Can I Use My Phone Here?

Media Access in the Digital Age

In today’s society almost everyone has easy access to the internet, news, and social sites, through their portable media platform of the mobile phone.

This access has become so universal that we no longer ask the question ‘Can I use this media?’.

So how do we as a society decide when or where we should access these media sites?

As of today, that question is still unanswered. There are an infinite number or rules and regulations surrounding the use of mobile phones and other media, but usually each rule is relative to that specific individual and their social context (Vandewater, 2005).

Image result for phone rules at home
Source: Pinterest/Babble

Take myself for example: I am Tayla Bosley, I am a 19 year old Communications and Media Studies student who is majoring in Journalism. I still live at home with my mother and my two siblings.

Throughout these different settings that I live my life; as a student or a sister, there are location and time specific rules and regulations that I can either follow, or ignore and face the consequences.

Image result for social media rules and consequences
Source: Pintrest/iMOM

School

As a high school student there were a significant amount of rules that had to be followed in relation to the use of mobile phones and laptops.

For example through my years of 7 to 10 there was a strict ‘No Phones at School’ policy. Prior to the change in 2012, if a student was caught with a phone it would be confiscated and locked in the office until the end of the day. However, due to the soon overwhelming number of students who would use their phones at recess and lunch, the school alleviated the rule to allow students to use their media devices at those times.

The moral anxieties of the teachers from my school were that students would not pay attention in class or socialise at lunch time is they were allowed their phones.

But despite those concerns, the desire and acceptance of students using their phones, overcame the enforcers, to create a social norm, and lessen the anxieties of my teachers once they realised that no great change had overcome the studiousness of the students (Chen and Katz, 2009).

Home

At home there is only one place and time that media must be regulated; at dinner.

According to my mother, when we sit down to eat as a family, that is the time to talk to one another, not sit on our phones.

Usually this rule is enforced, with my siblings and I leaving our phones in our rooms or in our pockets, as to leave a phone on the dinner table, even without using it is considered a breach of the rule.

However, in certain cases, such as when my mother is too busy to eat, or when she herself needs to use her phone for work, the dinner table rule disappears, and all four of us sink into our own digital worlds.

Image result for phones at dinner
Source: SocialTech

Clearly my mother is attempting to control the dinnertime space as one only for communicating between family members. She is concerned that if we do not do it then we will never hear about each other’s days.

And if we don’t do that, our family is doomed to fall apart according to mum and surprisingly several journal articles (Sen, 2010, Sarles, 2008, Videon and Manning, 2003).

Why have rules?

These examples provide a relative view on some of the rules and regulations that all media users must face at some time or another.

But why do we have these rules in the first place? Why are we so concerned about media usage, especially when it comes to the younger generations?

It is because of control of space.

When my school enforced the formal rule that students could not have their phones at school, they wanted to control what we could and could not do within the confines of the school grounds.

They did not want us to use media during school hours because they feared it would distract us from school work (Obringer and Coffey, 2007).

Image result for phones at school
Source: The Simpsons

When my mother says ‘no phones at dinner’ she is controlling what we can and cannot look at or think about while at the dinner table.

At that time we are banned from extending ourselves through our media spheres to other people or information. At that time and place, we are limited to that physical place.

However

To use media in today’s society is to use freedom.

Media allows us to extends beyond ourselves; to be further than the confines of that time or place of physical space.

This is why parents, teachers, and politicians desire to implement rules and regulations on media use.

They wish to control us.

They fear what we can do online, because they cannot know what it is.

Sometimes that is not a bad thing; such as having a conversation with my family every night.

But when people who do not understand the awesome potential of media use attempts to limit it; such as geoblockers that limit what content Australians are allowed to use, it simply limits us as a nation and as individuals.

References

Chen, Y. and Katz, J. (2009). Extending family to school life: College students’ use of the mobile phone. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 67(2), pp.179-191.

Obringer, S. and Coffey, K. (2007). Cell Phones in American High Schools: A National Survey. JOTS, 33(1).

Sarles, R. (2008). Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Relationships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors. Yearbook of Psychiatry and Applied Mental Health, 2008, p.30.

Sen, B. (2010). The relationship between frequency of family dinner and adolescent problem behaviors after adjusting for other family characteristics. Journal of Adolescence, 33(1), pp.187-196.

Vandewater, E. (2005). “No–You Can’t Watch That”: Parental Rules and Young Children’s Media Use. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(5), pp.608-623.

Videon, T. and Manning, C. (2003). Influences on adolescent eating patterns: the importance of family meals. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32(5), pp.365-373.

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