Remote control, umbilical cord and beyond: The mobile phone as a transitional object

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This paper investigates mobile phone use as a medium of inter-generational communication. Research on teenage mobile phone use has tended to focus on its peer group functionality. In this paper, the mobile phone is examined as a transitional object in parent-teen interrelationships. Specifically, drawing on ethnographic work conducted in Israel among teenagers between 2000 and 2006, the paper focuses on mobile telephones as physical objects that can connect people and mediate relationships. It is shown that, for parents and their teenage children, the mobile phone is important more for the possibility of communication and less for the text or voice conversation it actually carries. Analysis focuses also on the role of the mobile phone in enabling inter-generational distance and intimacy, attending to the complicated ways in which the mobile phone is employed by parents and their teenage children. It is argued that the analysis of mobile phone practices needs to take directly into account the specific cultural contexts of production and consumption, as culture, technology and family mutually shape one another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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