Smartphones: The Misuse of the New


Juan Felipe Gaviria, Discoverer Staff Writer

We check our phones an average of 47 times a day. When speaking to our friends or family, 85% can’t help perform one of those checks, and, the scariest thing is that we are spending 171 minutes (2 hours 51 minutes) a day with our eyes on the small screen in our pockets. Smartphone addiction is a decade-new problem that we haven’t really learned to solve. The new technology has done an amazing job to captivate and retain two of our most valuable assets: time and attention. Smartphones are a valuable, new technology, but we are still missing the experience and ability to use it to the best of its potential, learning to limit ourselves and use it for our true benefit and personal growth.

We’ve grown addicted thanks to the “immediate reward” and “instant gratification” nature of social media and smartphone use in general. According to a study done by professors in several prestigious universities, app-makers and phone developers developed a deep understanding of the human brain and used it to make people addicted to their phones. They based themselves in two main concepts, reward and infotainment (things that have both informational and entertainment value) which has kept users stuck to their phones. When the smartphone industry was born and developers were just starting out, they drew out a simple goal: more on-screen time. For them that was the way to keep themselves afloat and work as a business. But, as time went on they realized how good of a job they had done and that people were abusing their technology. Thanks to this, about two years ago, companies like Facebook, Google and Apple have implemented time-limiting software to help the user get off the phone. Due to the nature of capitalism and the short amount of time this industry has existed, neither the companies nor the users really knew how they would be impacted by this technology, just now are we starting to use it more wisely. Now, how are we affected?

Some scary effects that have risen with smartphones include: depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. A study by the San Diego State University found that nearly half of the teens who said they spend five or more hours a day on any type of electronic device also stated that that they had thought about, planned, or even attempted suicide at least once. Contrast this to the 28% of those who said they spend less than an hour a day on a device. It is a shocking statistic that makes us doubt on how good devices truly are for us. Social media has made us grow dependent on numbers to have self-esteem and games have decreased our attention span. But, on the other hand, we’ve been able to talk instantly to our loved ones and learn anything we want with just one click. So who’s fault is it? The users or the manufacturers? Phones can be amazing tools but can also lead us into depression and anxiety. Learning how to handle all the things the new technology brings takes time. Still, we can’t allow our lives to be around a screen, as good as it is. People who are susceptible to incorrect usage need help avoiding it, and it is something that will take time to be offered but someday will be here.

At TCS the school has worked to try to reduce the negative effects of phones during class time. The new phone policy tried to completely avoid cell phone usage during class, what it wasn’t taking into account was that it also took away the positive effects of cellphones. Still, phones are not being correctly used in the school. The administrative board needs to find a policy that incentivizes the correct use of smartphones which can enhance learning. It won’t be easy, neither for the school nor for us in the future, but we can get there and truly take advantage of this new, incredibly useful technology. “Some of us will learn to use our phones, I have hope, but it’s no easy task. I hope we are able to overcome our smartphone addiction,” Sofia Vasquez, 11th grade TCS student, said.