Hooked on our mobiles
By SHAN GOODWIN
Australians spend $9.9 billion a year on mobile phone bills
MARGOT SWEENY has it with her 24 hours a day, doesn't mind when it wakes her up at 2am and calls it her lifeline.
Ernie Bennett would prefer not to have his.
But both the high-profile Lis- more businesswoman and Kyogle mayor agree they can't live with- out a mobile phone.
And they're not alone.
About 85 per cent of Austra- lians now have a mobile phone and spend a massive $9.9 billion a year on mobile phone bills, ac- cording to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.
That equates to 17.7 million handsets in operation each day.
So it's well and truly time to talk mobile manners, say Ms Sweeny and Cr Bennett.
Ringing phones in meetings, cinemas, restaurants and during public occasions are a big no-no. Carrying on a loud conversation in a public place is downright rude. And answering a call in the middle of a personal conversation can be offensive.
"I don't think it's a case of be- ing deliberately rude," Cr Bennett said.
"It's more just forgetting to turn it off ? I know I've been guilty myself of leaving it on dur- ing a meeting."
Ms Sweeny said mobile phone slip-ups had the potential to cause immense embarrassment and us- ers had to be vigilant about using them appropriately.
She has a touch screen phone which serves as a computer, com- plete with Word, Spreadsheet, In- ternet and email.
"It has a phone directory and I once looked up a friend's number and accidently bumped the num- ber of an important community leader in the process," she said.
"I had the mobile on my desk when I made the call by landline to my friend.
"I was talking away when my secretary came running in and said the man had rang to say 'Tell Margot to hang up her mo- bile, I've been listening to her conversation. It was interesting for the first 15 minutes but it's tying my phone up'."
Ms Sweeny, whose phone has a handsfree device which hooks into her ear while she is driving or walking, says people now expect to be able to contact you on a mobile.
You're losing time and business if you don't have one, she said.
Cr Bennett said he had vowed never to have a com- puter in his house.
"They have taken the face-to-face dealings out of society and also taken jobs," he said.
"I feel the same about mo- bile phones but I've found they are simply impossible to do without.
"I can speak to the media while I'm building a set of yards on my property.
"And if I had to do all my phone work when I got back home or to the office I'd be there until midnight."
Mobile phones in schools have become a hot topic in recent years, with revelations some students had used them to send intimidating messages.
Moves by North Coast public schools to restrict mobile phone usage had been met with overwhelming support from parents, NSW Department of Education spokesman Sven Wright said.
Schools were left to form their own mobile phone policies, but the bottom line was there was no need for a phone to be on during class time, he said.
Far North Coast P&C spokeswoman Deborah Lloyd said the main concern of parents was the use of phones as a bullying tool.
She said the P&C also asked schools to have a policy of not allowing phone use in class time.
"They should not be used as a distraction or a way to avoid class work," she said.
"However, there is the acknowledgement that they are a communication tool and a safety tool and can be a great advantage to students."
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