Health and Social

The Role of Mobile Phones in Family Relationships

This project by the Trust for the Study of Adolesence (now Young People in Focus) examined how mobile phones (including texting) are used in communications between young people and their parents/carers. A particular focus was on how mobiles are used by parents and young people in relation to safety. The project involved qualitative research with 60 families containing young people aged 11-16.

Overall, young people and parents were very positive about mobile phones, viewing them as a ‘lifeline’ and a key way of keeping young people safe. Most young people first get a mobile phone at the age of 11 or 12, because of their growing independence. Usage for calls or text is initially low and increases with age (14 and upwards). Parents and young people had similar concerns about mobile phones – theft and mugging, bullying, expense, and peer pressure to have the ‘right’ phone.

The Golden Hour and Mobile Phones

The GSMA asked the York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) to identify literature on the use of mobile phones for calling for ambulance services and on the ‘golden hour’, the crucial medical reference period in clinical emergencies.

The review found that there is a need for a quick response to traumas but the response time ranges from 10-15 minutes for heart attacks to up to 8 hours for pneumonia. Mobile phones have been shown to be used to call ambulance services but there is no information as to the health benefits this provides. There is scope for mobile phone technology to be used by pre-hospital staff to reduce symptom-to-treatment times and research should focus on these areas.

M-ECHO – Mobiles in Emergency Care and Health Outcomes

The GSMA, Telefónica O2, T-Mobile, Vodafone and the MMF supported a study based at the Kadoorie Centre for Critical Care Research and Education with researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford to determine whether initial contact with emergency services via a mobile phone in life threatening situations is associated with increased survival or reduced length of hospital stay when compared to contact via a landline.

A pilot phase in 2004-2005 showed that it was feasible to construct a linked database using data from the local ambulance service and major local hospitals. The main study found that mobile phone compared to landline reporting of emergencies resulted in significant reductions in the risk of death at the scene. In a hypothetical population of 100,000 patients, this is equivalent to 137 fewer deaths at the scene. The study did not find a reduction in risk of death in the emergency department or during inpatient admission, which the authors suggest may indicate lower threshold for summoning help when a mobile phone is used.

Associated Publications

The Role of Mobile Phones in Family Communication, Devitt et al., Children & Society, 23(3):189-202, May 2009.

Mobile Phone Use for Contacting Emergency Services in Life-threatening Circumstances, Wu et al., The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 52(3):291–298.e293, March 2012.


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