It is now unimaginable to think of a life without technology, especially mobile gadgets such as laptops, tablet devices, digital music players, and cell phones. Cell phones have penetrated our lives so much that their predecessor landline phones are almost at the brink of extinction. While the ownership rate of landline phones among households 29 years and younger declined from 93 percent to 71 percent between 1998 and 2005, the cell phones ownership rate among the same group went up from 35 percent to 81 percent during the same period (United States Census Bureau). By 2010, 91 percent or over 285 million Americans owned own wireless cell phones (Foresman). But landline phones rarely gave rise to social issue debates because unlike cell phones, their use was limited to private spaces. The emergence of smart phones has only further strengthened our addiction to cell phones. While cell phones carry numerous benefits, their use should be restricted at public places because the cumulative social costs of allowing cell phones at public places usually exceed the private benefits to the owners.
We make distinction between private places and public places also due to the fact that our rights usually differ between these two places. We own private places and as such, have more flexibility over the rules and expected behaviors. But that changes with public places that usually have their own rules and norms. The expected behavior in public places usually differ according to the types of places but certain implicit rules are usually common knowledge even if they may be violated by the minority few. For example, when we are at movie theaters, one expects to maintain silence to ensure that it doesn’t ruin the quality of experience for others who have paid for the right to watch movie in an optimal environment. Similarly, people go to museums to enjoy the art in an environment where other visitors may also be expected to share their appreciation for art. This is why use of cell phones should be restricted in public places like these because it diminishes the quality of experience for the majority who pay for the privilege of enjoying certain rights without unnecessary distraction. Our everyday experiences confirm the fact that cell phone users often become so occupied with the conversation that they tend to forget the type of people they are surrounded with or the environment they are in. This lack of awareness also often results in uncivilized behavior such as conversation in loud voice or use of inappropriate terms. The restriction on cell phone is, thus, justified by the fact that cell phone use violates the expected etiquette at most public places. Not surprisingly, many public places and governments have come to the same conclusion and have already instituted rules or are considering ones. In Maine’s Baxter State Park, cell phones are only allowed for emergencies. Some governments around the world such as Hong Kong and Canada have even been considering technologies that block cellular signals (Godoy).
Cell phones use should also be restricted because it will be a democratic move. In a survey, 57 percent Americans showed support for banning cell phones from restaurants, theaters, and other public places (Godoy). Similarly, cell phones should also be restricted in public places because they may interfere with the functioning of certain equipment or harm the overall interests of the fellow citizens in other ways. Cell phone use at hospitals may interfere with the functioning of certain equipments and airports (Cook). A study by Mayo Clinic found that cell phones could affect healthcare equipments such as electrocardiographic (ECG) equipment, electroencephalographic (EEG) equipment and ventilators (Johnson).
The opponents of cell phone ban may argue that cell phone ban will be an unnecessary intrusion into personal freedom guaranteed by the constitution. They may also argue that cell phones are beneficial in emergencies such as a sick individual in the family or road accident. The opponents are right that cell phones are beneficial in certain situations including emergencies which is why most cell phone restrictions allow for emergency use. As far as the question of personal freedom is concerned, no right is absolute and usually the individual’s right to freedom of action and thought has to be calculated against the overall interests of the society. This is why cell phone use or texting is banned while driving in certain states around the world and this is exactly why driving under the influence of alcohol is also banned. One can argue that texting and cell phone use while driving are personal right and similarly, one has right to drink alcohol if he/she is of legal age. But a ban or restriction doesn’t take away one’s right to an action, just a right to an action under certain circumstances when doing so advance the overall interests of the society. This is why cell phone use should be restricted in public places because one’s right to talk on cellphone is outweighed by the right of the majority to have pleasant experience without unnecessary interference.
Cell phones have become almost essential part of our private and professional lives but unlike landline phones, their use is not limited to private spaces only. As a result, the privilege can be abused and the irresponsible behavior by few ruins the privilege of the majority to enjoy experience for which they have paid for. Since cell phones are inevitable in certain circumstances, most restrictions almost always exclude their use in emergency situations.
Cook, Greil. Pros & Cons of Banning Cell Phones in Public Places. 2 April 2013 <http://www.ehow.com/list_6773806_pros-cell-phones-public-places.html>.
Foresman, Chris. Wireless survey: 91% of Americans use cell phones. 2010. 2 April 2013 <http://arstechnica.com/telecom/news/2010/03/wireless-survey-91-of-americans-have-cell-phones.ars>.
Godoy, Maria. Silencing Cell Phones in Public Places. 2 April 2013 <http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=98329&page=1#.UVwHSJMyzTc>.
Johnson, Charlotte. Effect of Mobile Phones on Medical Equipment. 2 April 2013 <http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5407025_effect-mobile-phones-medical-equipment.html>.
United States Census Bureau. Homes With Cell Phones Nearly Double in First Half of Decade. 19 November 2009. 2 April 2013 <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb09-174.html>.