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Mobiles: the new communication drum of PNG

LISA PUNAU

I ATTENDED THE 2012 MEDIA FREEDOM DAY here at Divine Word University, where a small drama was put on by the first year students in the Communication Arts Department showing traditional ways of communicating (garamut, conch shell, kundu) and modern ways of communicating (newspapers, television, radio, mobile phones).

What interests me about this is that the introduction of modern ways of communicating has overridden the traditional ways, especially the use of mobile phones.

Most people see mobiles as something very positive in that they have taken communication to a whole new level.

However mobile phones also have negative impacts.  This may be financial, in their studies and as a cause of social problems for the students.

Mobile phones have become a distraction for students especially in their studies. Not long ago, mobile phones were limited to working people, but since the introduction of Digicel and other mobile companies, that has changed.

Today, not only the working class have mobile phones but even students.  It is now a common sight to see students walking around with mobile phones or fiddling around with their phones during class times, messaging and miscalling each other in class, some are even busy talking on the phone or texting when they are supposed to be doing their studies.

Most students end up sleeping in or are late attending classes the next day or handing in assignments. This may have an impact on academic performance in school. Thus I see that mobile phones do cause students to be distracted most times from doing their school work.

Another thing is the easy access to social media using mobile phones and the use of Facebook.

The number of Facebook users has skyrocketed because everyone wants to be on Facebook. And for students on Facebook they may spend more time on the website rather than on their school work, thus leading to possible lack of quality in research or assignments.

Facebook also causes social problems where comments and posts may cause inconveniences and the person whom the post is being addressed to may be verbally abused. People join Facebook for reasons such as they want to be like their friends, look for partners of the opposite sex, freedom of expression on any subject of interest.

There are some teachers or lecturers who have complained that their students are in class but not concentrating as they have all their attention on Facebook and not what the teacher or lecturer is saying and thus may miss out on relevant information.

With the introduction and easy access of mobile phones to students and all, there have been social implications where mobile phones have caused arguments for students in households, amongst friends, family members and other people.

I have witnessed incidents where students have been beaten up or verbally abused just because one student called the husband of another women or wife of another man. This can also lead up to families/relationships being broken up just because the man/woman is   contacting a new partner using the mobile phone.

I have also witnessed good friends becoming great enemies just because the boyfriend/girlfriend of one decides to cheat on his girlfriend/boyfriend with someone else and it all started when mobile numbers were exchanged. This causes so much frustration, misery and anger amongst friends which can also have an impact on a student’s studies and may even lead to arguments and fights.

There are also instances where students are verbally harassed by either phone calls or messages, in most cases they either reply with nasty remarks and then the problem may get even bigger. Some instances occur when students get very weird and annoying calls from people they do not know who only want to flirt or just simply want to annoy people. This also provokes nasty remarks from the phone owner.

Some incidents have occurred which have been very serious; there was an article written in the newspaper last year where a father beat his young daughter to death just because she didn’t answer her phone when he called. The young girl met her fate when she returned home after spending the day with her friends. So here we see more problems arising with the introduction and use of mobile phones in PNG.

Another negative implication of the introduction of mobile phones on students is its impact on them financially. Students spend most of their money on recharge cards, even their lunch money. Some students may argue that they spend so much money on recharge cards because they can afford it. But what about a student whose parents struggle to at least give them a bit of pocket money for their needs? Well those kids end up spending that money buying recharge cards (flex, prepaid, etc.) and then go back and ask their parents for more money to buy something they need.

Those parents who can afford to throw money around are not worried but for those who work really hard to sustain their families an extra burden is added onto that which they may already have. Some students may spend more of their money on recharge cards rather than on essentials that they really need. And for some students if they do not have the money pay for their mobile account recharge they may end up stealing from others and the problem gets worse if they are caught.

The introduction of mobile phones has made communication very easy for everyone. However it is the way it is being used that has caused problems, especially for students. Thus students need to be conscious about where, when and how they use their phones and that it is used at the right time and place so that it does not create any inconvenience on the part of other students, their attitude towards friends and colleagues, cause financial situations or strains and most importantly it does not spoil their studies.

Lisa Punau (22) was born in Port Moresby of mixed Manus and Milne Bay parentage. She is currently doing her final year at Divine Word University in Madang in the Papua New Guinea Studies Program.  Her dream is to be a change-maker in the development process in whatever field she specializes in, for the benefit of her people, her province and her country

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