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Hefty cellphone bills status symbol for most teenagers

London, Nov. 27: The pervasive grip of the mobile phone on Britain’s youth is disclosed today in research that shows 96 per cent of 15-to 24-year-olds own a cellphone and most cannot function normally without one.

For teenagers and young adults, large mobile phone bills have replaced expensive hairstyles or the latest trainers as the most highly-valued status symbol, the report said.

Teenagers feel move comfortable with a phone than pen and paper.

Making and receiving calls and text messages implied popularity and social status, making a high mobile bill a significant social marker. “You feel embarrassed if your bill is 20 quid and theirs is like £100,” a 21-year-old male Londoner said.

The new generation of video mobiles had few fans among 15- to 24-year-olds, who feared they might make telling fibs less plausible.

They said the the visual aspect of video calling was unnecessary and unwelcome, making them feel more pressurised to tell the truth.

Joanna, a 24-year-old from London, said being able to see her brother when calling him impinged on their conversation. “We get on really well normally but those calls felt a bit awkward,” she said.

The ubiquity of the mobile phone has created new social dilemmas for teenagers and young adults, such as what to do when receiving a text message while in company, whether it is acceptable to end relationships by text and whether a phone call is preferable to a text message if running late for a social engagement.

In many cases, text messaging has replaced letter writing, said the Roar report, a study of the social habits of more than 1,000 teenagers and young adults sponsored by Channel 4 and magazine and newspaper publishers.

When it came to awkward subjects, such as cancelling arrangements, making an apology or flirting, 15-to-24-year-olds were just as likely to reach for the cellphone’s keypad as pen and paper.

Often it was easier to hide behind a text message than a direct phone call, said teenagers.

“If I don’t want to meet up with someone, I text them.I’m such a bad liar I know they’ll realise I’m just blowing them out if I phone them,” said Kerry, from Liverpool.

Even when the sentiment was more positive, most preferred to text rather than speak. Four out of 10 would send a text to show that they were thinking of someone but only one in six would phone.

Many 15-to 24-year-olds felt isolated and deprived if they were prevented from using their mobile phones or accessing the Internet for a fortnight. Some were so dependent that they were convinced they could feel a phone vibrating in their pocket whenever they heard a cellphone ringing.

Contrary to expectation, most teenagers were reluctant to be seen with the latest model of mobile phone in case it implied they were slaves to technology.

Brian, from Brighton, said that after the failure of several overhyped services, such as WAP mobile Internet access, it was no longer cool to be an early adopter. “No one wants to be the sucker who pays out on something that is another WAP or whatever.”

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