Saesha Bhat (‘24)
Cellphones. These devices have become a staple gadget in everyone’s life where kids as young as five have ownership of one. They can be a great source of entertainment and an easy way to connect with others in your hometown or across the world. But what happens when it gets to a dangerous state of use?
Cell phone addiction is a real epidemic that is affecting the lives of teens and young adults. It is using the device excessively which can lead to the fear of being without it at all times, according to the Addiction Center. With the help of stimulations, flashy images, colors, and vibrations, it can hook anybody. When it starts to impact behavior and negatively affect daily life, it is then that the relationship with the device has become unhealthy, according to experts.
In the year 2020 alone, 3.5 billion users across the world became frequent users of their smartphones. Out of the 77% of Americans who have acquired smartphones, 47% confessed to being addicted to smartphone use. Not only has there been a disturbing number of phone addiction issues, but the daily screen time of an average of 11 hours rose to 19 hours due to lockdown.
Student Assistance Counselor, Ms. Kara Henderson, has come across many students who experience this obsessive issue. She explained that phone addiction starts with the constant need to be connected with others through social media and other forms of phone usage.
With this comes a “strain on one’s mental health by not feeling good enough or worthy enough,” she said.
Social media can create false realities and only show the “highlights” of people’s life, ruining the way people look at their own lives. This is one of the biggest and most controversial issues surrounding social media. If teens today can differentiate fake versus reality and understand that social media is a platform to show off parts of their life, then it is possible to establish a healthy, limited relationship with the phone.
The COVID-19 pandemic that the world has been facing for the last two years, has mentally and physically tired the world.
Ms. Henderson not only describes it as a time of many sudden losses, but a period where everyone was “dependent on [their] phones” as a way of entertainment, especially with apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube. Shutting down other forms of entertainment such as movie theaters, dine-in restaurants, and shopping malls forced children and adults to look to their phones to fill up their time.
Sophomore Anjana Kailasanath shares her struggles with phone addiction, calling it a “distraction from things that are actually important” and a contributing factor to her “mental health [deteraiton].”
During lockdown, she described her phone as a “best friend” since it served her entertainment and amusement like a friend would. Apps like Tiktok and Youtube were great platforms for people who were stuck at home to find some type of enjoyment in such troubling times.
But as the 2021-2022 school year approached, Kailasanath could not find the right balance when it came to her phone and her life outside of the digital world. This issue then led to school-related problems such as failing grades and lack of longer attention spans in class lectures. Also, it didn’t help how phones were brought to all of her classes, demanding and capturing her attention with every notification.
Since the pandemic has drastically gotten better since 2020, it has been extremely difficult for teens to get out of that lockdown mindset. Now that many things have opened up and children have returned back to school, experts say that it is imperative for people to limit their phone usage.
Mrs. Henderson advises that healthy relationships with phones start with “putting the phone away” and “not using it during in-person time together with others.”
She also recommends that people challenge themselves by leaving their phones at home and see how they go about their day. It can help detect your problems with the phone and determine how addicted and in need you really are.
Phone addiction can be hard to overcome but it is possible with a bit of persistence and willpower. Limiting time of device use and realizing the importance of in-the-moment events can help better the lives of teens today. But it will never happen if there is never a step attempted in the right direction.