Cellphones aren’t just popular for their innovative functions, built-in cameras and pretty looks but also because they make Witsies who are “armed” with them feel safer and more connected to the world.

Aside from offering the function of making and receiving calls, cellphones have many innovative functions such as texting, Bluetooth and internet; mobiles are now also seen as a safety feature.

“I got on the wrong bus once and it dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. If I do get lost I always have a backup because I have my cellphone on me,” says 1st year computer science student Madeeha Laher.

Many university students have had a cellphone since 10 years of age and say they would often turn back to get their cellphone once they realised they had left it behind.

“I do run back to get my cellphone if I forget it,” says Laher.

Second year electrical engineering student Sabelo Thiyane feels carrying a cell phone is “like a tradition”. “My mum was pregnant [in labour] and wanted me to call the ambulance,” Thiyane says.

Many of the students felt the reason they felt safer was that it kept them connected in case there was an emergency. “If you collapse or something and they need to look for your mother’s phone number, at least you’ll have your cell phone with you,” says 2nd year BA student Lerato Mufamadi.

British paramedic Bob Brotchie created the ICE (in case of emergency) programme in 2005 which enables first responders, such as paramedics and police officers, to identify victims and contact their next of kin to learn important medical information.

The programme encourages people to enter emergency contacts in their mobile contact list under the name “ICE”.

Thiyane and friends say that even though they felt safer with their mobiles on them, in “high risk” places such as Bree Street taxi rank and places with lots of people they didn’t feel as safe.

“If someone comes up to me and wanted my cellphone I’d give my cheaper one,” says Thiyane. Carrying a cheaper second cell phone was a common habit among the circle of friends.