The pros and cons of mobile phones

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2003, 12:00am

1. Your mobile phone (you do have one, don't you?) is probably one of your most prized possessions. Mobile phone shops have mushroomed all over Hong Kong, and everyone seems to be chatting away to someone as they walk down the road. The latest phone has become a status symbol and you can easily spot young people comparing their phones and explaining their special functions to one another.

2. As well as being fun, mobile phones are extremely convenient. One no longer has to search desperately for a public telephone. People can easily be contacted on buses and when out shopping. Hanging around waiting for someone who is late is no longer so frustrating. Parents can keep in touch with their children, and the old can feel secure that a phone is always near at hand if they need help. If you have the right sort of phone, you can keep in touch with the world even from remote deserts.

3. Let's be honest, however. Mobile phones do have some drawbacks. The obvious one is the noise and disturbance that they cause. Almost all the time you can hear their ring tones and irritating tunes. People no longer sit quietly on public transport, but shout loudly into their telephones. Conversations and meals are constantly interrupted by calls. People walk down the street concentrating on their calls rather than paying attention to those around them. Inconsiderate people who fail to turn off their phones are especially troublesome in places like cinemas and concert halls where it is reasonable to expect quiet. There is discussion of shutting out signals from such venues with various jamming devices, but there are objections: the right to communicate would be infringed; genuine emergencies would be made worse, and yet more microwaves would be pumped out.

4. This leads us to the next point. The microwaves that mobile phones rely on may not be good for our health. The facts are not yet known, but there is certainly a suspicion that the rays may harm us. The UK government advises children only to use the phones for short, urgent calls.

5. Next comes a serious problem. Each time a new generation of phone arrives, countless handsets packed with environmentally unfriendly metals are thrown into landfills - possibly with their toxic batteries. Attempts are being made to tackle the situation. Hong Kong has a pilot scheme to collect batteries, and the European Union is insisting that in the next few years, manufacturers take back electrical appliances and recycle 90 per cent of their materials. At the moment, this would be appallingly uneconomic, so manufacturers are redesigning the devices to be easy to disassemble.

6. Mobile phones have transport implications. Talking on the phone when driving, whether or not the phone is hand-held, can lower the driver's attention. More seriously, aeroplanes' control systems can be adversely affected by phones' microwave signals. Most people obey requests to turn off their phones, but 100 per cent cooperation cannot be relied upon. An accident is waiting to happen.

7. Mobile phones can be used to track people, and governments have tracked terrorists through their phone signals. Less dramatically, salesmen have found their companies much more interested in their whereabouts during the day.

8. A worry for the future as phones gain more functions and access the Internet is a new range of viruses, and opportunities for hackers to make free calls on unsuspecting people's phone accounts. You can see from all this that your phone may not be quite as much of a friend as you thought.

1. The word 'prized' in the first paragraph

can be replaced by

A. expensive

B. recent

C. valued

D. used

2. To 'mushroom' (second sentence) means

A. to spread or grow rapidly

B. to lose money

C. to make profits

D. to shut down

3. Which of these is not given as an advantage

of mobile phones in paragraph 2?

A. Young people can be in touch with

their families

B. They're cheaper to use than public phones

C. Travellers can get help

D. Old people can call the emergency


4. Find words in paragraph 3 meaning

i) jingles; ii) continually;

iii) thoughtless/selfish;

iv) damaged/taken away; v) real

5. Find words and phrases in paragraph 5

that mean

i) polluting; ii) experiment; iii) producers

iv) extremely; v) take apart

6. In paragraph 6, the writer says all these

things, except

A. a few people on planes may leave their

phones on

B. a plane crash caused by an accident

has happened recently

C. driving while talking on the phone

is unsafe

D. one day a plane will crash because of

phone use

7. A title for paragraph 7 could be

A. Never lost

B. There's no hiding

C. Anti-terrorism

D. Better sales

8. Which word in paragraph 8 could be

replaced by 'innocent'?

9. Role play some of the conversations

mentioned in the passage.

i) street-chatting; ii) waiting for someone;

iii) parents and children; iv) the old;

v) bus conversation; vi) urgent call


1.C, 2.A, 3.B,

4.ring tones/constantly/inconsiderate/ infringed/genuine,

5.environmentally unfriendly/pilot scheme/ manufacturers/appallingly/disassemble,

6.B, 7.B,8.unsuspecting