Friday, April 20, 2007

Mobile Cell Phones in Greece

Greece Mobile Cell Phones
Sitting in a local Kafenion on a small Greek island it is surprising and a little amusing to see the local old fishermen or farmers constantly interrupt their serious games of cards or Tavli to answer their mobile phones. The conversations they appear to be having with the person on the other end of the line, usually their wives or other family members, is often mundane and unimportant - the Greek equivalent to the 'I'm on the train and we've just passed .....station.... conversations that you hear in England. In every cafe, restaurant or taverna you can see the mobile phone on the table (as if masquerading as the latest entree) nestled amongst the cheese pies, tzatiki or dish of olives. Lone diners will have the earpiece attached to their heads whilst eating and carry out what appear to be bizarre monologues to themselves until you notice the lead attached to their ears. Others around them are frantically tapping away on the dialing buttons of their phones as they communicate urgent banalities 'thru txt mssge'. What, I ask myself,is happening to the traditional sociability that was always to be found in a Greek village cafe or taverna.The lone diners are no longer interested in striking up conversations with neighbouring tables that would often result in a planned hour long lunch spreading over into two or three. Now, due to the immediate demands from this small plastic rectangle they cut themselves off from their immediate surroundings and I find myself facing a dilemma.

Arguably, the technological advancements made by mobile phones has revolutionised the ease of communications and entertainment but are the traditionally, sociable Greeks in danger of losing one of their best characteristics, their gregariousness, and will their social world shrink and become tainted as a result.

This is particularly a concern when considering the future adult generation of Greece. In 2006 there were more than 14 million active mobile phone connections in Greece. The percentage of mobile phone users is very close to the average European figure of 100% between the ages of 15 and 65 years. Greece has a percentage of 83%.Furthermore a survey carried out in 2006 by the Hellenic Consumer Organisation found that in three major cities of Greece, 99% of the 478 young people aged between 12 and 18 years had at least one mobile phone .This is not surprising when you consider the role of the advertising industry on television, magazines and newspapers. For example, all the commercial Greek TV channels on the Greek Television receive a bombardment of advertising from the three major mobile phone companies, namely: Vodafone, Tim,Cosmote the company owned by the Greek telecommunications industry and lately from Q telecom.

The weekly Greek TV Guides are full of advertising for ring tones, wallpaper, photographs, the latest technology of bluetooth, WAP, as well as videos and adult content downloads, which can be easily obtained by children. Such material gives young people a large amount of kudos in the playground. The risks for young people are great and neither they nor parents are fully aware of them. Just some of these dangers include: addiction to mobile phone games , health issues resulting from excessive use by young people, text bullying , the inability of young people to manage their accounts and running up huge phone bills and the easy availability for anyone regardless of age to access inappropriate material. for their age group.

Unfortunately, there are no laws yet in Greece to protect underage children from any of these risks exept of banning the mobiles in the schools in Greece. Neither is there a data protection act to prevent third parties from obtaining mobile numbers or individuals mobile caller's ID with a consequence that everyone, including children, can have their privacy invaded by spamming of advertising and other more serious intrusions.So, whilst it cannot be denied that the advent of the mobile phone has led to an amazing ability to maintain contact with people, especially for those in isolated areas, or in vulnerable circumstances and has offered a potentially democratic medium of entertaining and engaging young and old alike it is fraught with dangers, especially for the vulnerable and the young. Consequently, their needs to be a tightening up on regulations, not to mention putting in place those that currently do not exist. The first point of call for this should come from the Government who should begin a programme of raising awareness amongst parents, children, teachers and all those involved with the care and education of young people


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