A recent tearful plea by two primary school pupils to their parents to buy them a mobile phone so that they would be able to communicate with their friends and take pictures, to use the game application and browse the Internet made me look back some years to my primary school days in the Kpeshie Sub-District of Accra. Perhaps, between these children and me, we live in different generations.
Prior to the 1970s through the early 1990s, a fixed telephone service was a reserved “essential commodity” for the privileged. During my primary school days, it was very difficult to speak on a fixed telephone line. Only a few privileged ones, even in Accra, could boast of one.
During that period, Post and Telecommunications Corporation, otherwise referred to as P & T, was the sole provider of telecommunication services in Ghana. Prior to its privatisation and re-branding as Ghana Telecom (GT) in 1996, there were 78,900 telephone lines in Ghana. By December 1997, the number had jumped to 130,000 lines, a massive leap within a relatively short period. By 2005, there were 3,000,000 telephone lines.
Cellular phones make inroads
Mobile or cellular phones also made inroads into our communication system. The first mobile phone network was initiated by Mobitel in 1997 and by the end of that year alone, over 19,000 subscribers were on the network. By the year 2000, over 70,000 subscribers were using mobile phones in Ghana. It is of interest to note that by the end of August, 2013, there were 27,511.650 mobile telephone subscribers on six networks in Ghana, according to the National Communications Authority. This indicates that the number of mobile phone subscribers exceed the total population of Ghana.
Prior to this generation, one had to travel from one end of town to the other to be able to make a phone call from a fixed line. A post office was one such location that calls could be made from but there were district capitals without fixed telephone lines. Technology has changed it all, and no company enjoys monopoly over mobile communication, making the use of mobile phones competitive and interesting. Manufacturers of mobile phones have also introduced various applications to browse, store and retrieve information, and so on.
The plea by the children to their parents to buy them a particular phone with specific applications, suggests that as would-be mobile phone users, they have a choice and will play an active role in suggesting a phone their parents should buy for them, because they are motivated to use certain applications. This supports the uses and gratification theory, which suggests that a media user seeks a media source that best fulfils needs of the user. Uses and gratification assume that the user has alternate choices to satisfy their need.
Today, every Tom, Dick and Harry owns a mobile phone and subscribes to one or more networks. Advancement in technology has made mobile phone complicated. Some adults give their phones to younger ones to teach them how to operate them, and these children do it with ease.
So with the abundance of these communication gadgets, children do not want to be left out. Parents should be careful to give their children phones that emit lower radiation, so as to not affect their development. While it is good for children to use mobile phones, parents have the responsibility to control their operation. The control could be relaxed according to the child’s age and behaviour.
**The writer is with the University of Education Resource Centre, Winneba. [email protected]
Source: Gershon P. S. Doku
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