'Call if you have trouble': Mobile phones and safety among college students

Jack Nasar, Peter Hecht, Richard Wener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In theory, mobile phone use may have beneficial and harmful effects. Individuals may use mobile phones to call for help or report various dangers and emergencies, but they may also go places they would not normally go without the phone. To test the perceptions of safety and subsequent behavior associated with mobile phone use, we conducted two surveys. One survey of 317 undergraduates at The Ohio State University (OSU) found that most students reported having a mobile phone and feeling that it made them feel safer at night. A follow-up survey of 305 undergraduates at OSU found that about 40% of students with mobile phones stated that, with a mobile phone, they walked where they normally would not. However, smaller percentages said they used their mobile phones to call for help either in a crime or non-crime situation or to report an accident, a crime, a reckless driver or a hazardous situation. The results suggest favorable and unfavorable outcomes associated with the mobile phone. Although using it to call for help from a threat, crime, or to report other unsafe conditions has value, the increased perceived safety associated with it may lead students to engage in risky behavior that could increase their chances of becoming a victim. Future work should consider whether mobile phone use increases or decreases the likelihood of victimization and of catching a predator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-873
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Cell phones
  • College students
  • Dstracted attention
  • Far of crime
  • Mobile phones
  • Mobile technology
  • Safety from crime
  • Situation awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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