With rapid technological advancements, mobile phones have converged into multifunctional personal devices. Mobile phones are equipped with new features such as Internet access, cameras (pictures and videos) and MP3 players. While a majority of previous research investigated the use and effects of mobile phones and young people, these studies focused on the Western context. Nevertheless, while a growing number of studies has investigated mobile phone use by teenagers in non-western countries, there is little research on mobile phone use and their implications to teenagers in an Islamic context. This thesis examines the uses of mobile phones by, and their implications to, Bruneian teenagers. The research seeks to map and understand the complex forces that influence and challenge the socio-cultural values and religious beliefs of teenagers in a non-Western, Malay, Islamic society such as Brunei.
A qualitative research method was used to investigate the research questions. Specifically, focus groups and in-depth interviews were used to collect data. A total of 143 Bruneian teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19 participated in the study. A total of 18 teachers and 10 parents were also studied to obtain their perspectives on teenagers’ use of mobile phones at school and at home.
The results showed how the teenagers perceive mobile phones as a ‘miracle from heaven’. The study found that mobile phones were viewed as necessities and as a tool of emancipation from parental control and surveillance. In general, mobile phones were used by the teenagers to access social networking sites such as Facebook and for entertainment. Though the teenagers preferred SMS, they were not used frequently because the teenagers were selective with whom or how they communicate via their mobile phones. The ease of interpersonal communication with their friends, more importantly their ‘partner’ (boyfriend or girlfriend) was highlighted. A unique mobile phone culture among Bruneian teenagers is ‘bertasbeh’ (mobile phone tethering as if reciting the rosary). This thesis thus showed how the teenagers perceive mobile phones as a ‘must have’ or an important technological device in their everyday life.
Some of the critical issues arising from frequent use of mobile phones included addiction-like behaviour to mobile phones, which also distracted the teenagers from their studies; bullying through Facebook; and exposure to explicit contents on mobile Internet. Overall, with a few exceptions, there were surprisingly no significant differences between how mobile phones were used and their implications to young people from different social-cultural and religious contexts. However, this thesis also demonstrated that with the lack of the religious beliefs and practices such as strong faith and obedience to God, young people were more easily influenced to negative use of the mobile phones. The study thus extends the current state of knowledge of this topic by further addressing the relevant issues surrounding mobile phones and young people in a continuously changing environment. The study also demonstrates the need to cooperate between relevant authorities in order to improve the problem surrounding young people and their religious faith in general. The findings of this study will be relevant to policy makers, educators, parents, technology marketers and teenagers, as it helps inform the importance of support and guidance to young people and their use of mobile phones, particularly from the religious perspectives.