What Are the Disadvantages of Mobile Phones?

Updated July 29, 2019
annoyed with texting

Although they appear to be absolutely indispensable communication tools these days, you may be wondering what are the disadvantages of mobile phones? Believe it or not, mobile phones have their negatives as well.

What Are the Disadvantages of Mobile Phones?

While it may not be completely fair to clump the entire cell phone industry into one tight package (smartphones are distinctly different from basic flip phones, for instance), there are certain commonalities among most cell phones. That's why when you ask what are the disadvantages of mobile phones, you will come across a similar set of possible responses.

Never-Ending Interruptions

Many people have had the experience of being in an important business meeting, only to have someone's cell phone start ringing with an incoming call, email, or social media notification. It can be terribly annoying and frustrating when such a thing happens. The same can be said about ringing cell phones at movie theaters, family gatherings, and yes, even weddings.

Because mobile phones provide a constant avenue for communication, they can interrupt at the most inconvenient of times, under the most inconvenient of circumstances. It turns out that this doesn't even stop with the brief notification itself as this can leave a potential lingering detrimental effect on productivity too.

A study found that subjects performed poorly on a focused task when they were interrupted with a text notification or incoming call during the experiment; it broke concentration even if they didn't pick up the call.

Doctor showing cell phone to nurse seminar audience

Distracted Drivers

Because of this constant form of communication, people also feel compelled to keep communicating while behind the steering wheel. There are certainly many issues surround driving safety and cell phones and that's partly why the California cell phone law was introduced.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about nine people are killed every day in the United States in accidents involving a distracted driver. This is in addition to over 1,000 injuries daily.

In the Canadian province of British Columbia, more people are killed due to distracted driving than impaired driving. Even though most people agree that using a handheld phone while behind the steering wheel is dangerous, nearly four in 10 drivers say they use their phone in at least 10 percent of trips.

Young smiling man in the green jacket holding smartphone in the car

Negative Impact on Personal Contact

The stereotype depicts a teenager at the dinner table, completely disinterested in family time, instead of being completely occupied with social media and mobile messenger apps. This also happens to be a problem at school. Cell phones may dehumanize the dynamics of human contact. Some people may not know how to interact in real life anymore, preferring the safety and comfort of a well-timed text.

Drawing back to the point of never-ending interruptions, cell phones can also detract from personal contact at business meetings, casual outings, and other get-togethers. Even when people meet face-to-face, they tend to bury their faces in their phones. According to MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle, 89 percent of Americans took out their phone during their last social interaction and 82 percent say that had a detrimental effect on the conversation.

Cell phones take away from the intimacy and connectedness of romantic relationships too with 75 percent of women stating that these devices are "ruining their relationships" and "interfering with their love lives." Nearly half of participants in a Baylor University study indicated that their partners used or were distracted by their phones while in their company and about a quarter said this "caused conflict in their relationships." As a result, people can feel jealous of their partner's phone.

Couple arguing in restaurant

Health Effects

Although the dangers of cell phone towers have not been officially confirmed or refuted, there is certainly some evidence that points toward tumors caused by cell phones. When you consider what are the disadvantages of mobile phones, perhaps the greatest negative impact could be the effects mobile phones may have on a person's health.

Among the negative health effects associated with proximity to cell phone towers are DNA damage, sleeplessness, eye cancer, infertility, cardiac problems, and chronic fatigue.

In the case of college students, 90 percent sleep with their phones on or next to them, 70 percent say they don't get enough sleep, and 50 percent say they feel tired during the day. Cell phones can suppress melatonin, alert the brain (rather than allow it to rest), and harm both the quantity and quality of sleep.

Stressed Woman Sleeping

Bottomless Money Pit

Cell phones have become just as much a form of function as they've become a form of fashion. Many enthusiasts and regular people alike feel compelled to "upgrade" their mobile phones on a very frequent basis, as often as once a year or more. Whenever there is a new iPhone, people line up around the block to spend upward of $1,000 on the device.

These enthusiasts will want a different phone next month as well as all the accessories and peripherals that may go along with it. Cell phones can be a very expensive hobby, especially if they are upgraded more often than every two or three years. One writer for Time said he saved $20,000 to $30,000 for skipping out on the iPhone for 10 years.

Cell phone bills continue to grow too. About three-fifths of Americans spend more than $100 per month and 21 percent spend more on their phone bill than on groceries.

Mobile Phone On Us Paper Currency And Credit Cards

Privacy and Tracking Concerns

One of the handiest elements of a smartphone is the ability for it to provide information about stores and services in your immediate area. The downside to this though is that your location is being tracked at all times via the phone GPS and other apps. Another common way you can be tracked is using the free wi-fi at stores. It may seem convenient to have the wi-fi on to let you use that store's app to look for coupons and deals, but realize that same system can also be giving the store data on where you shop on the store, what you buy and other movement patterns. Even your phone's camera and microphone can be providing data to build shopper profiles, as well as can be potentially hacked.

Since most smartphone users don't use virus and malware protection apps in the way that laptop and desktop computer users do, this makes their phones open fodder for hackers and others looking to invade your privacy. Add in to that the fact that the Google Play and Apple stores are full of third-party apps that may not be "safe" choices and can make your phone and data open to malware infections. U.S. government officials have also expressed concerns about phones made by companies in China that are known for spying on the U.S., and the potential is there for these phones to have built-in ways for your data to be hacked by international agents.

Smartphone users have even expressed concerns about their privacy being invaded by law enforcement without a proper warrant. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that police departments must have a warrant prior to using cell phone data and GPS equipment to look for cars or to go through a user's phone without permission.

Cloud technology internet networking concept

Mental Health Effects on Children

Behavioral scientists who work with children and adolescents have found that the use of smartphones have led to promoting more aggressive, extreme forms of communication among younger users. If communicating on social media is something you've grown up on your whole life, it becomes second nature to respond negatively to people you disagree with and use bullying and other harsh tactics. Says clinical and development psychologist Dr. Donna Wick, "You hope to teach them [children] that they can disagree without jeopardizing the relationship, but what social media is teaching them to do is disagree in ways that are more extreme and to jeopardize the relationship. It's exactly what you don't want to have happen."

Research has also found teenagers who are addicted to their smartphones have higher levels of anxiety, depression, memory loss, inability to focus, impulsive behavior, sleeplessness and difficulties with expressing creativity. Some studies have even found that excessive cell phone usage among adolescents is changing their brains by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA and decreasing other important neurotransmitters that are needed for activating the brain. It has also been found that gray matter shrinks among those who use cell phones too often. However, while this is troubling, researchers also noted that these biological changes were reversible if the smartphone usage was scaled back through cognitive therapy.

Group of friends using their phones

Mobile Phones Aren't All Bad

With the average American spending an average of two to four hours every day on their phone, it is important to consider the disadvantages of mobile phones. At the same time, it would be unfair to paint the cell phone industry under such a negative air. These devices provide a great level of convenience and safety to those who use them, and they can substantially improve the productivity of workers too. However you feel about mobile phones, one thing is clear. They're here to stay and they'll continue to play a very prominent role in everyday life.

What Are the Disadvantages of Mobile Phones?