‘So Long as I Take my Mobile’: Mobile Phones, Urban Life and Geographies of Young People’s Safety


Mobile phone ownership has spread rapidly among young people in the UK. This article contributes to an expanding body of literature which is examining the consequences of this phenomenon for urban life. Our focus is the impact of mobile phones on young people’s geographies, particularly their own and their parents’ fears about their safety in public spaces. Quantitative and qualitative findings are presented from two research projects in Gateshead, north‐east England on crime victimization and leisure injury risk for young people, in which the role of mobile phones in managing and negotiating safety emerged as significant. The article highlights the different ways in which young people and parents are using mobile phones for this purpose, and asks whether they are best viewed as technologies of surveillance or empowerment. We also raise questions about the efficacy of mobile phones in protecting young people from risk and fear, in particular examining the mobile as a new site of victimization. Throughout, we emphasize the social unevenness of the uses and impacts of new technologies, which is often underplayed in research. We conclude with the suggestion that although they offer some empowerment to young people in their use of public spaces and their negotiation of risk, mobile phones appear to be reshaping rather than reducing moral panics about young people’s presence there.