Addicted to phones? Cell phone use becoming a major problem for some

“Turn off your cell phones and pagers.” For most people, heeding these warnings in hospitals or at the movies is as simple as pressing a button. But for a growing number of people across the globe, the idea of being out of touch, even just for a 90-minute movie, is enough to induce anxiety, says a University of Florida psychologist who studies addictions to the Internet and other technologies.

Cellphone addiction in human beings becoming a major problemAlthough cellular phones and personal digital assistants such as the BlackBerry were created to make modern life more convenient, they’re actually beginning to interfere in the lives of users who don’t know when to turn them off, says Lisa Merlo, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine.

“It’s not so much talking on the phone that’s typically the problem although that can have consequences too,” Merlo said. “(It’s) this need to be connected, to know what’s going on and be available to other people. That’s one of the hallmarks of cell phone addiction.”

Unlike addictions to alcohol, drugs or even gambling, it can be hard to pinpoint problematic cell phone use. Almost everyone has a cell phone and uses it regularly. But if someone can’t get through dinner without sending text messages or furiously typing on a personal digital assistant during a meeting, it may be time to take a step back, Merlo said.

How people respond to being separated from their cell phones or PDAs is another clue. Frequent users often become anxious when they are forced to turn off the phone or if they forget it at home, so much so that they can’t enjoy whatever they’re doing, Merlo added. Often, cell phone “addicts” compulsively check their phones for voicemails and text messages, she said.

“When (cell phone overuse) really becomes problematic for a lot of people is if they have underlying anxiety or depression,” she said. “This can really exacerbate it or (cause) their symptoms to manifest themselves.”

For example, someone who already worries about what others think of them could become easily agitated if their phone calls or messages aren’t returned right away.

“This is something that is going to affect them on a day-to-day basis,” Merlo said.

The problem seems to be growing. A Japanese study revealed that children with cell phones often don’t make friends with their less tech-savvy peers, a Hungarian study found that three-fourths of children had mobile phones and an Italian study showed that one quarter of adolescents owned multiple phones and many claimed to be somewhat addicted to them. A British study also recently found that 36 percent of college students surveyed said they could not get by without cell phones. But this may be more a sign that students view cell phones as a modern necessity like a car, said David Sheffield, a psychologist who conducted the study at Staffordshire University in England.

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MXit for BlackBerry and iPhone being rolled out, instant messaging synchronization on its way

MXit instant messaging growsInstant messaging platform MXit announced that it has exceeding 11 million users and became the number one method of communicating with youth.

“Being able to connect to the internet from a mobile phone is critical in a world that is relying more-and-more on not merely existing online, but also engaging actively. MXit transcends international borders, race and financial barriers and allows users to relate to one another in a manner that is based on friendship, networking and even learning,” says Juan du Toit, marketing manager for MXit.

According to the company, the global market for mobile internet will increase from 578 million users in 2008 to over 1,712 million in 2013. This is a whopping growth of 196%. Of the eight global regions, Africa and the Middle East will see the second largest increase in mobile internet users (414%).

“We are happy with our growth, but our target is firmly set on becoming one of the biggest instant messaging mobile networks in the world and the preferred mobile social network for communicating with young people in Africa and globally,” says Du Toit.

The company has its sights set on increasing its footprint in Africa and Asia and has already attracted more than 1.2 million Indonesian users.

“It isn’t rocket science, for us it’s simply understanding the mobile environment and the opportunity and providing something that will excite our users,” explains Du Toit.

“Initially, there was a need to establish a fun and fresh platform where MXit users could communicate cheaply. Africa, and especially South Africa, has some of the most expensive mobile rates in the world, but with MXit there is just about no charge for sending messages.”

There are in excess of 3 billion mobile users globally, and according to Nielsen/NetRating, the next billion are expected to use their mobile phones to access the internet for the first time.

Social networking platforms grew by 47% in the year ending April 2008. According to Juniper Research, the value of the user generated content market will grow from USD$1.1 billion in 2007 to USD$7.3 billion in 2013.

The company is rolling out a series of products that will enhance its usability and increase its penetration into the global market. This includes MXit for BlackBerry and iPhone, as well as the ability to synchronise its network by adding other popular instant messaging contacts such as ICQ, MSN and Yahoo messenger to the MXit profile.

 

TED Conferences introduces TED Fellows Program

Fifty World-Changing Individuals to be Selected Annually for New, Prestigious Fellowship Program; 20 move to Senior Fellows Three-Year Program

Organizers of the TED Conference today announced the introduction of the TED Fellows program, a new international program designed to foster the spread of great ideas. Initially 50 individuals, selected for the world-changing potential of their work, will be invited to participate in the TED community each year. At the end of the year, 20 of these 50 will be selected to be TED Senior Fellows, participating in an extended three-year program will bring them to six consecutive conferences, along with additional benefits. The principal goal of the program is to empower the Fellows to effectively communicate their work to the TED community and to the world.

The TED Fellows program will focus on attracting applicants living or working in five parts of the globe: the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East, with consideration given to applicants from the rest of the world. TED will seek remarkable thinkers and doers that have shown unusual accomplishment, exceptional courage, moral imagination and the potential to increase positive change in their respective fields. The program focuses on innovators in technology, entertainment, design, science, film, art, music, entrepreneurship and the NGO community, among other pursuits.

The program was inspired by the TEDAfrica 2007 conference in Arusha, Tanzania, in which 100 fellows participated in a first-of-its kind gathering that catalyzed a new generation of doers — all entrepreneurial, fluent in technology and vested in creating change on the continent. The Arusha fellows brought with them new perspectives, enormous energy, enthusiasm and, through their ovation-generating talks, catalyzed the launch of many initiatives with other attendees. Propelled by their energy, TED decided to develop the TED Fellows program.

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