Facebook and Twitter fuel iPhone and BlackBerry addiction, says Ofcom.

Regulator says half of British teenagers and 25% of adults now have smartphones as sales outstrip regular mobiles.

This article is used in the questions and learning activities that follow.

Ofcom (the UK government communications regulator) says one in three adults, and most teenagers, classify themselves as highly addicted to their smartphones such as iPhones, Blackberrys and Androids.

Britons’ appetite for Facebook and social networks on the go is driving a huge demand for smartphones – with 60% of teenagers describing themselves as “highly addicted” to their device – according to new research by the media regulator, Ofcom. Almost half of teenagers and more than a quarter of adults in the UK now own a smartphone, with most using their iPhone or BlackBerry to browse Facebook and email.

Facebook remains far and away the most popular website for mobile users, with users spending almost four times the amount of time socialising online than using Google or any other website. Unsurprisingly, multitasking teenagers said they were less likely to read books if they owned a smartphone.

The huge boost in smartphone sales has led to a 67% increase in mobile data use as phone users watched videos and sent emails on the go. Mobile operators, such as O2 and Vodafone, have been put under huge strain by the new load.

Despite being a nation of mobile addicts, Ofcom found that Britons are spending more time in front of the TV (four hours a day last year, compared to 3.8 hours in 2009). The new generation of broadband delivered by fibre-optic cables is now available for 57% of UK households – though just 500,000 have adopted it.

Those who own games consoles are most likely to use it for watching video content (22%), online gaming (22%), and watching DVDs (19%). Just over one in 10 said they browse the web via their games console, while 9% use it to watch BBC iPlayer. Britons sent an average of five text messages a day last year, contributing to a total of 129bn texts sent – up by 24% in 2009.

Adapted from an article by Josh Halliday, The Guardian, Thursday 4 August 2011

Activity 1 – before reading the article

  • How did people communicate with each other at a distance a hundred years ago? What about fifty years ago? How about when you were born?
  • How did people communicate at a distance ten years ago? What about today?
  • What do you think about the way communication systems have changed?

Activity 2 – before reading the article

How would you choose to group the words below? Work first individually, then in pairs and compare; then get into groups of four and agree on the best groupings.

broadband – smartphone – computer – android – mobile – email – Facebook – Apple – text – iPhone – Internet – Twitter – fax – Blackberry – Google

Activity 3

What’s the difference between the way people use email and the way people use Twitter?

Activity 4

How many of you have an iPhone or a Blackberry? How do they compare?

Activity 5

Look at the heading: ‘Facebook and Twitter fuel iPhone and BlackBerry addiction, says Ofcom‘ and try to guess or predict what the passage may be about.

Activity 6

What is the base word for the word addiction? What other related words do you know? What are we often talking about when we use the word addiction?

Activity 7

Are you addicted to your device? How much do you use it? What do you do in a train or bus, or when waiting for someone?

Activity 8

If an audio recording of the passage is available, listen to the recording for the first time. What is the key message?

Activity 9

Listen to (or read) the passage for the second time. Questions to follow:

  1. Which phones are the most popular?
  2. Which group is most addicted?
  3. Which social network is most popular?
  4. Why are some mobile operators under pressure?
  5. What percentage of people have access to fibre-optic broadband?

Activity 10

Listen again for these expressions; what do they mean in this context?

  1. on the go
  2. outstripped (sales of)
  3. a new generation of
  4. reliant on (new technology)
  5. an essential tool
  6. huge boost (in smartphone sales)
  7. adopted (it)
  8. fibre-optic (cable)

Activity 11

Read paras 1 – 4. If you lost your phone (whether ordinary phone or smartphone) how would you feel? How would it change your life?

Activity 12

Complete this paragraph using ten of the words provided; two additional words are on the list but need not be used.

strain – reliant – Internet – huge – demand – popular – addicts – addicted – increase – multitask – Google Plus – broadband

Research indicates that Facebook is the most ____ social network website for mobile users. While many people, particularly teenagers are able to ____ , they spend far more time on Facebook than browsing or on other websites. There has been a ____ increase in the sale of smartphone over the last few years. This increase has dramatically increased ____ for data which has put some operators under ____. In addition to being a country full of mobile ____, people in Briton watch a lot of television. Some of this is via fibre-optic ____ which is far more efficient than copper cabling. A staggering 129bn texts were sent in 2010 by people in Britain and that was an ____ of a quarter over the year before. People today are very ____ on the Internet and their phones, and many will agree that they are ____.

Activity 13

Write 250 words about your own use of phones and how it compares with your parents’ use.