The smartphone generation: teenagers addicted to their mobile phones
It's not the PlayStation anymore. Nor is it Nintendo's Wii video game console, the Xbox, or even the iPod. No, the new craze sweeping the teenage nation is far more compelling - and evidently much more 'this season' - than any of those.
Welcome to 'Generation Smartphone': a world in which 60% of our 13 to 19-year-olds admit to being "highly addicted" to their iPhones or Blackberrys.
In its latest annual Communications Market Report, published today, Ofcom has revealed the extent to which Northern Ireland has becom e obsessed with smartphones.
The statistics show that teenagers are ditching traditional activities, with 23% foregoing TV and 15% dismissing books in favour of online pursuits.
Ofcom also found that users of handsets like the iPhone, inspired by Steve Jobs and his boffins at Apple, make 28% more calls than those with more traditional apparatus.
And it revealed that use of social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter in Northern Ireland has doubled since 2008 with half of people accessing them regularly.
Customers are going online for everyday needs and tasks, with half watching television, video or checking bank accounts, and a third searching for information on health-related issues.
The annual Communications Market Report said more people were embracing the internet.
Ofcom Northern Ireland director Jonathan Rose said: "Over the last five years we have seen Northern Ireland catch up and in some cases overtake the rest of the UK in the use of the latest communications services."
Ofcom conducted 511 interviews in Northern Ireland last winter, split between urban and rural areas.
Its findings revealed:
- 92% use a mobile phone, almost a quarter a smartphone like iPhone or Blackberry;
- 47% use social networking sites regularly, compared to 22% in 2008;
- 53% watch television or video online;
- 51% use internet banking.
Psychologist Carmel Rodgers said that people apparently feel the need to be in touch with the outside world and each other at all times.
"It's a sign of the times we live in," said Ms Rodgers, a Belfast-based chartered professional.
"Smartphones and their stablemates Twitter and Facebook are completely revolutionising our society - and not necessarily for the better.
"In fact, recent research into cyber-technology has shown that social networking and its availability can become an addiction for some people."
Ms Rodgers, a leading practitioner, also said that the importance of its impact - both positive and negative - is directly linked to its global reach.
"Social networking and the associated technological framework has been found to limit the amount of friends people have, as well as their ability to socialise, particularly when it comes to children today," she added.
"There is also a correlation between cyber-technology and the decrease in the quality of contact between people at home and at work."
Ofcom identifies a smartphone as a phone on which you can easily access emails, download files and applications, as well as view websites and generally surf the internet. Popular brands of smartphone include the Apple iPhone, Blackberry and android phones such as HTC. Apple and Blackberry make their own phones and use their own operating systems, whereas HTC uses Google's Android platform.