Entries in Cell Phones (14)


Harvard Researchers Use Cell Phones for Tracking Malaria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- There’s a new weapon in the war against malaria -- the cell phone.

Harvard researchers found they could track the spread of malaria in Kenya using phone calls and text messages from 15 million mobile phones.

“Before mobile phones, we had proxies for human travel, like road networks, census data and small-scale GPS studies,” said study author Caroline Buckee, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “But now that mobile phones have spread throughout the world, we can start using these massive amounts of data to quantify human movements on a larger scale and couple this data with knowledge of infection risk.”

Buckee and colleagues used mobile phone records from June 2008 and June 2009 to track the timing and origin of calls and texts among 15 million Kenyan mobile phone subscribers. They then compared the volume of subscribers in a particular region to that region’s known malaria prevalence.  By studying networks of human and parasite movement, the team could then determine primary sources of malaria and who was most likely to become infected.

The results, published Thursday in the journal Science, suggest that malaria transmission within Kenya is dominated by travel from Lake Victoria on the country’s western edge to the more central capital city of Nairobi.  And human carriers of the malaria parasite, who may not show symptoms, far outpace the flying limits of mosquitoes in endemic regions.

“How travelers acquire malaria elsewhere and bring it home has been mostly surmised from expert knowledge and judgment,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. “Here we’ve used this unrelated cell phone technology.”

With 89 percent of the estimated 1 million annual malaria deaths occurring in Africa, the Harvard findings may help researchers better understand how human travel patterns can spread disease and potentially lead to improved public health efforts to curb the mosquito-borne infection.

“I think it is so neat and extraordinarily imaginative,” said Schaffner. “It has me bouncing up and down in my chair with excitement.”

Buckee anticipates that mobile technology could change approaches to malaria control. Long-employed anti-malaria strategies, such as the use of insecticides, bed nets, medications and mosquito-habitat removal, could be augmented by warning texts sent to travelers en route to and from malaria hot spots.

“I suspect that some people will get antsy about big brother following you,” Schaffner said, alluding to the privacy concerns that accompany mobile technology. “I’m more excited about the possibilities to prevent serious disease.”

Buckee said efforts to eradicate malaria in sub-Saharan countries, including Kenya, has been challenged by tight budgets.

“They can’t screen and treat everyone,” she said. “[Mobile phones] could be really powerful tools for targeting resources with very practical applications.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Happy Mother’s Day! (In 140 Characters?!)

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Next to seeing mom in person, phone calls remain the most popular way to wish her a happy Mother’s Day with an estimated 112.5 million calls made on that special day.

But as a new survey shows, Americans are using other electronic ways to contact mom, according to Wirefly, an online retailer of cell phones, smartphones and wireless plans.

About 53 percent of the 540 Americans, ages 18 and older who were surveyed say that it’s now okay to either send a text to mom or leave her a Facebook message.

Age dictates how you feel about electronic messages with seven in ten in the 18-to-24-year-old age group saying it’s cool to text mom with 60 percent giving their approval to sending her a Facebook message.

As people get older, they gradually feel less enthusiastic about this new way of communication on Mother’s Day. In fact, 64 percent of those 50 and older disapprove of texting mom while 65 percent nix Facebook as a method of telling her you care.

Interestingly, the rising popularity of Twitter doesn’t rate very high in the Wirefly survey with only 25 percent saying that sending a tweet to mom is appropriate. When it actually comes to tweeting mom, a mere one percent said they would do so on Sunday.

Gender-wise, women more than men in all cases believe it okay to text, tweet or send a Happy Mother’s Day message.

And what does her majesty think about all this? Sixty percent of mothers surveyed are perfectly fine with either sending or receiving a text or Facebook message on Mother’s Day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Electronic Devices a Leading Distraction for Teen Drivers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to teenagers behind the wheel, the use of electronic devices — to text or to talk on a hands-free phone — is the No. 1 distracted-driving behavior, according to the findings of a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In the final phase of a three-part study that used data recorders in the cars of 50 North Carolina families with a novice teenage driver, researchers examined six months of video clips for each family.

A total of 52 drivers were recorded — 38 of whom had just received their licenses, and 14 teen siblings. In nearly 8,000 clips, electronic devices were used nearly 7 percent of the time, accounting for more than any other distracted-driving behavior,  such as adjusting controls, eating and drinking or turning around.

And girls were the worst offenders. In video clips, they used electronic devices 7.9 percent of the time, while boys clocked in at 4 percent. The time of day or day of week did not affect distracted-driving behavior.

The study also found that teenage drivers were three times more likely to take their eyes off the road when using these devices.

Carol Ronis, the foundation’s senior communications manager, said the study was important because car crashes remained the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. Teen car crashes are roughly four times higher than they are for adults.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Casts Doubt on Cellphone-Brain Cancer Link

Hemera/Thinkstock(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) -- A new study casts doubt on the possible link between cellphones and brain cancer, but experts say the risk can't be ruled out.

The study of 358,403 Danish cellphone plan subscribers over 17 years -- the largest study of its kind -- found subscribers of 13 years or more faced the same cancer risk as non-subscribers.

"In general, our findings are in line with most of the epidemiological research that has been conducted to date," said Patrizia Frei of the Danish Cancer Society's Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, lead author of the study published Thursday in the journal BMJ. "They are also in line with in vitro and in vivo studies that show no carcinogenic effects on the cellular level."

The results come just five months after a panel of experts from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed cellphones a possible cause of cancer -- a statement that sparked fear in many of the world's five billion cellphone users.

While Frei's findings offer some comfort for communicators on the go, experts say further studies are still warranted.

"Frei and colleagues' results may seem reassuring, but they must be put into the context of the 15 or so previous studies on mobile telephones and cancer," Anders Ahlbom and Maria Feychting of the Karolinska Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, wrote in a BMJ editorial. "Although most of these studies were also negative, there are a few exceptions."

"Most of data that shows an association between cellphones and brain cancer is very weak," said Timothy Jorgensen, associate professor at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Some such studies are limited by recall bias -- the tendency for people with cancer, desperate for answers, to over-report certain behaviors like cellphone use. Frei and colleagues avoided recall bias by using Denmark's central population register, a mammoth database containing health records as well as cellphone plan details for every resident from birth to death. The register also allowed the researchers to control for education and socioeconomic factors.

"No single study is definitive," said Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of Ohio State University Medical Center's Comprehensive Cancer Center. "You can't say, based on this, that we never have to worry. But this may end up being the best study out there."

But the study has limitations. In particular, cellphone subscriptions were used as a surrogate for use. And "having a mobile phone subscription is not equivalent to using a mobile phone," Ahlbom and Feychting wrote.

Conversely, some users might be non-subscribers.

"In all of these studies, you have to get information from somewhere," said Jorgensen. "They assumed that people who subscribe to cellphone plans are using their phones, and I think that's a reasonable assumption. The alternative is to talk to people and ask them to tell you about their cellphone use. But people are notoriously inaccurate."

Even Frei admits the study doesn't close the book on cellphones and brain cancer.

"We didn't have any information on the amount of use, so we couldn't do any subanalysis on people with heavy phone use," she said. "There are still some open questions, about greater amounts of use, and about the effects on children."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


FCC Test to Measure Cellphone Radiation Flawed, Group Says

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A government test used to measure the radiation people absorb from their cellphones might underestimate the levels to which most adults and children are exposed, according to a group of doctors and researchers whose stated mission is to promote awareness of environmental health risks they believe may be linked to cancer.

Researchers from the Environmental Health Trust released a report Monday morning noting that the Federal Communications Commission test to determine radiation exposure is flawed.

The reason for the discrepancy, the group says, is that the process to determine radiation exposure from cellphones involves the use of a mannequin model that they say approximates a 6-foot-2, 220-pound person. Because the model represents only about three percent of the population, the authors report, the test will not accurately predict the radiation exposure of the other 97 percent of the population, including children. The group is pushing for a new testing system to measure radiation exposure in a wider range of consumers.

"The standard for cellphones has been developed based on old science and old models and old assumptions about how we use cellphones, and that's why they need to change," said Dr. Devra Davis, former senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration and one of the report's authors.

A different study cited in the report says a child's bone marrow absorbs 10 times the radiation as an adult. The authors also raise questions about long-term side effects, such as infertility in males who carry phones in their pockets, an exposure unaccounted for in the traditional certification process.

The authors suggest an alternative certification process, one that uses MRI scans to test real humans, including children and pregnant women. Such an approach would provide exposure data on a "Virtual Family," representing all ages, the authors say.

The U.S. government has had no specific comment on the report. The cellphone industry group CTIA-The Wireless Association said that because members "are not scientists or researchers on this topic," the news media should contact experts instead.

But whether the low level of radiation from cellphones actually causes cancer is a question that has yet to be answered. "No scientific evidence currently establishes a definite link between [cellphones] and cancer or other illnesses," the FCC says on its website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Technology Making Your Nine-to-Five Work Schedule Obsolete?

Steve Mason/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- You may love your computer and smartphone but they might be making you work harder.

Government statistics show worker productivity has increased 400 percent since 1950, possibly because technology makes you available ‘round-the-clock, and the boss is taking advantage of that.

A new survey by Wright Management finds two-thirds of employees have gotten emails from their bosses over the weekend. One-third say the boss expects a reply.

Experts say if you need to set limits, do it in a face-to-face meeting, not a text or email.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Research Suggests Phones Increase Stress

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans love their mobile phones. Research showing about eight out of ten people have cell phones.

According to the Pew Research Center, less than one third of mobile phone users take a break and turn them off each day. And the same study shows the multitasking that comes hand in hand with our mobile devices may end up causing more stress than people think. David Ballard of the American Psychological Association says just an hour or two unplugged can make a difference in stress levels.

"Whether it's making the dinner table a technology free zone; whether it's walking in the door and you're going to place your phone on the nightstand for the next two hours and not touch it while you spend time with your family," Ballard says.

Take a time out and turn your phone off for at least an hour. That's the message from psychologists who believe the constant use of mobile phones, especially smart phones, perpetuates stress levels. Ballard says many people use their phones to multi task but they never end up taking a break from them, and that can affect behaviors, moods, and relationships.

"You can't go to dinner without looking around and seeing somebody having dinner with their family but everyone is there on their smart phones not even making eye contact or having a conversation with each another."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cell Phone Users Admit Faking Calls to Avoid Awkward Interactions

Medioimages/Photodisc(WASHINGTON) -- Cell phones are useful for texting quick bites of information and staving off boredom, but they also help us dodge unwanted interactions, a new report shows.

A national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that 13 percent of cellphone users reported deflecting awkward conversations by faking phone calls.

Emerson Smith, a sociologist and clinical research associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, said that both cell phones and the ear buds that are often attached to them signals to others: "don't bother me."

It's part of a growing trend of social media and mobile phones Smith said, one which allows us to reach far-flung relatives and friends, but that also prevents us from dealing with "a lot of the really complex situations that take place in face-to-face interactions."

"In one way, all these means of communication enable us to get messages to others more quickly than we ever have before and get messages to as many people as we want to, into the thousands. It enables us to talk to anybody, anywhere in the world. It expands our horizons. But it also takes away from our ability to deal with each other one-on-one," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Cell Phones, Mobile Devices, iPhones Save Lives in Poor Countries

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) -- More than 5 billion people in the world today have cell phones, and they are doing a lot more than just talking. Globally, people are using mobile phones to surf the web, telecommute and, increasingly in the developing world, send and receive money.

The next revolution will not be televised, technology experts say, but be driven by devices that fit into the palm of your hand.

Part of that revolution is using mobile technology to deliver and track health care services, a practice referred to as mhealth. While people in the United States and Europe are focused on how the latest iPhone app will make their lives easier, wireless technology is literally saving lives in poor countries such as those in Africa and Asia.

A new WHO report, "mHealth: New Horizons for Health through Mobile Technologies," focuses on the impact mobile devices and the Internet are having on global access to health care. The report, launched at the Mobile Health Summit held in Cape Town, South Africa this week, finds that more than 70 percent of mobile subscribers live in low- and middle-income countries.

It also says that commercial wireless signals cover more than 85 percent of the world. Places that might have no electricity or a safe water supply could easily have cellphone coverage. But having seemingly high-tech advancement in places lacking basic infrastructure isn't only a problem; it's also an opportunity.

"Things that are being learned in Africa can be used in other parts of the world, including the United States," said Adele Waugaman, senior director of Technology Partnerships for the United Nations Foundation, which supported the WHO study.

The U.N. Foundation and telecommunication giant Vodacom have been partnering for the past five years to try and fund innovative mhealth projects. One of their most successful is DataDyne, a company founded by Dr. Joel Selanikio of the United States. Selanikio started his career in IT, went to medical school and eventually specialized in global health with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the Mobile Summit, health care professionals, humanitarian groups, mobile network operators and government representatives also discussed some of the challenges with mhealth. For example many programs are still in the pilot stages, governments have yet to regulate issues such as patient confidentiality and liability, and network operators and other telecommunications industry groups want mhealth to develop an eco-system that will be a financially sustainable business model.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sexting a Growing Headache for Adults

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sexting, a growing problem among teens, has become a headache for politicians such as Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York and Hollywood starlets such as Blake Lively embroiled in controversies about questionable pictures.

Both Weiner and Lively say they are victims.

But despite pointing to an unidentified hoax, Weiner admitted last week that a lewd photo sent to a Seattle student from his Twitter account could have been him, though it might have been manipulated. Weiner, who has denied sending the photo, said his Twitter account had been hacked. "It was someone sending a picture of a weiner on Weiner's account," the Democrat told ABC News. The congressman has hired a private security firm to investigate who tweeted the photo -- as rumors of new pictures and text content concerning the embattled politician have hit the blogosphere.

Sexting -- sending sexually explicit messages or photographs via electronic devices -- was once considered primarily a teen issue, with parents and even MTV warning of the consequences. MTV aired messages saying, "Sexts can take on a life of their own."

It seems adults might need some warnings of their own too. "Adults, particularly those in positions of power like politicians, sext because they want even more power," said Bethany Marshall, a marriage and family therapist in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Married Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., resigned in February after he reportedly sent a bare-chested image of himself to a woman on Craigslist.

Gossip Girl actress Lively is the latest Hollywood starlet to get caught up in a nude photo scandal. She said the iPhone pictures that surfaced last week are 100 percent fake.

The FBI is investigating a ring of hackers accused of releasing photos of young celebrities including Vanessa Hudges, Scarlett Johansson and Miley Cyrus.

Football player Brett Favre denied in the fall texting a lewd photo of himself to Jenn Sterger when he was playing for the New York Jets in 2008. The National Football League investigated the incident and fined Favre $50,000.

Sexting scandals aren't reserved for the famous and powerful. A 41-year-old English teacher from New Hampshire admitted to texting nude photos and sending inappropriate emails to a 15-year-old student.

"Basically, people are engaging in the same fantasies and behaviors that they always have," therapist Marshall said, "but now they have the technology to back it up."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio