What is the digital age leaving behind? Ashley Locoh

You’re walking home from school and your hand reaches in your back pocket in search for what it prizes most. Your hand senses coins and gum wrappers, but it doesn’t feel what it’s looking for. Again, your other hand searches another one of your pockets, but still, no sign of what it wants. Now your heart rate begins to speed, and you’re dropping everything and scouring through your backpack while mentally back-tracking the moments where you think you last saw your life line. You’re shaking your backpack, in complete panic mode, when suddenly you’ve found it! Your phone! It was in your hands the whole time.

Ever since the arrival of smartphones and of the thousands of applications they have enabled, it seems like more and more of our lives have been pushed into the digital world and out of the real world. We speak digitally, we meet and date digitally, we bank digitally, we shop digitally, we read digitally, and we even express our feelings digitally with a flurry of winky faces and other emojis. And when we can’t do so, we feel strange, anxious and even distressed as though we’ve lost a limb. We get more and more consumed with expressing ourselves and meeting our needs through this new medium, we lose the richness of human interactions. And we often no longer develop the intuitive social skills that make our societies connected and human.

Yes. Smartphones have definitely changed adolescents, more than any other generation. As proven by Common Sense Media, “seventy-two percent of teens admit that they feel a sense of urgency to check notifications and respond to messages.” (https://www.teensafe.com/blog/truth-smartphone-addiction-teens/) But why is that?

Teenagers are at a stage in life where they are starting to build and cement their group behavior and interactive skills with the rest of the world. This makes them vulnerable to the effects of phones on their interaction skills. Melissa Ortega, a child psychologist similarly states “They don’t know how to handle conflict face to face because so many things happen through some sort of technology...” (huffingtonpost) These adolescents will most times use their devices as a hideaway or an excuse to avoid a current situation, which can prevent them from discovering new ideas and experiencing new cultures and places.

Not only does the excessive use of smartphones by teenagers affect how they live in a community, but it also greatly impacts their relationships at home. A statistic shows how, “77% of parents feel their children get distracted by their devices and don't pay attention when they are together.” (cnn) This causes conflict amongst parents and their children which can be completely avoided. When cnn asked interviewed parents to take their children’s phone away, one parent reported her daughter screaming, “I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away”. (nypost) As shocking as it sounds, it is alarming to know to what extent this girl values her smartphone, that she would even deprive herself of eating; an essential part of life. A student from the UK also frightfully states, “Media is my drug. Without it I was lost.” (thetelegraph)

Young adults from the ages of 13 through 18 are not the only kids being consumed by this over usage of media, but also “[those] between ages 8 and 12 reported spending nearly six hours a day plugged in.” (teensafe) Imagine all the childhood memories these children would have been stolen by the time spent on their devices playing games. All these crucial moments designed for kids to explore their environment, their world, to prepare them for future interactions they will have to take part in?

Although many will say that smartphones enable many to meet and create relationships with people they might not have without their phones, this only weakens their relationships with the people they face daily. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a question of getting rid of smartphones. I’m only calling for using our devices moderately. So instead of spending hours on end playing on these gadgets, go out for a walk, meet up a friend, or read a book. If we stay consumed in this media, we will miss out on opportunities to strengthen relationships with family and friends, to explore new places, to see new things, and to meet life lasting friends. Do you really want to do that to yourself?

Work Cited

Alleyne, Richard. "The Young Generation Are 'addicted' to Mobile Phones." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Bindley, Katherine. "When Children Text All Day, What Happens To Their Social Skills?" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Riley, Naomi Schaefer. "How Smart Phones Feed Teens’ Relationship Obsessions." New York Post. N.p., 14 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

"The Truth about Smartphone Addiction in Teens." TeenSafe. N.p., 10 Sept. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Wallace, Kelly. "50% of Teens Feel Addicted to Their Phones, Poll Says." CNN. Cable News Network, 29 July 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

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