High school students would no doubt file the latest research from Common Sense Media under “Captain Obvious.”
According to the company’s recently published “Screens and Sleep” report, the newest look at an ongoing study tracking how mobile devices are affecting families (see related links), more than one-third of teenagers bring their phones to bed with them and wake up in the middle of the night to check their devices. Parents, by the way, aren’t great role models; 1 in 4 wake up at least once per night to check their phones.
Numbers like this add fuel to the fire around an increasingly popular business buzzterm: digital well-being. Many argue that technology is hurting us. For example, if you’re texting or scrolling through Instagram at 1:00 a.m. with only the glow of your smartphone lighting your way, you’re not getting enough sleep. “The findings trouble researchers because they indicate large numbers of smartphone users are ignoring the recommendations of sleep experts to cut off screen time at least an hour before bed and not check the phone in the night,” noted a Wall Street Journal article about the Common Sense study.
‘My Feelings Get the Best of Me’
Kashish A., 16 and a rising senior at Greenwood High International School in Bangalore, India (and a past competitor and regional finalist in our Wharton Global High School Investment Competition), admits that her phone has become a non-negotiable part of her nighttime routine. “Despite all of the quarrels I have had with my parents regarding the matter, my phone has become an essential part of my life,” says Kashish, who uses her mobile to do everything from learning Spanish, reading books and watching Netflix, to scrolling through her favorite social media feeds. “It has transformed into a need more than a desire. I get into bed around 11:30 p.m. and I stay on my phone for about an hour, sometimes even more…I do strongly feel that phones interfere with my sleep schedule, and although I am self aware of the problem, not using my phone in the night creates an uneasiness within me. The feeling of not being aware of your surroundings or missing out on an event while you sleep is terrible. In spite of me being conscious of the fact that this isn’t worth losing sleep over, my feelings get the best of me.”
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a big motivator – or are the smartphone-obsessed just flat-out addicted? Kashish, for one, leans toward the latter. “I find myself making excuses as to why I need my phone and begin to lie about the purpose of my using it,” she observes. “I say that I need it to listen to music or that it has my documents, but those could easily be replaced by a small music device or my laptop. The biggest issue is that we’ve become so addicted that switching off our phones or leaving them at home when we go out are sources of anxiety or uneasiness.”
Tech companies are taking up the challenge of improving digital well-being, largely under pressure. Common Sense, the same company that wrote the “Screens and Sleep” report, held a conference last week in San Francisco to discuss solutions for what they consider to be the harmful technology craze.
Tristan Harris, former design ethicist and founder of the Center for Humane Technology, kicked off the conversation with Ellen Pao, founder of Project Include, by discussing tech companies and the attention economy. The attention economy refers to how Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs treat your attention span like a commodity and find ways to get you hooked on their products. Referring to the race for attention as “human downgrading,” Harris said that “after racing to the bottom of our brain stems to get and keep all our attention, tech now needs to race to the top and think about designing in ways that are best for society.”
“I am completely shocked by the hours I spend on my phone on the weekend. My personal record is eight hours!” — Kashish A.
Google, Apple and Facebook, all criticized for breeding digital addiction, have answered the call by launching new tools to help users mind their phone time. Google, for instance, just announced Focus Mode, a new feature for Android devices that allows you to turn off apps that you find personally distracting while you’re trying to get things done. Parents can also set time limits on specific apps, rather than screen time in general. This week, Apple unveiled broader accessibility for Screentime, which allows you to get real-time reports about how much time you spend on your Apple devices and set limits for what you want to manage.
Kashish says that she appreciates how tech companies are finding ways to make her more aware of her digital habits, even if she resists the idea of phone-free hours. It was particularly helpful, she adds, during her recent school exams. “I use Apple’s option for measuring screen time and am completely shocked by the hours I spend on my phone on the weekend. My personal record is eight hours! That is one-third of my day spent using my phone,” she observes. “However, because of the reminders of how long I spend wasting my day, I have begun to use my phone less…I do believe small steps to improve the time spent on these devices help a substantial amount. They have helped me and many around me, and the movement to bring down the screen time usage of people will result in major productivity improvements.”
A Smart Security Blanket
But don’t expect people to part indefinitely with their smartphones anytime soon. In fact, not everyone buys into the spiraling screen-addicted society scenario. Wharton marketing professor Shiri Melamud has conducted extensive research that suggests we shouldn’t feel so badly about constantly staring down at our phones.
“One of the key takeaways of my work is that consumers seem to have a uniquely emotional relationship with their smartphones over and above its functional value,” said Malamud in an interview with our sister publication, Knowledge@Wharton. “In one stream of my work, I show that smartphones often serve as a sort of adult pacifier for many consumers. It’s providing similar emotional and psychological benefits that a pacifier or security blanket might provide to a child. For example, in one of my studies I show that consumers who feel stressed, after engaging with their phone, show greater recovery than people who engage with the identical content on a comparable device. In that sense, you might want to feel a little bit better about your relationship to your phone. It seems to have, at least in the short term, some positive outcomes.”
Stress reliever? Possibly. Time monopolizer? Absolutely. Sleep-deprivation device? Potentially. If you’re reading this on your smartphone at 3 a.m., we have a suggestion. Get some sleep.
- Common Sense Media: Screens and Sleep Report
- WSJ: Many Teens Check Their Phones in the Middle of the Night
- PR Newswire: Tech Leaders Urged to Design Products with Privacy and Digital Well-being in Mind
- K@W: The Smartphone As Security Blanket
- Happiful: What Is the Attention Economy?
- World Economic Forum: This Is How Technology Turns Us Into Addicts
- Center for Humane Technology
So, do you take your cell phone to bed? Share your story in the comment section of this article. Why do you spend so much time on your phone?
How would you rate your own digital well-being? Is mobile technology interfering with or enhancing your life experiences? Why or why not? What do you want researchers and digital well-being promoters to understand most about your relationship with screens? Do you agree with the assessment that technology has led to “human downgrading?”
Kashish Arora believes that, “Small steps to improve the time spent on these devices help a substantial amount.” What do you feel is the solution to excessive smart-phone use, if any?
Very nice and interesting article unfortunately every night I take my cell phone to bed. And reason being is because usually I can’t sleep right away but I see now that how I sleep effects how i wake up the next day. I’m usually on my phone almost the entire DAY because I’m usually bored and producing this habit has been interfering with my life experiences. Because I’m an inactive person my excessive phone use has effected me trying new things. What stood out to me in this article was how our smartphones are involved with the media. The media can have so much of an effect on us as humans because the media tries to find ways to make us “better people” by telling us to look or be a certain way in other words it downgrades humans. Tristian Harris states, “tech now needs to face to the top and think about designing in ways that are best for society”. I truly agree with this, tech companies need to find a better solution that will benefit everyone in a positive state. I also liked how this article showed how companies are finding ways to limit some amount of time of the phone usage and how it helped a teenaged girl. But it will take time and patience within ourselves to benefit. Everyday is a working progress Arora states, “small steps to improve the time spent on these devices”.
Have you thought of a world in which its most amazing attractions and mysteries are reachable within a slight movement of your fingers? I have, and I guess so do many of you. However, can we reach this ultimate goal without first getting used to the electronic devices around us? Probably not. Researches of down-side effects of technological developments on human health or environment often contain subjective reluctance of accepting a shift in the living style of the whole society, resulting in exaggerating the outcomes and thus raising public concern that may not be necessary; yet embracing changes is inevitable, especially in this age of rapid improvement in technology as well as consumption of natural resources.
Accessibility has been the ever-increasing demand in the market of knowledge and information. When the Internet first came out, it served as a platform to share information about the world, the public and certain groups. As it continued to develop, more and more activities were made possible online—shopping, posting albums, ordering food…… Then it turned into not only a platform for shared information or services, but also that for personal events. Taking Instagram as an example, it has never been easier to follow up the most recent news on a public celebrity. Phones, with both efficiency and mobility, simply serve as devices to access the Internet. They become a natural monopoly of the information industry, and the benefits of such monopoly is often folded when discussing health issues on individuals, one major benefit being, intuitively, low-cost to access information. In the past one could hardly be fascinated by the architectural aesthetics of the Parthenon, the elegance of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or the grandness of the Terra-cotta Army; nowadays he can simply do so by moving his fingers within an inch. Moreover, it costs way less to search for 3D cartography on Google Map than to travel to the exact site. In the same token, online education, online design and online trading can save stakeholders a great amount of both money and effort. Not only is this an existing fact, off-site accessibility is also a trend. Virtual technology is being worked out to provide even better enjoyment and involvement in different places, thus offering higher-quality accessibility.
Texting, twittering, following…… such activities are creating new traditions within our societies. Personally, I have been criticized more than once for not replying someone on the phone within a day. In fact, as these activities keep gaining populace, more and more traditions are created by the majority to follow up some trend-leading fashions. Clicking likes, replying snaps, these actions are shifting from the icing on the cake to daily necessities. Waking up in the middle of a night to check one’s phone is just like waking up to check whether there was a letter from a loved one in the past. Psychological disturbance has always been there, merely in various forms and to different extents. It is the other problem, direct harm on physical health from cell phones, that needs being solved. How to get used to this new life style without profound jeopardy to our health? I think the main focus should be on how to decrease the impact of electronic devices on us, rather than how to control our playing hours with phones.
Waking up checking messages is totally fine with me. And I believe that, despite all these comments and critics on the involvement of electronics, people will eventually get along with them, finding a proper way to combine them to daily lives.
You make a very compelling argument, Yuhong! I found myself nodding in agreement with several of your points, especially the conclusion. In the midst of a Digital Age, these issues are inevitable. Technology is a double-edged sword, and depending on how we utilize it, it can cut both ways. It’s certainly possible to garner & appreciate technological benefits without jeopardizing one’s health. Like you explained, the most resounding solution would be for users to be acknowledge the full impact that technology holds on their day-to-day lives. Thus, they can find simple means to deflect & prevent harmful impacts, all while still enjoying the myriad of technological advantages.
Ironically, smartphones and devices were introduced to educators and students as a learning tool capable of accessing anything at an instant. While they certainly have the potential to fulfill this role, devices are now more of a distraction than a learning tool. In my school, many students (especially those who sit in the back) will play games on their school iPads during the entirety of class. The problem has gotten so bad that some of my teachers have resorted to monitoring everyone’s school iPad during class like some Orwellian dystopia. It’s no surprise that students are taking phones to bed as well.
However, phones, iPads, and other devices cannot be blamed entirely for distractions from education. Nobody can be focused and engaged all eight hours of the school day every day for five days a week. Messaging our friends, checking Snapchat, and playing Clash Royale has replaced the daydreaming, doodling, and tic-tac-toe games of the past. But that doesn’t exonerate these devices of guilt; by letting students access anything at an instant, they do their job too well.
As a result, we no longer know how to cope with boredom, or empty pockets of time, without using a device. By replacing duller moments with whatever we desire, devices quite literally become an addiction. According to the CRC health group, the largest provider of specialized behavioral health services in the country, boredom is “the number one reason given for re-using drugs or alcohol, followed by anxiety, loneliness and anger.” And when we quickly learn that devices provide the portal out of any situation to a world where we can essentially do whatever we want, our self-restraint gets weakened, and devices take up our entire attention economy. While I’ve been able to refocus my attention on a class after daydreaming for a bit, I’ve never seen anyone put their iPads down after they’ve started gaming. Thus devices cannot be seen as a harmless way to scratch the itch of boredom but an active distraction.
As the biggest problem with devices is that they provide access to too much, one of the best solutions is to simply remove those choices. Like Arora mentions, she would be better off if her iPhone was compartmentalized – for instance, having a music player when she wants to listen to music. While the iPhone can also be a music player and thus seem more convenient than carrying around many devices for specialized tasks, students who use their iPhone to “just listen to music” often receive a text message or a notification from Snapchat before they even open Spotify, which can spiral into hours of not studying.
It’s good that manufacturers of these devices now realize the possible harm of accessing too much, but current solutions can’t resolve the problem by themselves. For example, Apple’s Screentime provides a way for students to recognize how much time they spend on distracting applications, which would appear to be a cold shock for the addicted. However, many students in my school treat their addiction like a badge of honor – often telling their friends, “I’m so unproductive, I spent twenty hours on Snapchat last week.” While Screentime may awaken students to the extent of their problems, it isn’t strong enough to force them to quit. Many students are instead shocked for a while and then return to their old habits.
More restrictive policies like Focus Mode need to be implemented to forcefully remove distractions. If students are able to remove the restrictions whenever they want, these restrictions will prove to be useless. Telling someone to try and quit smoking while you leave a pack of cigarettes in the room and walk out will prove to be ineffective. If schools want to use devices for education, they should find ways to remove all other options forcefully.
But merely putting a firewall won’t resolve the issue. When a firewall was applied in my middle school, we all found ways around it – finding unblockedgames websites, using VPNs, and downloading NES games on our calculators. App developers will also have to be mindful about how addicting their products can be.
Devices provide a powerful tool for education by being able to access any information at any time. However, not all that information is educational. The first step to creating better devices for learning is to recognize that having more choices and more access doesn’t mean we’ll make better choices.
I found your response to the article on digital well being to be both insightful and engaging. Not only do you address the main ideas of the article but share your personal experiences with technology misuse and acknowledge the fact that current approaches to resolving the issue are largely ineffective.
Similarly, I too have noticed patterns of technology misuse, and even addiction, emerging amongst my peers. It seems that these days teenagers prefer to spend time on their phones rather than interact physically. On numerous occasions, I have found myself spending time with my friends, only to play games and text on our phones. Instead of taking advantage of our time together and interacting face to face, we remain glued to our screens. Many of my friends waste hours upon hours gaming to reach the highest level or amass the most wealth. Eventually, they grow bored with the game dynamics and move on to a new app, beginning the vicious cycle all over again. Others prefer to spend time on social media, choosing to observe others’ lives rather than go outside and create memorable experiences of their own. As you noted, this addiction doesn’t stop when kids go to school. Students find loopholes in the school’s firewall, playing games and watching videos instead of completing their homework or preparing for upcoming exams.
Through personal experience, I have found that these irresponsible actions can have serious negative consequences. For example, social media sites foster cyberbullying and photos of others enjoying themselves can lead to feelings of insecurity and depression, particularly among teenagers. Phones even contribute to light pollution, disrupting our bodies’ biological clocks. That being said, I also agree with your statement that our mobile devices can have several potential benefits. I strongly believe that technology offers many unpresented learning opportunities, helping to stimulate the mind and better allowing individuals to retain knowledge. Moreover, it helps families and friends stay in touch and keeps individuals well informed about events around the world. I personally use my phone to stay up to date with the news, connect with friends, manage my hectic schedule, and quickly reference important facts while completing my homework.
Because of all the capabilities our phones offer, I believe that our generation can no sooner give up our mobile devices than go back in time. They have become an integral part of our lives. We have no choice but to continue forward with them in our pockets. Therefore, as both you and the author of the article suggest, it is of the utmost importance that we take steps to ensure we use our devices responsibly.
However, I disagree with your statement that compartmentalization would be effective in accomplishing this. Limiting the number of apps on our phones or replacing them with other technological devices will go directly against one of the phone’s most valuable benefits: flexibility and convenience. Instead, I believe we should strive to educate the public, especially teenagers, through new programs and phone usage initiatives. After all, individuals will never truly stop abusing technology until they become aware of the issue and the potential negative consequences of their behavior. Only then, can teenagers take steps to mending their ways with the assistance of screen time monitoring programs and some good old-fashioned parental supervision. Moreover, I believe that parents should do their best to set their kids up for success. Children should not be given unfettered access to technological devices until they are mature enough to recognize the phones’ potential dangers and use them responsibly.
Thanks for your response! I enjoyed reading your detailed and nuanced position, and it made me rethink my relationship with my own devices.
I found it interesting how you mentioned that hanging out with your friends often ended with staring at a phone screen. It seems that while phones may make it easier to communicate and interact with other people, our relationships are nowhere as deep or emotional as before. These days, in-person conversations with friends end at the first silence when everyone takes out their phones and stands there awkwardly. As our devices have trained us to expect real conversations to be an endless flow of engaging dialogue, we no longer know how to deal with silence. Instead of searching for a new topic, we end the conversation. While we may have more online “friends,” we talk to fewer people in real life. Part of the issue is that phones give us a safe place to hide instead of confronting the awkwardness that may come with talking to new people or continuing a conversation. Unsurprisingly, as you’ve pointed out, disconnection with real human interaction can lead to insecurity, depression, and cyberbullying.
I’d like to add on to your point that compartmentalization may sacrifice flexibility and access. I agree that we shouldn’t ban applications, but as there are appropriate times for everything, it may be beneficial to restrict access to applications selectively. For example, if we want to study for one hour, we should be able to shut off distracting apps and any mechanism that allows us to undo these changes for the next hour. As addicted users, if the choice of opening Snapchat isn’t taken away from us, our minds will inevitably drift back to missed snaps and Snapchat. In this manner, our devices can be compartmentalized throughout time according to our needs, which both preserves flexibility while removing distracting access.
That being said, there’s a fine line between restricting access and completely taking it away. I don’t think a massive firewall will resolve the issue because addicted users will always find a loophole. As you’ve mentioned, the best solution will have to be restricted access and education. I’m astonished as I see kids in strollers with phones, ironically because their parents’ patience has probably eroded due to those same devices. Similar to how we deal with drinking and smoking, I think that better education on the potential consequences of devices, as well as an age limit to device use, will significantly help this addiction problem. Last year France banned devices in all schools up to 9th grade. Do you think we should follow France’s example and completely ban devices up to a certain age?
Thank you for sharing your ideas! Your thought on today’s digital use really sums up my school, and I agree that the restrictive settings on electronic devices are not working as they are intended to be.
Mark Zuckerberg once said, “It’s not unusual for us [Facebook] to receive an email from somebody saying, ‘I spend all of my time on your website and now I have less of a social life than I had before.’” This really describes middle schools and high schools because we are just so addicted to our phones to truly enjoy our social life.
But I do feel like part of the addiction is not our fault. I sometimes blame part of my addiction to the existence of social media. I find myself checking Instagram once every few minutes, and even now when I’m writing this reply. Putting my phone in another room doesn’t always work because I still have a laptop in front of me. As long as I have access to social media, I will still log on and check my DMs from friends. If social media didn’t exist at all, all of us probably wouldn’t be as addicted to phones.
But obviously, we can’t reverse history and erase the existence of social media. We can all try and set screen time reminders for ourselves, but would that really solve the addiction?
According to TechCrunch, the average age of getting a phone is 10.3, and 39% of kids get social media at 11.4 years old. Popular social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook have a minimum age requirement of 13 years old. This also shows that parents are not doing a good job of handling addiction.
But of course, a great part of our addiction comes from us, too. Your interpretation of teens’ boredom is very accurate. The main reason we are so addicted to phones is that we are bored and “can’t find” anything else to do. We find picking up our phones easier and more welcoming than finding a friend and play tic tac toe with them. Given all the examples, I feel like not having a phone at all until college (unless you have VERY good self-control) is the best way to avoid being addicted.
But of course, no matter what causes this digital addiction, are people ready to give their phones up?
Thanks for your response! Your anecdotes and statistics illuminated this complicated issue and evoked me to think about solutions to the issue of technology addiction.
I agree with you that part of the addiction doesn’t feel like your fault or under your control. These days, I think that applications are designed to almost hijack your brain and take up as much attention as possible – in other words, to monopolize the attention economy. As the massive open market app store has driven prices significantly, developers have been pressured to make their applications free in order to stay competitive. While this may seem great for us as consumers, it does come at a cost. For instance, free games constantly interrupt gameplay with ads, allow players to pay for advantages, and purposely delay gratification in order to nudge us into making purchases. Instead of paying for a good product, our attention becomes the product, which puts us in an antagonistic relationship with the producer. In a shocking recent violation of consumer rights, Facebook earned over $34 million from in-app purchases made by children. They purposely employed tactics like not requiring credit card information or parent authorization before every purchase, creating in-game currencies to confuse kids into whether they were spending real or fake money, and not refunding parents after they discovered what had happened. I wouldn’t be surprised if other applications were designed similarly, so I understand how you can feel like there is some force pushing you to addiction. One piece of the solution will be to incentivize developers to make applications to help consumers, not exploit them.
As you’ve also mentioned, stricter age restrictions on devices should be enforced. Given that phones can lead to addiction just like alcohol or drugs, I find it shocking that the average age of getting a phone is 10 years old. While some websites like Snapchat or Instagram have an age requirement of 13 years of age, they’re enforced poorly given that 39% of kids gets social media at 11 years old. Last year, France banned phones from schools up to 9th grade, and I think we should follow their example. Like any other potentially addictive substance, education and age restrictions are effective tools in fighting addiction.
You insightfully pointed out that people, especially kids, will not be ready to give up devices. However, I think that the majority of teenagers and parents recognize the harm in technology addiction and want to fight against it, although they currently do not have the right tools to fight against an economy that purposely drives them to addiction. Even if it may cause backlash, I think the correct choice is to fight against addiction.
I’d like to raise another question: do you think that devices should be banned in school or in public for certain age groups, and if so, what would be the best way to enforce these policies?
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Nice discussion! I’ve been enjoying all of your insights and opinions. I am curious about this one idea: “The main reason we are so addicted to phones is that we are bored and “can’t find” anything else to do. We find picking up our phones easier and more welcoming than finding a friend and playing tic tac toe with them.” I agree to some extent, but add that I feel technology is also tempting because it’s convenient. It’s much easier to scroll through life, than it is to live it! But at the same time, it’s far less exciting and challenging. When we turn off our screens, we turn on our experiences, which I believe to be the core of a fulfilling life. But, as all your great points illustrate, that is easier said than done. Or is it? Just turn them off! We can achieve more of a balance if we are intentional with our choices.
Thank you for your response! I agree that we should fight against addiction and help kids and parents find the right tools to do it.
But, how do we fight against the addiction? As you have mentioned, social media and video game companies’ will not help with the cause willingly because they want to earn money from users. You have pointed out that restrictive methods like Focus Mode and Apple’s Screen Time have proven to be not working since both of them involves self-discipline, and it’s not commonly found among teens. Therefore, those restrictive methods don’t work either. Of course, there are probably a lot more ways to fight against screen addiction that I haven’t thought of and to be sure, I welcome ideas!
To answer your question, I believe phones should be “banned” at schools because it distracts us from learning. However, I’m not suggesting a total ban since most people need their phones as communication devices nowadays. But, others forcing us to give up our phones won’t be a permanent solution. Students can bring their phones, but they should be kept in a safe place in the classrooms they’re in. One of my teachers used this method in her classroom to avoid students using their phones under the desks. We can still use our phones during passing periods and lunch.
There has been a time where a girl called Xinyu loves her phone. She would always find herself giving excuses: she needs to check her email, or she needs to ask her friend a question. Then, her addiction starts to get out of control. Strict parents are no use against the addiction. She would always go behind her parents’ backs to go on Instagram or YouTube. She worried from time to time about her addiction, but she would forget all about it when she taps through Instagram stories.
Then the symptoms began to show. No matter what, she would always want to pick up her phone. She saw the future problems it can cause and wanted to stop being even more addicted. But she couldn’t stop. One day, she had an argument with her mom about having social media. Her mom told her, “The only person that can control you is yourself, and the only person that can control others is themselves.” She realized the mistake she made and wanted to make a change once and for all. She gave her phone to her mom and limited the number of Instagram stories she posts. She finally gained back control of her time, and it was only through realizing the problem herself, not others telling her about her addiction.
As our technology advances, it gives us convenience, and using them is unavoidable. But, it also creates obstacles like screen addiction. But I believe with the smart brains that created technology, we can also find a solution to this problem.
I believe that being able to stay off your phone is discipline. If you are able to sleep with your phone and not be going on it for a long time, then you are able to control and discipline yourself. On the other hand there are people like me to sleep without our phones in our room because we don’t want to be distracted with notifications and to be tempted when seeing the phone.
I am also troubled by the problem that I spend too much time on all these technologies. Even though I do not necessarily check my phone when I wake up in the middle of the night, I find out that I spend at least seven hours every day either on my phone or on my computer. As everything is going in a way of paperless nowadays, we hardly do any homework on paper in my school since every student has a computer. For example, we write our essays on there and our textbooks are also on the computer. It helps us a lot, but it also creates a lot of difficulties. For example, staring at the computer or phone for a long time without rest damages our eyes. I personally have this problem. My eyes get dry and strained after I use these techs for a long time, especially at night. However, even though technology has these negative effects, it is still hard to quit because of its importance in my academic and social life.
I find it difficult to reduce the time spent on screens because of my fear of missing out. I have been using Weibo, the biggest social media app in China, for some years. I receive all my information and news from this app. It has become a routine for me to check it whenever I am free and I rely on it to help me to know what’s happening around the world. Also, as a Chinese student studying abroad in the U.S., I rely on apps like Weibo to not lose connection with my friends in China; we maintain our relationships by sharing popular topics and memes from China.
However, I do realize that it is a problem to spend so much time on technologies, therefore, I started taking advantage of my phone’s “knowing screen time” function. I tracked how many hours I spent on these devices and what kind of apps I spent most of my time on. It turns out that I usually spend an average of three hours a day. I started to set a time limit of two hours for Weibo and other apps. It worked very well and successfully reduced my unnecessary screen time. Now I set the time limit to one hour and half. I started to use the time I saved to read more books and hang out with my friends in the U.S. and I keep my connection with my friends in China since I still have time spend on Weibo everyday so I follow all the trends in China. However, my eye strain continues on. I believe that with our dedication to solve this problem and these helpful functions the phone has provided to us, we can finally try to get rid of our addiction to the these technologies and truly take the advantage of them to make our lives better and easier.
I don’t take my cell phone to bed, but I do spend a lot of time on it throughout the day. I spend the majority of time on my phone texting, reading online comics, playing games, surfing the internet, and listening to music. I feel that mobile technology mostly interferes with my life experiences. It is mostly a distraction and a barrier to effective communication. It makes me sleepy and prevents me from using my time to be more productive and open. However, it is tempting for me to pick up my phone and use it, especially when I am bored or stressed.
I think technology has definitely led to human downgrading, more specifically for teens. Cyberbullying and low self-esteem are significant causes of this. Teens have this obsession over social media. According to a Pew survey published in 2015, 94% of teens use social media daily and 71% use more than one social media site. Of course, it is much easier to quickly scroll through feeds on a phone rather than a larger device such as a computer. As a result, this feeling of human downgrading follows many teens everywhere, as they carry their phones with them all the time. On average, people check their phones 52 times a day! When people post things on social media, they are actually hoping to gain more attention, more likes. They want to feel confident about themselves, and some of them do end up gaining lots of likes. They may feel more confident and become addicted until they receive fewer likes on one of their posts. Social media is not the only problem. Messaging people can create several misunderstandings. This problem is usually avoided when talking face-to-face. In fact, I read an interesting article in the Huffington Post written by addiction expert Judson Brewer that delves deeper into this issue. He stated that “In real life, there is no simple, quantifiable point system(the “likes” on Instagram); we can’t assign one like for a smile, another for tone of voice.” Also, troubling and harming people online is much easier than doing it face-to-face because one can be anonymous and can break someone down instantly with the swipe of their fingers and the tapping of a few buttons.
Companies such as Apple and Facebook can hook their customers quickly. They constantly introduce new and exciting features that the majority of us can’t afford to miss out on. What’s interesting is that the companies themselves aren’t the only factors causing us to be hooked, the chemical dopamine in our brains is too. We hope to experience a thrill when using our phones and get some sort of reward out of the experience.
Although large companies such as Apple have introduced cool features such as Screen Time, these companies are really actually driven by profits. The longer you spend on your phone and the more you utilize their features, the greater profits these companies will gain. Given human nature of being addicted to these devices, it will be a challenging battle going forward to limit phone usage.
It is correct that people are depending too heavily on their mobile phones and most of them prefer taking phones to bed, which always takes up their sleeping time and will eventually influence the quality of life and work the following day. There is no denying that phones tend to serve as a distraction that prevents people from focusing on one thing and finishing their works effectively. I, myself, usually have to postpone finishing my homework because of the excessive time I spend on my phone for texting, watching videos and plying games. In this case, the introduction of mobile phone results some negative impacts on our daily lives.
That being said, we cannot draw the hasty conclusion that “technology has definitely led to human downgrading, more specifically for teens”. First of all, I do not think that the misunderstandings that online messaging might result in is the cause for the “human downgrading”. It is true that it would be more difficult for people to fully express their thoughts to others online than face-to-face, but this problem has already been solved through the new functions some social medias had newly invented, such as facetime and voice messaging. These technological advancements have undoubtedly eliminated the occurrence of misunderstandings caused by texting. Moreover, why do people prefer to text online rather than communicating face-to-face? This is definitely because the irreplaceable convenience that messaging gave us, which is mainly reflected in the time, cost we saved for traveling and the mails we sent through the Internet. The advantages for online communication largely overweigh its defects and changed our society toward the right direction. In this case, it is inappropriate to state that the advance in technology is leading to “human downgrading”.
In addition, there is no denying that the Internet sometimes can serve as a shelter for the people who always attack others online because it is impossible to find who they are. However, this has recently been solved by some online protections, such as violation reports, prohibition of speech and so on. Under such newly developed functions, people are able to freely comment the articles they like without concerning about the harms that the Internet might bring them. What is more, let’s try to think from another perspective, the Internet is absolutely the access for the exchange of a large amount of opinions. Although group communication is a good way for people to exchange their ideas in person, its difficulties in gathering a huge number of people and possessing a comprehensive range of topics make it not popular among modern people. On the contrary, people are able to look through hundreds of articles and view thousands of comments people left for certain passages on their tiny screens. As a result, they could nearly be aware of all kinds of attitudes from people toward a specific topic and therefore acquire a much more comprehensive understanding themselves. Both the quantity of discussion topics and the quality of personal opinions for face-to-face communication are unmatchable with the online reading.
Furthermore, some products that companies produced might have been driven by profits, but we should be clear that profit is the only resource for a company’s survival. In other words, the only purpose for companies to sell products is making profits, so it is understandable about why companies are constantly introducing new features. Also, not every single company wish to hook their customers, especially some big corporations such as Apple and Google because they have already dominated the market and have reputations to maintain. In contrast, companies that do not have enough clients are the one that most likely to hook their customers. Fortunately, there are comparatively much less people that are in danger, which would result in a negligible loss in society than expected. Despite the possibility that some small firms might hook their clients, there are much more advantages for online commercial trade. Firstly, we have more choices than just simply walking in the supermarkets in search for the limited commodities. Next, online shopping could largely save our time because we can just lie on the bed and pick the goods we want. Thirdly, this kind of shopping method stimulates the quick growth of some certain industries, such as delivery due to the newly emerged demand.
In my opinion, the only change we immediately need is the improvement of quality for using mobile phones instead of limiting our phone usage. People can definitely use their phones on doing more meaningful things. For example, Google has just announced Mode Focus, a new feature that helps to turn apps off when customers realize they are being distracted from their ongoing works, other companies, especially game companies, have also taken actions by designing some restrictions to prevent teenagers from addicting on games. Under such regulatory systems, people are forced to use their phones on more meaningful things, such as reading, searching and having online classes. This is not about limiting the phones’ usage，but improving the quality of the time we spend on our phones.
I often find myself resting in the most common Gen-z sleeping position: curled up to one side, eyes glazed over, drool coming out of one side of my mouth and scrolling through what seems like an eternity of mindless posts and pictures. Even with my phone’s brightness turned all the way down, the fluorescents still seems to burn into my eyes, a false daylight. Yet even as a self proclaimed “Screen Junkie”, I am well aware of the pitfalls increased technology has on the mind. I find the act of late night scrolling an almost mind numbing task, but the feeling of my deteriorating attention span is a welcomed sacrifice for the late night distraction. Social media use is a necessary evil in this day and age, and as much as we don’t want to check our phones, teens have a constant itch to be in the know. I strongly relate to Arora in that there is a sense of security and comfort that comes with being constantly aware of your surroundings and others lives. There is security in knowing that even if I am stuck in my bed, there is always an option to escape and live through photos and videos of others. What a scary double edged notion; living through a few square inches box, a box that is is slowly rotting away our human interaction, while tricking us into thinking that we are more connected than ever.
What I find most alarming about my generation is the addiction many of us have to our phones; a strong, chemical one. There is a deep sense of craving when disconnected, and a rush of endorphins when reunited with our cellular devices. And although it might be taboo to call ourselves “addicts” the signs of addiction are all very prevalent: heightened anxiety without our phones, a false sense of excitement when presented with them, and mind numbing low after scrolling through them for some number of hours. Last summer on a trip to the ocean, my friends and I came to terms with the severity of our addictions and made the conscious decision to lock our phones away for a day or two. Now, this may not seem like a huge sacrifice, but to us the idea of being disconnected, unable to access a world of information with one tap was very intimidating. We had been so accustomed to using our phones for everything, that we had not seen the point of no return, in which our relationships with our mobile devices had turned from symbiotic to parasitic. We were eager to regain control over our own devices, and with our phones locked up in a closet, we commenced our tech free weekend. The first few hours we rode the wave of freedom, relishing in the feeling of isolation. We were so caught up in the moment, checking the web was not even on our radar, yet as the cool night came in and we were tired of idle conversation the itch started to set in. The lingering question of “What if I got an important: text, email, notification…?, hung over us as we partook in our various board and card games. The thirst, the hunger to be aware was over taking us, and the next day when reunited with our devices the sad rush endorphins and comfort that came with checking our phones was undeniable.
Today, I try to limit screen time. I am slowly weaning the countless hours spent on useless apps, and I am actively trying to increase mental productivity. Yet finding the balance between comfort, pleasure and pain has never been more challenging. In my personal opinion, it’s up to the individual to decide what’s worth sacrificing: time, attention, and our capability to interact or a fabricated sense of security.
After reading the last line, I immediately looked at the time and felt relieved that I wasn’t reading this post midnight because it definitely could have been a possibility!
As much as I hate to admit it, I, like most others in my generation, have a special connection to my phone. A connection that must not be breached by my parents, siblings, or friends under any circumstances! While I do not stay up every night browsing through social media or frying my brain with pointless Youtube videos, we have all been there and at the time it feels like the most relaxing aspect of the day. I have been in multiple scenarios where I have had to lie about my screen time data out of guilt and embarrassment, so this article definitely resonates with me.
I attend a boarding school where the Wifi is turned off at 11:00 pm every night. I know some of you out there must be shocked at this. My friends and I have checked through most legal documents and unfortunately wifi availability does not fall under basic human rights and therefore we cannot demand it. In all seriousness, while students have managed a way around this, it has helped drill into me the value of sleep, especially during the school week. This is something that Kashish, mentioned in the article, was aware of as well. Sleep patterns are crucial to a healthy lifestyle and interfering with it because of our phones is definitely something many people my age can work on.
There has been one event that made me genuinely consider my phone usage. Let me lay out the scene for you all. It was the summer and my best friends and I had completed our GCSEs just two days before – a series of public examinations (around 30) in the UK – and my roommate’s family had invited us over to his house on the beach. It was the perfect celebration and a great way to end a rigorous and tiring term. There was only one problem. The Cricket World Cup was going on at the same time.
I am not your average cricket fan (words spoken by every guilty casual fan). Truly, I love the sport and was watching 6 hour matches, with my eyes glued to my phone, that had no bearing on where the team I supported would finish in the group stage – clearly, my phone time in this period was through the roof. My friend was Spanish and unfortunately cricket isn’t too big in Spain and wasn’t shown on regular TV channels. ‘Ok’ I thought to myself, it wasn’t that big a deal. I could last 4-5 days without cricket. Then, I checked the fixtures schedule. India v. Pakistan was meant to be played on one of the days I was away for. Due to the hostile relationship between the two countries, they only face each other in official tournaments rather than a bilateral series every year or so. I had been waiting for this day for 4 years. I couldn’t afford to miss it. I managed to secure a subscription service online that was showing the world cup throughout the EU and thought that should be it. I will be able to watch this match. However, there was another hiccup.
The day of the match was also the day we were scheduled to go out into the sea on a boat – an amazing opportunity and kind gesture from my friend’s family. But, there is barely any network connection in the middle of the sea. However, my hope never faltered. In hindsight, what is sad to me is that the first thing I made sure to pack before going on the boat was my phone and a portable charger. Not swimming trunks or a towel, but my phone. Obviously, the streaming service did not work on the boat and neither did a simple google search meaning I couldn’t even get live score updates. I was devastated at the time and couldn’t bear the thought of going back home to my younger brother teasing me with ‘your a fake fan!’ while laughing in my face. As cliche as it sounds, when I finally put the phone down I looked around. I was in the sea with my best friends, in Spain, having just finished exams and I was more worried about what was going on with my phone and trying to find the best angle to maximise the non-existent wifi network. That truly made me realise the reliance I personally had on my phone as a source of information, communication and more. Luckily, I could put the phone down and enjoy this amazing opportunity – I say luckily because my team won in the end! But it made me consider the amount of extra sleep I could be getting if it wasn’t for my phone. Like with all habits it is not an easy or immediate fix and I still value my phone as a source of relaxation throughout periods of my day. But this helped me realise that phones help you transfer yourself into a different realm or place, when in many cases it is your surroundings that you should be aware of.
In this day and age, it is almost obvious that at least 80 percent of teenagers bring their cellular devices to bed. Our phones have become a necessity to us for daily survival, and the constant urge of picking it up to check if anyone has texted you or to check if there’s any new videos on YouTube to watch is undeniable. Especially in our current situation with COVID-19 running loose, everyone is under quarantine and no one is allowed to go outside. Our normal daily routine has become technology-based, even more than it was before. Classes are all online, homework is all online, and the only way to talk and communicate with your friends is to text them. Many people don’t exercise anymore and just sit on their computers or phones all day wasting time to keep up with current “news” on social media platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat. Our lives have been completely taken over by technology, and it is slowly ruining us.
The fear that some teens have of not keeping up with their classmates is what causes them to be on their phones 24/7, learning about all the juicy drama that is going on so they can talk about it the next day in school. They are willing to sacrifice their sleep and well-being just for a few extra hours on a platform that will still be there when they wake up the next day. When asking fellow classmates one thing that they have on them all the time, 95 percent of them say their phones. Teens will often stay on their phones for so long that they might prioritize ten more minutes of a game over eating a meal. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite because my phone is often on me as well, but I am different from others in my phone usage: I don’t use the major social media platforms. I do text friends once every few hours using iMessage, and I do play games on my phone once in a while as well, but besides that, I don’t really use my phone for anything else. Sure, you get to see what your friends are doing at all times with social media, but no one really cares unless you have a significant amount of followers or are well-known. With social media comes a lot of drama as well. Teens love talking about drama they see online. People always say that they’re more connected than ever with platforms such as these, but as soon as you put them in front of someone in the real world and tell them to have a conversation, they forget how to talk and can’t maintain eye contact. These screens have hypnotized us so much that we’ve begun to live in a reality that isn’t even true.
A few years ago, a few of my friends and I went camping for a few days as a sort of stress reliever, to get away from school for a while and just have some fun. There was no service or WiFi at the campgrounds, and we basically had no connection to the outside world at all. Everything started out pretty well, but after a few hours, you could tell that the two friends I went with were slowly losing their minds. They had the urge to pull out their phones, and when they realized that they had no service, they ran further into the woods in an attempt to find service. The urge to text their friends and update them on what they were doing and where they were had taken over them completely, and although it was late at night, they still ran into the forest looking for service. The need for their devices had turned into an addiction at that point, almost as if they couldn’t live without it. After 20 minutes or so, they didn’t come back, so I feared the worst had happened. I ran into the woods to look for them, and what did I see? Them on top of a boulder, on their phones, calling their friends and telling about their adventure with the single bar of service they each had. I also had an urge to check my phone as well, since I missed the outside world already after just a day without it. I ended up taking my phone out and using it for ten minutes or so. However, after the ten minutes, I restrained myself, and encouraged the other two also to get off their phones and just enjoy the few days we had outside. They reluctantly agreed, but after a while of convincing, we went back and enjoyed the rest of our trip. Limiting our screen time allowed us to have a much more enjoyable trip, giving us more time to connect to the world and with each other.
In the current day and time, amidst this pandemic, it is impossible to deny that I don’t bring my phone to bed. I do bring my phone to bed, because of how bored I am at night. I often stay up until midnight watching movies, and texting to relieve myself of the boredom that I’m feeling because of COVID-19. However, I’ve realized that I should restrain myself a little more, and start doing more things to become a more productive person. I’m trying to exercise daily to make up for the weeks I didn’t exercise, and I’m trying to get back the sleep I’ve lost over these past weeks. Limiting our time on technology will no doubtedly be tough, but if we try a little at a time, doing it shouldn’t be impossible.
After finishing the article, I checked my average daily phone usage hours on Apple’s Screen Time setting and found out that mine was 6 hours, almost equivalent to Kashish’s record!
As an active member of Gen Z, I reluctantly admit that from the moment my parents bought me a new iPhone 8, my life became inextricably bound up with it; in fact, my iPhone is involved in most of my daily routine. Using my iPhone, I connect with my family and friends, scroll through social media feeds, and update myself on the latest released albums from Harry Styles and Drake. Most importantly, I watch ASMR Mukbangs — a Korean portmanteau that means a live-stream video that features a person eating a large quantity of food — on YouTube to quench my late-night hunger.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I’ve become much more reliant on my phone to maintain my close connections from a diverse background that I befriended at Northfield Mount Hermon School. When my school switched abruptly to Zoom for nearly two years, I was only able to keep in contact with my school friends through online platforms.
Even when I came back to Korea during vacation, strict social distancing policies implemented by the South Korean government and the conservative atmosphere of the South Korean society, where people report each other, made it difficult for me to even meet up with my friends in my hometown. Strict masking rules made it impossible for anyone to take their masks off indoors and outdoors. Public facilities closed at Nine Pm, and only two people were allowed to sit at the same table in restaurants. Thus, my childhood friends and I also vastly utilized online social networking platforms such as Discord and Houseparty to stay socially connected.
Like the main argument from the article, I must admit that smartphones and technological advances can be time monopolizers and sleep-deprivation devices, negatively affecting the well-being of the people in modern-day society. For instance, most of my friends in Korea took online classes from private educational institutes till late at night, so I was only available to connect with them after midnight. These late-night video call sessions definitely impacted our sleep patterns since the calls would last for hours. In retrospect, I think we should have organized our meeting times better for a healthier lifestyle.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook worked as a means of communication not only to my friends and me but also to all members of society. For instance, during the Black Lives Matter movement, I was not able to participate in in-person protest. However, countless reposts of BLM-related content on social media feeds from my friends encouraged me to sign up for petitions and donate to charities, such as Justice for George Floyd, Justice for Breonna Taylor, and more. Although I was physically 10,000 miles away, my heart was still with the movement as I emphasized with the victims and their families.
Smartphones and technological advancements allowed me to stand up and fight against social injustice. Whereas, if I didn’t have access to technology, it would have been much harder for me to express my passion for promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion of minorities. Using my cellphone till midnight may have impacted my sleeping pattern and my well-being. However, it cannot be refuted that smartphones are a pivotal device in our contemporary society that enables us to connect with our friends and family and the wider community and helps us fight against social injustice.