appstoryStudents and faculty share concern over the obsession with smartphones

by Molly Quinn, ’15

It begins with a simple ‘slide to unlock,’ instantly followed by the rapid entering of a four-digit passcode so engraved in memory that it comes as second nature. A countless stream of Instagram pictures, Tweets and Snapchats overtake the iPhone’s screen, and soon hours upon hours are wasted on the device.

With the recent release of the iPhone 6 on Sept. 9, there is an increasing concern over the effect of smartphone dependency on time management and communication skills of teenagers.

Freshman Mary Jeffers, a self-proclaimed smartphone addict, said she often uses her phone as a form of procrastination—constantly checking and refreshing her phone for updates.

“I [feel like I] am on my phone 24 hours a day,” Jeffers said. “But really, I probably am looking at my phone a good four to five hours a day since school started, and if it were still summer it would probably be closer to six or seven hours.”

However, Jeffers is not alone in her addiction. According to a 2013 study of eight to 18-year-olds conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit private operating foundation, today’s teenagers spend more than 7 1/2 hours a day social networking and surfing the web on their mobile devices.

The dependency on smartphones is continually increasing as greater numbers of people begin to dispose of their CDs, paper street maps, address books and hand-held cameras—because “there’s an app for that.”

According to Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, there are now roughly 1.2 million applications available on the App Store, which has lead to an unprecedented consolidation of technology into one handheld device.

That number has more than tripled in just the past few years, and the desire to have the latest applications for smartphones in itself can be a time-consuming adventure—searching for, downloading and then “mastering” the game or application.

“I use Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat daily,” Jeffers said. “I could not function without social media [applications]— I love staying connected and up-to-date on all the latests posts from my friends.”

Senior Audrey Berger believes that the growing obsession with smartphones has proved detrimental to communication skills of the current generation, as teenagers often become too comfortable communicating through text messages.

“People struggle with face-to-face interaction because they are so used to hiding behind the screens of their phones,” Berger said. “Texting someone is a lot easier than in-person confrontation.”

UAHS counselor Mary Anne Nyeste agrees that although smartphones do have many helpful uses, she has still noticed a deterioration in social skills among many UAHS students.

“My only issue [with smartphones] is that we must not be looking at any screen when we have the opportunity to communicate one-on-one with a person,” Nyeste said. “Nothing matters more than eye contact.”

In fact, pretending to use cell phones to avoid eye contact is a developing tactic in American society. According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit research organization, over 30 percent of individuals between the ages of 17 to 25 have used smartphones as an excuse to avoid talking to someone.

“We all love our iPhones! We are all app-dependent,” Nyeste said. “[But] we still must keep our interpersonal skills our main priority.”

Image caption: A student scrolls down her Twitter homepage, reading recent Tweets posted by the accounts she follows.  Along with Twitter, there are approximately 1.2 million apps in the App Store that keep teenagers occupied on a daily basis.

Photo illustration by Katherine Wilburn