As teenagers in the 21st century, so much of our daily lives is focused on what we see on our screens. We’ve grown up with mobile phones, Netflix, laptops and other technological devices, so we haven’t known anything else. The endless notifications that are sent to our phones make it difficult to look away. There’s always something, and even if it doesn’t seem like there is, teenagers have a knack for finding ways to keep their eyes glued to the screen.
It hasn’t been an issue until now what we’d do without our phones for a day. Of course, our parents often blame our struggles or lack of focus on our devices, and staring at a cell phone for hours on end surely can’t be healthy, mentally or physically. It seems that in our world, teenagers would rather text their friends than actually leave their houses to see them.
Novato High’s health, leadership and yearbook teacher Stephanie Searle described how teenagers communicate over technology.
“Teaching health, I worry about relationships that are built through phone communication. You need to have face-to-face conversations when you’re in a relationship. How else will you hear their hesitation, see their body language, etcetera?” Searle said. “It’s so important to spend quality time with people you love, without your phone.”
Even at school, most people are on their phones, either checking text messages or clicking around on social media. Some of us go so far as texting each other from less than 50 feet away. Even I can say I’m guilty of texting a friend who’s sitting close enough for me to talk to.
When asked about whether or not she prefers face-to-face conversations, Nicole Slavin, an English teacher at NHS said, “It’s so much easier to understand a person’s feelings or true meaning when you can read their expressions, or hear their inflections. Also, it’s honestly just a more meaningful experience to be in an actual conversation, to laugh or cry with another human, in person.”
The use of technology and cell phones has now created a barrier, not only for teenagers, but for people in general. The constant need to reach for your phone has eliminated the emotional factors of in person conversations that we all need to experience. Even when we have a conversation in person with someone, the second we get a notification, our attention switches from what they’re saying to what’s happening on the screen.
Riley Begley, a junior at Novato High, gave her view on how she feels about having a phone and whether or not it has affected her daily life and education.
“Having a phone means that I am much more easily able to communicate with my friends, which is a good thing and a bad thing because you get to see a lot of what people are doing. A lot of the time, I’m able to ask if I miss homework and also having access to Google Drive on my phone is really nice,” Begley said.
Many students would agree that having a phone can be more of a distraction at home than at school. The device removes us from our families and is the only thing we seem to want to pay attention to. As teenagers, having relationships and friendships that are made and mostly based around online communication, we’re going to find it harder and harder to actually meet and talk to new people in real life. The mobile device we keep in our pockets also lives in our heads, and affects how we see the world going forward.