Understanding the Law
May 7, 2010
The telephone is a friend, not a foe

The telephone is an ingenious invention that permits persons to communicate over great distances. Alexander Graham Bell must be commended for this wonderful gift to mankind. The telephone is such an integral part of our lives today that it makes us wonder how our fore-parents existed without it. When one considers the unreliability of birds and smoke signals or the length of time that it took for a letter to reach its destination, we would forever be grateful to the inventor of the telephone.{{more}} The present generation is even more fortunate because of the advent of the cell phone. We can travel the roads with our loved ones, visit their homes and workplaces while they communicate with us. Yes, it is a modern convenience that has become a vital part of our lives and which has made our lives easier and happier.

The cell phone generation

Many of us have seen the development of both the landline and the cell/mobile telephone during our lifetime. After its discovery, the telephone remained a luxury item for a very long time. Then there was a time when there was only one telephone in the village and communication was restricted to the well-to-do. We have moved on, and today it is the wonderful world of the cell phone and the Magic Jack. These have tremendously revolutionized the world of instant communication. The cell phone is very popular with the younger generation. The young people are especially intrigued with the smart phones because every one wants to be on Facebook, a global social networking website. It allows them to set up their profiles so that their friends can know what is going on in their lives. With a smart phone people are essentially walking around with their computers. They can receive and send e-mail messages and they can use search engines such as Google and Yahoo for information.

The usefulness of the cell phone

I can go on forever to extol the usefulness of the telephone, but I am aware that it could be abused and used for illegal purposes. It is a convenient instrument for drug dealers. It is not unusual for persons to use it to initiate bomb scares. Teachers find it a distraction in schools. These negatives must not distract us from the usefulness of the telephone. At present there is a total ban on cell phones in schools. A cell phone in school could be confiscated and the child may only retrieve it at the end of the term. Think about the hardship especially if the child is using the phone as a search engine. This is a hard line taken by the authorities. If there is a lesson in self-restraint, then I think that this is a hard way to teach it. The cell phone is a wonderful instrument and I think that the school should teach children how to use it responsibly, rather than lay down blanket prohibitions. The cell phone is an excellent way of keeping parents in contact with their children and with the police, especially with the prevalence of crime. Prohibition puts us back to the limitations of the past. Children could be told to turn off cell phones during class time and in the examination room. The vigilance of the teacher could control unnecessary usage. The teacher can hold the phone and return at the end of the day so that contact could be made with parents (credit might be restricted). After all we would not like to hear that a crisis could have been averted if the child had his or her cell phone.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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