THE disruptive capacity of mobile phones in the lives of humans is something that has not been given enough attention in our country. Since the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime in 2001 granted licences to operators of the Global System for Mobile Communications, GSM, the popularity of mobile phone usage has exploded phenomenally. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the number of people connected to telephones rose from a little over 400,000 in 2001 to 144 million by December 2017 in a country with an estimated population of 180 million. This represents teledensity (the number of telephone connections for every 100 persons living in an area) of 103.61.
The wildfire spread of mobile phone use even as it runs mostly on generated power has impacted hugely on the economy, largely through infrastructure emplacement and employment generation. Relative to the entire population, it can be said that very few Nigerians lack access to telephony. While this has helped increase the confidence of local and foreign investors in the potentials of the huge Nigerian market and contributed greatly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, very little attention has been paid to its side effects which impact hugely on the social, psychological and health lives of its users and the family at large. Easy access to the internet means easy access to the good, the bad and the ugly by people who, ordinarily, should be considered not qualified to see them.
Very little has been done by governments to guide the youth on the best ways of benefiting from the mobile phone and internet revolutions with very little exposure to its devastating effects on the moral fabric of the society. Experts also point out that the use of mobile phones and the existence of their base stations within neighbourhoods have brought so many health risks because of the heat and radiation they emit directly into the body.
Incidences of cancer, mental instability, diversion of interest from books to internet content and social media addiction are on the rise. Mobile phones have also curtailed social interactions because it appears each person is glued to his or her device most of the time, except perhaps when asleep. People have also died in avoidable road accidents for the misguided use of the mobile phone. This situation calls for urgent measures. The harmful effects of mobile phones can no longer be ignored.
Phone addiction has assumed more dangerous proportion than tobacco addiction. We recommend that all mobile phone makers and vendors should be compelled to put warning messages on the side effects of these gadgets on their packs. The industry regulator must mount an advocacy to enlighten the people on safer ways of using the mobile phone. The time for that has come.