By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – I’ve written before about the negative effects of cell phones on our youth but this article in the Wall Street Journal only confirms what I already know. Our kids are addicted to phones, so much so that it is detrimental not only to their classroom performance, their attention levels, and even their socialization.
What prompted my interest in this topic was my own experience as a high school classroom teacher and my reading of Matt Richtel’s A Deadly Wandering which tells the story of Reggie Shaw who crossed the center line one morning while texting and driving which resulted in the death of two scientists. Interspersed with the chapters about Reggie and the aftermath of the accident, we meet the neuroscientists who work in “attention science” and the result is an engaging page turner.
Now a Wall Street Journal article examines the social habits of teenagers who are now apparently making their friends online rather than in social settings. They are using apps like Kik and Houseparty, among many others, at alarming rates:
These apps make sense now in part because more teens than ever have access to smartphones. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported 73% of U.S. teens have access to a smartphone, and that figure is growing. Those teens are checking their phones on average more than 80 times a day, according to Deloitte .
Think about that for a moment: they’re checking their phones “on average more than 80 times a day…”.
That’s a lot. And if you believe the science, each time they check their phone they’re chasing a dopamine hit.
With the Houseparty app, for example, you’re basically Facetiming with more than one person at a time. So rather than go to a movie, to a playground, or out in the neighborhood, kids are sitting on the couch glued to their phone screens. Some would advocate that this is much safer than the risk of having kids abducted or hanging out in malls (do they still do that?). At least if they’re home, you know what they’re doing. On the other hand, this kind of behavior leads to sedentary, inactive kids who will likely have problems with real, in-person situations.
Not to mention the increasingly addictive factor of the device itself. I see the detriment of this in the classroom every single day. The attention span of students has decreased significantly in my twenty years as a teacher. Teachers must find a way to be more entertaining than the phone. I find the statistics, frankly, alarming.
For American teens, making friends isn’t just confined to the school yard, playing field or neighborhood – many are making new friends online. Fully 57% of teens ages 13 to 17 have made a new friend online, with 29% of teens indicating that they have made more than five new friends in online venues. Most of these friendships stay in the digital space; only 20% of all teens have met an online friend in person.
Give the kid a library card instead of a smart phone.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.