Put The Phones Down

Smartphones Are Replacing Face-To-Face Interactions With Younger Kids


Audra Welsch

Wil Beasley looks at his phone, something teens are doing more frequently than ever.

Peach Schilling, Staff Writer

Go offer any teenager a cigarette. Chances are they will say no, right? Now offer the same random teenager a brand new iPhone XS. I guarantee they would be head-over-heels happy.
Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Fortnite, Safari, Amazon, Spotify – name them all. Electronic nicotine. The high of our time.
The abundance of things that young children can now participate in because of their new piece of technology are broad. No one recognizes, however, that the very thing in their hand is causing just as much damage, although in a different way, as cigarettes.
Forty years ago, 27.5 percent of all students in 12th grade reported smoking cigarettes daily, compared to the less than six percent in 2015. By contrast, only 45 percent of teenagers had cell phones in 2004, some of which that could only call and text.
Today, children as young as 10 years old are receiving their first smartphones and are immediately being introduced to distractions. According to Pew Research Center, 78 percent of high school students, ages 12 to 17, have cell phones; 75 percent of these teens have access to the internet through a mobile device during the day. The psychological effects, however, can be detrimental.
Highland Principal Chris Jenson is concerned that students believe they are connected to others while talking to them online.
“I think we fool ourselves and we feel connected online,” Jenson says, “It is a sense of satisfaction.”
In 2017, a study in the Clinical Psychological Science Journal found that for adolescents in grades 8 through 12, “increased time on new media led to an increased rate of depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates.” Along with this, pediatric psychologists believe that heavy use of social media can “replace” face-to-face interactions, exercise, and self-regulation, which can all lead to future issues.
Teachers at Highland agree and are becoming more and more concerned with parents, students, and everyone’s constant focus on smartphones.
“In the classroom setting cell phones are absolutely unnecessary,” Highland language arts teacher Rebecca Blommer says, “I fear for [children’s] futures because their brains are not fully developed.”
Although smartphones can be used for useful tasks, such as calculating equations for math, many parents and school administrators are focused on what can go wrong when young children are exposed to mini computers that are taken everywhere they go. Brian X. Chen, writer for the New York Times, explains the effects of smartphones on young minds and argues that they can be addictive distractions that detract from schoolwork and expose children to issues including online business and child predators.
Phones, watches, and MP3 players are constantly within reach of students in school. The average teen sends 3,339 text messages per month. In addition, 95 percent of text message are opened within three minutes and responded to within 90 seconds after receiving.
Although almost all parents and teenagers have heard of the damage smartphones can cause, I don’t see anyone trying to make a change. I will admit that I am one who loves browsing on the web and scrolling through new Instagram posts. However, I wish I wasn’t because of all the damage that can occur from screen time. I know that many people my age agree with me, and I strongly believe that most of us are living in fear of rejection and disconnection. Teenagers have smartphones because their friends do.
We’d rather lose brain cells than lose “friends.”
Parents will keep buying their children expensive phones and teenagers will continue to accept them. Kids will believe they need new pieces of technology because of what they see online and what they hear from their friends and family every day. Society tells us that constant connection is crucial and beneficial, but people of all generations need to be continuously interacting with others face to face.
“I think that we are in an era of personal responsibility and we need to try to challenge ourselves because the answers are so easy and out there,” Jenson states.
The term “reality” is becoming more and more skewed as time goes on. Now that 10 is the average age for kids to receive their first smartphone, down from 12 in 2012, mental health issues are on the rise, while risk-taking action in social situations are declining. Parents of young children and teens are sending their kids away with constant access, while those children are relying on their device for answers, advice, and day-to-day scheduling.
“Unless you’re face to face with somebody or unless you’ve actually talked to somebody, it’s not reality,” Jenson said. “Put the phones down, turn them off, put them in your pocket, put them in your purse. That’s reality!”