu “concepts ofhabitus 3 , field, and capital to elaborate the continuity, regularity and regulatedtransformation of social action, such as technology use by individuals and groups”.In Bourdieu (Nogueira, 2002) the individual is a socially configured actor: thepreferences, the skills, the body posture, the intonation of voice, the professionalaspirations for the future, everything would be socially constituted, dynamic but alsooriginated from a set of historical relationships, through which individuals incorporate aset of dispositions for the typical action of this position (a family or a class habitus).Rojas et al. (2010:4-5) state that to understand an individual’s disposition toward atechnology a number of “combinations of interrelated factors or characteristics shouldbe analyzed – notably, economic capital, cultural capital, linguistic capital, ethnicity,age and gender[…]and when these dispositions are held by a number of people in thesame class circumstances, we can speak of a class habitus toward technology, or atechno-habitus.”The authors also affirm that an individual’s relationship with technology not only 2 The first was conducted in Fall 1999 and Spring 2000 and the second and more recently one in Spring2009. 3 Bourdieu describes the habitus “not only a structuring structure, which organizes practices and theperception of practices, but also a structured structure: the principle of division into logical classes whichorganizes the perception of the social world is itself the product of internalization of the division intosocial classes. Each class condition is defined, simultaneously, by its intrinsic properties and by therelational properties which it derives from its position in the systems of class conditions, which is also asystem of differences…” (Bourdieu, 1984:170-172).
depends on how much they know about it or if they have the resources to access it.These “techno-dispositions are delineated by such indicators as social practices,perceptions and attitudes, technical education, awareness of technology, desire forinformation, job requirements, social relations, community interactions, and geographiclocation. Social practices include an individual’s and family’s history of technology use,especially the internet and other ICTs, as well as patterns of mass media consumption(e.g. radio, television, film)” (Rojas et al., 2010:7).In another perspective, but keeping the central idea, Neil Selwyn argues that mereaccess is insufficient to ensure equality of opportunity. “A lack of meaningful use … isnot necessarily due to technological factors ... or even psychological factors …engagement with ICTs is based around a complex mixture of social, psychological,economic and, above all, pragmatic reasons” (Selwyn, 2004b: 349 in Livingstone,2007:3-4).Livingstone (2007:4) reminds us that “technological innovation requires a recurrentinvestment of money, time and effort on the part of the general public and, in thisprocess, social stratification continues to matter”.In the same path, Peter and Valkenburg (2006:295) say that “socio-economic, cognitive,and cultural resources generally affect the likelihood that a person will achieveparticular material or immaterial goals”. The research of the authors was conducted withadolescents and the impact of socio-economic and cognitive resources in their resultswere remarkable (2006: 302). The authors also found out that although “digitaltechnology adds a new quality of life, their use may not transcend the boundaries ofsocial inequality.”Being more specific and analyzing only one of the ICTs, the mobile phone, Geser(2004:6) considers it a technology with highly generalized integrative functions: “Bybeing adopted irrespective of education and family background, the mobile phonebridges at least some gaps between different social classes”.Although the possession of mobile phones each day becomes more ubiquitous andpresent in the diverse segments of population “Mobile phones may still accentuatesocial inequalities insofar as their factual usage patterns are tightly correlated with thevarious purposes of social actions, as well as with different situations, socialrelationships and social roles” (Geser, 2004:6).Thus, although being a more accessible technology for owning, the use people make ofthem is deeply related to social relationships but also to socioeconomic status, once
having a more sophisticated or spending more money with some applications dependson the money you have or the social role you assume. Some people couldn’t afford anexpensive device, but do it because of status 4 .From outside world to the domestic space: the conflict of new media at homeIf outside the domestic sphere we have this entire dilemma regarding the access and useof the communication and information technologies, once the members of the familysurpass or follow a pre-existing culture in family organization regarding the ICT andmedia, another dilemma starts since this family culture may change profoundly.According to Horst (2010:151) it´s not easy to be a parent in this new media context,“once home and family environments reflect the values, morals, and aspirations offamilies as well as beliefs about the importance and effects of new media for learningand communication” (Horst, 2010:151).A home’s economy of meaning results from theeveryday practices of household members, who thereby give meaning to the objectswith which they share their environment. For example, the mobile phone is part of thegeneral economy of a society because it has a set range of prices, officially recognizedfunctions, and a value that is more or less shared collectively. These aspects accompanythe techno-object when it is integrated into a family system, but they are also confrontedwith the economic principles of the existing domestic ecology. Thus, the mobile phoneis at the heart of the daily interactions of a family because it allows members to contactone another at any time (Caron and Caronia 2007:60).When talking about families, the same way “Young people engage with new mediabased on friendship driven and interest-driven genres of participation, parents andadults’ attitudes toward new media reflect their own motivations and beliefs aboutparenting as well as their personal histories and interests in media”. The most commonare the educational goals and a better future for their children, but in the case of mobilephones, the first mentioned is safety (Horst, 2010:150).For poor families, those which cannot offer a computer with internet broadband for theirchildren, the mobile phone appears as a possibility of integrating these children in aninformation society, and keeping them less digitally excluded. Horst points out that aswell as for those families which can afford a little more of new technology, like cameras 4 We also have to remember that some people, even either without a great amount of money or withoutmoney at all obtain their devices by illicit ways.
and computers, these devices “become meaningful to many families because theyrepresent an investment in their child’s future, one that they hope will ensure theirchildren’s success in education, work, and income generation (2010:150)”.But this offering of new media technology or its presence at home is not completelypeaceful. On the contrary, the author states that parents live surrounded by ambivalentfeelings as anxiety and discomfort and on the other hand the feeling of protection andsafety they can offer by the owning of mobile phones, for example. “The integration ofnew media into the home also reflects concerns about independence, separation andautonomy”, very common feelings and situations during teenage years.To Silverstone et al (1992:15) communication and information technologies poseespecial problems simply because they are not just objects: they are media. “Butcommunication and information technologies have a functional significance, as media;they provide, actively, interactively or passively, links between households, andindividual members of households, with the world beyond their front door, and they dothis (or fail to do this) in complex and often contradictory ways. Information andcommunication technologies are […] doubly articulated into public and privatecultures” (Silverstone, Hirsh, Morley, 1992:15).The Portuguese Mobile ContextIn a European perspective, the Eurobarometer 248 studied parent’s views andsupervision about their children’s use of the internet and mobile phones. The childrenand young people considered for this study were from 6 to 17 years old and 60% of thePortuguese ones had mobile phones.Among the Portuguese studies, the Survey on the Use of Information andCommunication Technology for Families (INE, 2009) from 2005 to 2008 presented thatthere was an intensification of the use of mobile phone among the age group from 10 to15 years old from 73.3% in 2007 to 84.6% in 2008. In 2008, according to the agegroups, from 16 to 24 years old, 97.1% used a mobile phone; also from 25-34 years old,95.3% used a mobile phone, from 35-44 years old, 92.4%. After this subtle decreaserelated to age, as far as the age increases, we verify a more stressed decrease in thenumber of users of mobile phones: from 45-54 years old, 86.9%; from 55-64 years old,76.3%; from 65-74 years old, 51.3%.Another study conducted in Portugal for the Media Regulatory Entity (ERC) withchildren from 9 to 17 years old, the mobile phone appears as the second technological
medium more present among the group from 15-17 years old and more than 25% ofthem have a device with internet. Still, this group prefers the new media and also thosewhich offer options related to informatics, music, audiovisual, games and mobility(ERC, 2008: 188).The E-Generation was a survey conducted along Portugal that interviewed children andyoung people about media from 8 to 18 years old, divided into three age groups: 8-12,13-15 and 16-18 years old. In the 13-15 year-old-group there was a possession index of94.2%, while in the group from 16-18 years old this number increased to 99.5%. Inthese two groups, around 1% of the adolescents had mobile individual plans. Also, themoney spent with the mobile top up increases as far as the age increases. Making andreceiving calls also increase with the age as well as sending and receiving SMS 5 moreoften daily, using the Instant Messaging and surfing on internet via mobile phone –though this rate is really low.Methodology and sampleAmong the objectives of the Project Digital Inclusion and Participation is the understandingof the conditions and tendencies for access and appropriation by users and non-users ofdigital media, with a focus on families and groups which are digitally excluded and inthe digital integration of children and youth.During its first phase 130 people were interviewed, one young and another oldermember of the same family that talked about their experiences with media in general,which comprised the history of the family- mobility, education, SES (socioeconomicstatus) - and the personal history with media. The method consisted in semi-structuredinterviews.From the 13 families 6 selected as our sample, the younger members were six boys andseven girls, from 15-18 years old, all of them students - from middle school to highschool and one girl that has already entered the University - eight of them affirm usingthe internet frequently and 5 of them say they use it sometimes. 5 SMS (Short Message Service) is used as a synonym for text messaging6 In fact, 14 families had young people from 15-18 years old interviewed, but one family a grandmotherwas interviewed as the older member, which would present a different use of mobile phone that wouldnot be similar to other parents, especially because of her age. So this family was put aside in this analysis.
The group of adults is formed for 13 parents, 12 of them from 37 to 49 years old andone mother that is 28 years old. Among these parents five have graduation level, threehigh school level completed and one incomplete and four have 9 years or less of school.Among these parents five never or rarely use internet; seven use internet very frequentlyand one says using the internet just sometimes. We can observe that the use of theinternet by the parents is in the edge of both sides: use and non-use. This ambience ofintimacy or not with internet may be an indication of the way people also handle withanother new technology: the mobile phone.Mobile phones in the context of families and their usesAmong the 13 families interviewed, only one boy affirmed having lost his mobile phoneand a young girl had a kind of familiar mobile phone which was left at home all thetime and used when necessary, also by her mother. Among the parents, only this mothershared this mobile phone and another mother who affirmed she didn’t have one device.In some of these families, on the other hand, the number of devices overcame thenumber of members of the family. One of the interviewee when questioned if he had amobile phone answered:“I have one, my mother has two or three. My father has two. My sister has one.” (16,male, assiduous internet user).When talking about uses, the majority of young people from 15 to 18 years old werecategorical in declaring that the mobile phone is used for making calls and sendingSMS, basically communicational functions.Being in touch with friends and also with family is mentioned as something reallyrelevant to some of the adolescents. There are cases in which some adolescents havenew models of mobile phones, with many tools, but they are concerned if the devicesoffer them the possibility of communicating with friends:“Once it’s possible to send SMS and to call my friends…that’s what it isimportant.”(16, male, assiduous internet user).“I just use the mobile phone to contact friends and family.”(17, female, sometimes usethe internet).
Livingstone (2002) states that “Children and young people are at the point in their liveswhere they are highly motivated to construct social identities, to create new socialgroups and networks and to question cultural meanings. All of these are importantaspects of media and communications technologies and are embedded in peerrelationships and mediated by mobile technologies” (in Haddon and Green, 2009:123).Jouët and Pasquier also value the social interaction among peers, which could berepresented by meeting with friends or making phone calls. “Their intense socialinteraction around the media - and digital screens in particular - attests to the importancethey attribute to the bond between themselves and others, despite interaction which mayseem more functional than affective” (1999:37).The use of the mobile phone for being in contact with family is also observed in relationto parents, although they do not show so clearly the need of being in contact withfriends – as the youngest interviewees did – but mention the relevance of using themobile phone to be in contact with family and with the outside world.“Since it makes and receives calls it’s perfectly enough” (41, female, sometimes usesthe internet).“I use the mobile phone more to talk to my family… when I arrive home at around 6p.m. I turn it off, because I’m already with my family and I don’t need it anymore.” (41,male, assiduous internet user).Some of the young people make a kind of differentiation to whom they call and towhom they send messages, like calling only parents and sending SMS especially tofriends.“I use the mobile phone to talk to my family or to communicate with friends through textmessages.” (17, female, sometimes uses the internet)“I don’t make many calls, more to my parents…”(15, female, sometimes uses theinternet).This act of calling more the parents may be related to 1) the knowledge parents havewhile handling the mobile phones, once it was mentioned by some parents that they donot know how to type, read or send text messages; 2) the price and limited amount ofmoney young people have to top-up their mobile phones.
But the use of mobile phones is definitely not restricted to these actions among youngpeople. This sending of SMS is just part of a routine of communication with peers tofind out what they are doing, to establish who they are and to establish a position in apeer group.Caron and Caronia (2007:5) explain that “when adolescents use text messages (SMS) tochat, flirt, and gossip, when they engage in endless instantaneous written exchanges,they reinterpret the technology to meet the needs of their specific culture”. And theyalso emphasize the use of the SMS:(What kind of uses do you make with your mobile phone?)“I send messages…”(16, male, assiduous internet user).“I like to send a lot of SMS.” (18, female, assiduous internet user).If for the adolescents the text messages are so important for keeping in touch withfriends and a kind of demonstration of belonging to a group, for their parents textmessaging definitely does not present the same relevance, either because parents don’tknow how to use it or because they don’t like it and in both options they prefer calling.Sending messages could be a good option for parents to talk to their children, but only afew know how to type, send and read SMS. Parents complain about having to look forthe messages on the mobile phone, having to type searching for the letters, and othersjust say that don’t know how to read or send SMS.“I don’t either know how to read the messages or send them.”(43, female, never usesthe internet).“Because, as I’m telling you, I don’t have much empathy with the machines... I preferto talk and listen to people. Sometimes people send SMS, but I am not accustomed to gothere and read it”(46, female, sometimes uses the internet).“I don’t have to look for the letters, since it calls it’s enough.”(41, female, sometimesuses the internet).Parents that do use the SMS – few ones - take advantages of it communicating withtheir children. One of the mothers even thinks SMS can be a polite way of contactingsomeone:
“I think the SMS is good because it’s not invasive. You can send a message with an ideato a person without bothering the person, and this I think it’s really good.” (47, female,assiduous internet user).When the topic is listening to music, Jouët and Pasquier (1999:32) found out that for theteens’ group, listening to music plays a decisive role, since music is one of their mainsubject of interest.Young people also enjoy listening to music all the time as a way of avoiding boredom.It’s really common to have the mobile phone working as MP3 since it is together withthe owner everywhere he/she goes. And this use for listening to music is really stated inthe group of young people interviewed.“I also use my mobile phone as MP3 player to listen to music”(16, male, assiduousinternet user).“As I’m always with my mobile phone so I am used to listen to radio this way.”(15,female, sometimes uses the internet).When talking about listening to music by the parents of these families, only one motherreferred to making the most of her mobile phone, using all the applications it offers:“It has so many things! It has a camera, internet, radio, MP3, it makes video calls,other stuff…it’s a 3G…”…”I use it for everything!”(39, female, rarely uses theinternet).Based oh these data we can also observe that parents do not mention the use of mobilephones for entertainment as the group of young people did. For the greatest part of theparents the mobile phone is a tool used for communication and it doesn’t matter if thehandset offers them more; the use, in most of case is the same: calling. Only one parentof this group listens to music through the mobile phone, which can be consideredentertainment.If on one hand parents don’t show any intimacy with the music on the mobile phone, onthe other hand some of them show some interest in cameras and taking photographs.Although some say it’s rare to take pictures it’s still more common for them to takepictures than to send SMS.
“I use it to take some pictures.” (47, female, assiduous internet user).“I have two mobile phones. I receive calls and take photographs with them because theyhave all the functionalities.” (47, female, assiduous internet user).Among the young group, taking photographs is something common, as well asexchanging photos with friends. Seven adolescents mentioned taking pictures with theirmobile phones:“I listen to music, make videos, take photographs…” (15, male assiduous internet user).“When I go somewhere, I take a picture to keep as a memory. I also take pictures of myfamily…” (17, female, sometimes uses the internet).Although parents realize the mobile phones have a lot of applications, for many ofthem, they are still telephones and should be handled like that. Even for some youngpeople the advanced technology the mobile phones present is also amazing and they areable to notice how fast these improvements have happened:“I use to say that the mobile phone hasn’t been a mobile phone anymore. It is MP3,messages. It’s up for everything, less for making calls (laugh)(15, male, assiduousinternet user).“…Today, talking on the phone is the least….Everybody does everything but talking.Mine has even a camera.” (16, male, assiduous internet user).IncorporationThe incorporation of the mobile phones has proved to be really intense among theseyoung people, more than their parents. When the young people were questioned aboutthe time they spent with media and which media they spent most of their time, themobile phone seems to be one of the first in the list.“I have the mobile phone always at hand….” (18, female, assiduous internet user).“During the week it’s most the mobile phone but on the weekend maybe it’stelevision.”(15, male, assiduous internet user).
One adolescent girl, when questioned about the media she spent most time with,answered:“With the radio, also because of the mobile phone. As I am always with the mobilephone, then I am used to always listening to radio”. (15, female, sometimes uses theinternet).Also parents’ discourses about the incorporation of mobile phones in their family livesare really rich. Some of them give us an exact idea of how incorporate in their dailyroutines the mobile phones are: what the mobile phone means for them and how theyhandle this technology. Some know that people are not able to contact them, but keepon doing the same actions; some also recognize that they are not good handling themobile phone especially managing its use during the day, as this example:“I am a disaster with the mobile phone, it’s always turned off (laugh). When peoplewant to call me they can’t because I always have that turned off…”(41, male, assiduousinternet user).It’s worth pinpointing how some parents try to encourage children’s independence byoffering them a mobile phone: kids can face the world but keeping a direct line withparents in case of need. Another common attitude in many families, especially theworking class ones is giving the old useless mobile phone which once was one of theparent’s handset to the youngest at home.Another different example of incorporation of technology can be observed by thismother’s discourse. She has lost her daughter’s mobile phone today and although usingher daughter’s, she has 3 handsets while the use she makes is scarce:“Today I’ve lost one mobile phone…I have three, but today I’ve lost hers (the youngerdaughter, 10 years old)… I use them just to answer calls and for SMS…but takingpicture is rare.”(37, female, never uses the internet).Other families have really incorporated the mobile phones which mean they use it a lotand spend time with the device.
“…At home, we even use the mobile phone to talk to one another”(49, female,assiduous internet user).“Essentially I contact my family and friends by mobile phone. I am a person who likesto call although I send a lot of SMS. When I miss someone, I call family andfriends….”(18, female, assiduous internet user).This family has incorporated the mobile phones in their daily lives especially forcommunication among them. They call one another via mobile phone. Another exampleis a mother that only communicates with her teenage son via SMS.“With my son I just use the mobile phone, just the mobile phone. SMS.” (47, female,assiduous internet user).In this example of a mother keeping in contact with her son via SMS, Horst (2010:182)presents a case of a mother who bought a phone on which she has learned to “type”.She’s been using the mobile to communicate with her son via SMS and it’s been mucheasier to keep up with her son’s activities and movements throughout the day, since shejust wants to know where he is and if he is all right. She believes that this increase incommunication actually improved their relationship.This other interviewed mother shows us one example of a hard kind of not desiredincorporation in the daily routine of the family. She doesn’t like the mobile phone, shefeels watched, but as it is part of the coordination of the family, she has to use it at leastsometimes.“It’s at home. I don’t have one, it’s at home, and then when it’s necessary it takes metwo seconds giving explanations to some people and it’s all. But I don’t use it and don’tcarry it with me…It’s not from my generation and second I don’t like togive….satisfaction …” (45, female, assiduous internet user).These are the ambiguities of the mobile phone, on the one hand it’s good because itallows you to be in contact with other people at any time you want; but on the other youbecome available at any time for other people. And this availability also allows a kindof remote surveillance by anyone who is interested in, although this bad feeling was feltonly in parents’ interviews.
If on the one hand the mobile phones can make adults feel watched, for some of theirchildren the mobile phones have become a kind of or a means to satisfy an addiction.Some young people mentioned the dependence of the mobile phone, as a real need to bewith the device all the time to feel connected with friends, sending SMS and calling. Onthe other hand, some people mention being “addicted” to music and listen to it throughthe mobile phones. The necessity of having the handset together is related to thenecessity of listening to music and to avoid boredom.“I’m addicted to it (music). MP3, mobile phone. Romantic, tectonic, RAP music…”(15,female, assiduous internet user).“I always have the mobile phone on my hand. Now I can surf on internet and be on themobile phone at the same time. I need the internet even on vacation to entertain myselfand the mobile phone is also essential.” (18, female, assiduous internet user).André Caron and Letizia Caronia (2007:75) affirm that the feeling of becoming“addicted” to one’s mobile phone is something that arises in the discourse of youngpeople, however this “urgent need” to communicate does not seem to be perceived in anegative way.CostsThe cost of having a mobile phone is something that worries some parents. For thisreason, it’s really common that children and adolescents have pre-paid/pay-as-you-gophones. Also, the costs influence the kind and amount of uses of some tools, even thecalls, as it is stated by this adolescent:“Now that I have a new plan I am used to calling my friends a lot” (16, male, assiduousinternet user).This example indicates how important the money spent on mobile phones are for youngpeople, who are generally students and especially for our sample that is from simplersocioeconomic classes. One of the adolescents interviewed said she had a mobile phonebefore, but now there’s just one at home that she uses to send messages to her parentswhen she arrives home. This girl explains that her mobile phone was taken from herbecause she was accustomed to using it in improper hours:
“I abused a little”….“During the night, I used to talk to my friends.” (15, female,sometimes uses the internet).Although many of these adolescents’ devices offer internet connection they do not useit. A plausible explanation for that lack of use is that this group of 15-18 year-old-youngpeople is formed by students, who depend on the parents’ money to charge their mobilephones, and surfing on internet via mobile phone doesn’t fit their budget.(Does your mobile phone have internet?) “Yes, but I don’t use it… it spends a lot…it’sexpensive.” (15, male, assiduous internet user).Also, they know that if they don’t spend their credit with internet they will be able tosend more text messages and also call their friends more.Horst (2010:180) verifies that working-class and low-income kids are often acutelyaware of the cost of calls, since young people are afraid of losing their number if theycan’t pay for the credits, which would be similar to losing one’s identity.One mother has also tried to use the internet for a month, but she didn’t like it:“I once used it for a month, but I used just a little, because I thought I was paying tomuch for a service I used so little.” (47, female, assiduous internet user).Some parents show their difficulties with expenditures with their mobile phones bymentioning that they do not make calls, they just receive them – once most of them donot know how to use the text messaging.“It´s just to answer calls…sometimes it only receives calls…I don’t make them. Ineither know how to read nor send the messages…I dont have a landline phone athome and I need the mobile to be contactable.” (43, female, never uses the internet).Some parents, on the other hand, demonstrate no concern with the cost of buying a verymodern mobile phone. They don’t say anything about expenditures, but they are reallyhappy to mention that their devices have everything a modern and good one wouldpresent.
Two other parents affirm that now it’s easier to have a mobile phone, because in thepast the devices were really expensive as well as the fees people had to pay to have andkeep one. This reduction of costs as well as the arrival of the pre-paid cards promoted awidespread of mobile phones and made them more easily available for people with alow socioeconomic status.“ I used to use the mobile phone just a little because it was really expensive.”(49,female, assiduous internet user).“In 1990, I had a “brick” and it was worth a fortune.” (47, female, assiduous internetuser).The little use of mobile phones’ potentialAlthough it could be really attractive, some young and adult interviewees didn’t showany enthusiasm for realizing a lot of different activities with the applications of theirmobile phones. As stated before, the majority of them – and this also include parents-was just interested in being able to keep contact with the family and with the outsideworld.Some adolescents showed a real simple use, either because their device is too simpleand do not allow any other activities (like having no camera) and this restricts the usethese people make, or also because they were simply not interested in doing specialthings with it:“…It’s a basic phone, one of those cheap ones that I only have to send messages andmake calls. Just it, nothing else.” (15, female, sometimes uses the internet).“It was my father’s, it’s a Nokia and it’s been already kind of broken. I can’t do manythings….just sending messages and making calls….”(Does it have internet connection?)“No, I don’t think so...” (17, male, sometimes uses the internet)This adolescent is a singular case. Although he uses his father’s old mobile phone –which is common for kids, but teenagers really like having a new device – he doesn’teven know the tools of the handset and just make the simplest use of it: making callsand sending messages.
Caron and Caronia (2007:7) present the ambiguities in relation to the use ofcommunication technologies by young people. “In their use of new communicationtechnologies, young people are both extremely innovative and extremely conservative.This dual nature of teenagers’ approach to technologies creates an effective litmus test-precisely because it is so extreme – for the inescapable relationship between creativityand conservatism, innovation and cultural incorporation, which characterizes theadoption of technologies, although the extent varies with the individual”.In the case of parents this behavior was even more intense:“My mobile phone has a camera, voice recorder, MP3, two SIM cards. Basically, whatdo I do with it? I receive and make calls and nothing else. Ah, and sometimes I takesome pictures. Thus, although it is really sophisticated it is just used to receive andmake calls, nothing else” (42, female, assiduous internet user).“This mobile phone has many things that I don’t even know how to use” (47, female,assiduous internet user).The simple use some of these young people make of their mobile phones also calls theattention, because some devices offered a lot of tools which are left aside by the owners,and some don’t even know the tools their mobiles have. This can be either a question ofpriorities, like those teens who just wanted to talk to friends and family or a suggestionof lack of literacy.In relation to parents we could identify clearly three groups regarding the use of mobilephones: a group which uses the device in a very restrictive way, like making andreceiving calls; a second group that could be considered moderate/simple users, whichovercame the act of calling and receiving calls, some of them mastering the sending oftext messages, others the mobile camera; and a third and really small group ofenthusiastic parents that could operate a lot of applications on their devices.It has to be said, though, that many of these parents trust their children to handle thedevices for them at some moment. One of the mothers says she doesn’t pay attention tothe messages and her son is the one who calls her attention, as she explains:“For me the mobile phone is just for answering calls”. I don’t even pay attention to themessages. Sometimes, my son calls my attention: “Mom, you have messages”,otherwise I wouldn’t even notice them. .. If it were for me, I would always buy those
handsets that enable you only to receive and make calls (laugh)”(46, female, sometimesuses the internet).ConclusionDespite the analyses of the differences according to the age of family membersregarding the use of mobile phones, we also tried to show that socioeconomic statusinfluence the way young people and old members of the family interact with new mediatechnologies, especially mobile phones. Economic capital matters in the way thesefamilies use their devices but cultural capital also plays a fundamental role, as can beobserved especially in the simple uses of the devices made by young people.The cultural capital- especially conveyed by family- also contributes to what is stated byRojas et al (2010) as the techno-disposition and the techno-habitus, which means thedispositions a family have to use media technologies, like handling the mobile phones.It was a surprise to realize that some young people make really simple use of theirdevices. But we also have to keep in mind that most young people in this study clearlyshowed the use of the device mainly for the purpose of contact, followed byentertainment (which also includes listening to music and taking/sending pictures).When trying to understand why young people have a wider exploration of some of theapplications we have to take into consideration their peer relationship, which is a strongstimulus for them to learn how to handle these applications once they want to be intouch and have fun with their peers. Young people are generally the ones who masterand try to convey this techno-knowledge at home, which can be received or not,according to the disposition of the members of the family.Nevertheless, there are young people who dedicate little relevance to their mobilephones, which can either be a reflect of the way their family handle with newtechnologies or even a taste/personal question of relevance, once this young people mayhave other interests that consider more important at the moment and only uses thetechnologies to get to them.On the other hand, the older members in general do not conceive the mobile phones as ameans of entertainment and are attached to the device as a phone itself and for them itshard to disassociate them from the function it was first conceived for, which meanstalking. Others, though really in low number, have begun to broaden this view andaccept the phone as a device that goes beyond making and receiving calls.
Also, the incorporation by young people is much more prominent, once they makereferences of being with the mobile phone all the time, communicating with friends oravoiding boredom by listening to music, playing or using other applications. Parents donot make so many references of using the mobile phone all the time as well as their usesare much more restricted than the uses of their children. Some parents even try to makeit clear that avoid letting the mobile phone become more incorporated by not using themor turning them off as soon as they get home.Besides, through this sample it seems that there was no relation of the parents’ use ofmobile phones with education. One of the hypotheses to be verified was that the higherthe educational level of the parent, the more intense and diversified the use would be.Through the analysis we could verify that two mothers, one with less than 12 years ofstudy and the other with a University degree – among nine parents with a Universitydegree - are the ones who affirm using many of their mobile phones applications. Also,there is no direct relation with the way /intensity parents use their mobile phones withthe way /intensity their children use their devices.Based on these observations, in the light of the reflections about economic/culturalcapital and the thoughts of Drotner (2005:188) in which “the contemporary mediaculture is characterized by technological convergence” and that mobiles are “part of aninterlaced media ensemble”, we can realize that most of these family members arecompletely apart of a convergent use once they present a poor or nonerelationship/exchange with other media technologies especially internet, with only fewexceptions. Consequently, they do not take advantages of a more active and inclusiveuse of these devices, like downloading and uploading things from their mobile tointernet, participating, creating content and developing more skills.
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