Touché: When mobile phones get in the way of studies and daily life

  • Science & Technology
  • Sunday, 04 Nov 2018

On a recent workday, I had forgotten to bring my mobile phone with me to the office. I had left it charging at home when I walked out the front door.

As soon as I got to my work station, I saw a pink Post-It note from my colleague, asking me to return someone’s telephone call.

I promptly did so, only to have the person on the other end of the line ask me for my mobile phone number. Her workmate was scheduled to deliver some important documents during the day, and needed my contact number.

“Today, of all days, I left my handphone charging at home when I came to work,” I said somewhat sheepishly.

“But I can be reached at my office telephone number.”

After talking with her, I immediately telephoned home. My husband, who sometimes works from home, answered the call.

“You know why I’m calling, right?” I asked him.

Of course he did! He had seen my phone charging by the toaster that morning, and was wondering why I had chosen that particular spot to charge it, and why hadn’t I charged it the night before.

“So I could keep my eye on it, since I was downstairs,” I replied. “And if I’d charged it last night, it might be charging all night long when I fell asleep. Not good for the phone.”

“I’ll come by your office and drop it off,” he kindly offered.

I was almost going to say thank you but, on second thought, I replied: “Uh, no need. I’ll enjoy my day without the mobile phone.”

Turned out to be a good decision. I felt “freer” without having the gadget with me. No intermittent interruptions – no WhatsApp messages pinging back and forth between individuals of the few chat groups that I’m in, no SMS-es, no notifications of special offers or promotions by various companies, no phone calls. (Friends, family and other important contacts could always reach me on my office phone or via email, so no worries.)

I could concentrate better on my work, as a result of this handphone-free day.

Of course, it may not be the case for most folks. I’ve heard about people who would drive miles to turn and go back home to retrieve their mobile phone if they had forgotten to take it with them. I suppose if they were working in people-oriented industries, like in real estate or the hotel line or the medical field, they really cannot afford to go without their mobile phones for longer than, oh, maybe five minutes? They must be easily reachable at all times.

It must be stressful, though, to be “on call” 24 hours a day, every day.

I think it takes a toll, too, on school-children who own mobile phones, even though some may not agree with me. They have their music, videos and social media accounts in the palm of their hands.

How can they concentrate on their homework, say, if they are plugged in to the music from their handphone?

“The music helps me study better,” some kids might argue.

What happens in the exam hall, though? There would be no music to jolt their memory of what they had revised. So shouldn’t they get used to having peace and quiet while they’re studying or doing their homework? I know of a well-known tuition centre that offers tips to parents to create a conducive environment for their kids to study in, and that includes a quiet room – no music or TV when revising, the tuition centre’s founder stresses. And that means no mobile phones when it’s study time, too.

That’s why I wish I could turn back the clock to the time when my children asked for a mobile phone “because all my friends have one”.

Although this happened about a decade ago, I still remember it clearly. My elder child (then 12 years old) persuaded, pleaded and pestered my husband and I for it, constantly. He was very persistent. Almost every day, he would bring up the subject. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.

When mum and dad seemed to be taking their own sweet time to consider his request, he took another approach: He penned a note to us, in which he very convincingly stated all the reasons why he should be given a handphone as soon as possible. Well reasoned essay, I thought to myself.

In return, hubby and I came up with a list of terms and conditions that our son had to abide by if we were to get him a mobile phone.

The boy promised us he would do what we required of him, including having a time limit on his phone usage, doing his homework and household chores before using his phone, and continuing to put his studies first.

It was about a month before the UPSR exam that my husband bought the boy his very first mobile phone, to spur him on in his revision, supposedly.

Our boy was ecstatic, as expected! It was a big wish come true.

Just as suddenly, his focus on his studies waned.Would he be able to ace his exam? I felt a tinge of regret then but hoped for the best.

When the exam results were out, he did well enough. But still, I thought, he could’ve done better if we had delayed getting him the phone – till after the exam, at least.

A few years later, when our younger child asked us for a mobile phone, my hubby and I – now wiser after the experience with her brother – postponed getting one for her till after the UPSR exam.

I marvel at one of my former colleagues who resolutely put her foot down and refused to get her child a mobile phone until he was well into his late teens. And the boy has consistently been a high achiever throughout his academic life.

So, on hindsight, I think it would be good to deny a child a mobile phone until he has finished secondary schooling, if possible, or primary schooling, at least.

Touche is a monthly column in which team Star2 shares its thoughts.

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Across The Star Online