In a society that emphasizes connectivity and technology, teenagers separating their lives from their phones has become no small task.
It is difficult to make the claim that teen cell phone addiction is not much of an issue, and yet as a teenager I can confirm that it’s not often addressed. It just doesn’t feel like a hindrance to our daily lives. In fact, it feels to many like cell phones only add to the substance of our days, as we never really have to worry about being bored. What could be better than that?
Well, as it would turn out, a lot of things could be better. Yes, phones have countless advantages and if used beneficially can become a useful aid in the lives of almost anybody. The only issue is that they are not often used beneficially. While phones may be helping people in the ways they were intended (easier communication, easier access to information, and a more connected world,) they are also coming with a multitude of unwanted side effects (anxiety, depression, poor attention spans, and a lack of being “present,” among other things). These negative effects are most prevalent among those who have become addicted to their phones, and cell phone addiction is most common among teenagers. This makes it a great concern not only for the teens themselves, but for their parents, teachers, and any other guiding figures as well. As a teenager, this makes it a concern for me too.
As of February 15th, 2019, I spend an average of almost exactly three hours on my phone per day (according to Moment, an app I downloaded which tracks cell phone usage.) This is about twenty-one percent of my waking life spent looking at one of my many screens. I also pick up my phone an average of 133 times per day, usually just to check the time or see if I have any notifications.
To me, this does not appear to be much of a problem. I use my phone significantly less than many of my friends, so I don’t feel like I’m out of the ordinary. I asked a few of my close friends to send me their phone usage from the past 24 hours, and one of them spent an average of seven hours per day on her phone. That makes my three hour average look pretty good. And yet, when I told my mom about my average, she acted like it was a ridiculously high number. I wondered if it really was odd to spend that much time looking at my screen, so I researched some of the statistics.
According to a survey conducted by Common Sense Media of over 2,600 teenagers in the United States, teens spend an average of nine hours per day consuming entertainment media in all of its forms (on computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) The study never separates the times by device, but the figure is shocking nonetheless. An additional survey conducted by the same organization found that 50% of teenagers feel addicted to their cellphones (along with 27% of parents also feeling addicted.)
Personally, I feel I could be considered addicted to my phone, but not much more than my peers. If I really wanted to, I could do perfectly fine with all of the non-essential aspects of my phone stripped away. Or, that’s what I think, at least. So I have decided to test my theory.
I’m going to spend a week only using my phone for necessities (basically, only for communication with my parents and the usage of maps if I don’t know how to get somewhere). Otherwise, it stays in a bag or my backpack. I don’t want to have it in my pocket, since that makes it much more tempting to check. I’m going to write down any differences in my life that I notice, and how difficult it is to refrain from using my phone.
I have just deleted all non-essential apps on my phone, and so day one will begin tomorrow.
I had to use my actual alarm clock for the first time in years. I practically only kept it for decoration, so the fact that it hasn’t broken for one reason or another is shocking. I also was unable to use Spotify to play music, so I had to become familiar with the frustration of frequent commercial breaks on the radio. I don’t understand how stations manage to force all of their commercials to happen at once so no matter what station you change to, you will never get to listen to music.
On a more serious note, the frequency at which I had the urge to pick up my phone was somewhat concerning. At least once every half an hour I would have the desire to check my phone, usually just for the time or any messages from friends or family. I felt for my phone in my pocket twice today only to discover it wasn’t there. Other than that, I haven’t necessarily noticed any differences. I do not think I feel any happier or more relaxed, and if I don’t feel like being fully present then I just find different ways to distract myself. One thing I can say is I no longer have forced distraction, such as notifications, so I may be paying attention for longer, though I haven’t noticed any significant changes with that. Since it is Sunday, I spent a lot of time on my laptop, which may have decreased my desire to check my phone in the first place.
Today was Presidents Day, so I still didn’t go to school. I feel like tomorrow will be the real challenge, since school involves a lot of communication and many teachers ask that students use their phone as a tool in the classroom. Today felt similar to yesterday, though I spent more time interacting with people, which is a place where I certainly noticed a difference. I realized that I have a bad habit of looking at my phone while having a conversation. This is probably perceived as extremely rude, but I’ve never noticed or received any comments about it. The absence of my phone as an option forced me to understand that I had formed this poor habit. I have also become more aware of the amount of people around me who are on their phones while we are interacting. Breakfast with friends or even my parents is often filled with phones, and “spending time with friends” seems to have shifted definition from having fun to simply being in one another’s presence while looking at social media. I don’t feel particularly frustrated with these things, and don’t even think they are inherently bad, were I to have my phone. Yet being the only one without that option makes the lack of interaction feel wrong.
Today was the first day that I went to school without access to my phone. It went better than expected, but plans for lunch had to be made face-to-face, which is difficult if I want to spend time around people with whom I have no morning classes. I didn’t reach for my phone as much, but I did have a lot of impulses to find out what time it was. I don’t own a watch, so I was frequently asking those around me about the time, which likely got annoying.
Although I did become much more acquainted with doodling today than I have been in a long time, I noticed that I was more present in classes that I often tune out. Not feeling like I had to be communicating with people all the time lent itself to paying better attention. Once I got home, procrastination was also less of an issue since I no longer had a way to distract myself without even noticing that I was procrastinating. I usually pick up my phone to answer a text and then without even noticing I somehow end up on some app doing the exact opposite of homework. Today, if I wanted to procrastinate, it had to be a more conscious decision (one which I did unfortunately make from time to time,) so I got more work done. I also got to sleep earlier than usual last night, since I wasn’t up on my phone texting anybody. I assume the same will happen tonight.
I’ve begun to be more accustomed to not having my phone around me. I have been having more conversations with my friends, and I didn’t think about my phone much today. I can’t say that my use of technology has gone down, I have just traded social media for Netflix. My productivity has increased, but I’ve been finding different ways to procrastinate. I still don’t think that my mental health has been affected by this change, which is good because it indicates that my phone likely doesn’t affect my mental health when in use. I have gotten more sleep the past two nights, which probably helps with stress, but that hasn’t been noticeable.
I chose to lump these two days together because I don’t really have anything new to report. Being without my phone has been fairly easy, but I do look forward to being able to use it again. I miss the ease of communication above everything else. Hopefully, this experiment will lead to me using my phone less since I have become more comfortable with it not being by my side at all times.
Today was a Saturday, and I have to say that there is a clear difference between how I felt about not having my phone on Sunday and Monday versus how I feel right now. It has hardly occurred to me to check my phone the whole day, and I have hardly been relying on other technology as a substitute. I used to hate not listening to music while out on walks or sitting in my room, but now I find it somewhat peaceful. I think it will be fairly easy for me to refrain from using my phone in the near future, and it may be a nice ritual to go without my phone for a few days a month. I will be using my phone tomorrow, so that will be my last report back.
I haven’t used my phone much today. It doesn’t feel necessary, and I have had plans to keep me busy so it isn’t even on my mind. I think it might actually be a while before I get back to using my phone as much as before.
I saw no significant improvements in my mental health or stress levels, but I did increase my productivity and sleeping significantly. It’s very noticeable how much more free time there is in the day when I don’t use my phone, and it’s sad to think that I have spent so much time doing mindless tasks instead of activities that could be useful for my future. I hope this effect sticks for a while, but if it does not then I would be fully willing to try this experiment again.
According to Moment, I have spent an average of three minutes using my phone per day, and picked it up and average of twice a day. This accounts for the time spent texting my parents. Otherwise, I was phone-free for a week. I didn’t even need to use any maps, which feels like a large achievement for me, since I have never been exceptional at directions. I can safely say that even if I was addicted to my phone before (which I now suspect I wasn’t), I am not now. All of my habits were easy to break, and I did see some small life improvements which made the experiment worthwhile.
Teen phone addiction is an undeniable issue in the United States, but it is not one without solutions. If you feel as though your own device has become a hindrance to your mental health, productivity, or living your life, cutting down the time spent on it may create a positive impact on some unexpected aspects of your day and maybe, just maybe, going phone-free could free you.