I briefly looked up from my desk to check how many people were done with their tests. A few people weren’t done yet, so I continued to work on what I was doing. Then I looked back up. All of the students except the ones still working on their tests were on their phones.
This is an example of a specific day in my leadership and communications class in which I am “Future Teacher” (a program that is similar to being a teacher’s assistant, but you have to teach or be actively involved in the class). Looking out and seeing nearly everyone on their phones struck a chord in my brain, because I had just watched a YouTube video discussing how short our attention spans are and how hooked we are on our phones and social media.
When we have our phones with us — as practically all teenagers do at all times — we have a source for instant entertainment, instant answers and infinite time-killing. This is a valuable resource in many cases; it’s great to get some work done, check up on our family, look up a quick answer on Google, do a few calculations or play a few games. However, in excess, or in constant use, it becomes a hindrance to our meaningful progress or work that we really want to do (or need to do), turning our devices into an ultra-procrastination tool.
While I’m sure we’ve all realized that we spent too much time on our tablet or phone, or spent too much time watching TV, we may not realize what our devices are doing to our attention spans. I believe that all of that instant feedback we can get, combined with a newfound desire for short and concise information, like a post or comment thread, can have a profound impact on our lives and ability to focus. Reading long passages can be difficult, but that difficulty is multiplied when we are so used to reading short little blurbs to get the gist of the idea.
I don’t believe that our reading skills themselves are hampered by social media and our use of technology. In fact, even though some teenagers may not be reading books as much, they are certainly reading a lot online, possibly more than they would read if they were only reading books in the first place! What I do believe is missing is our time to think. Our time to just sit and ponder the thoughts in our brain, thinking about … anything and everything. This is the time when we may feel bored, and being bored is not the most pleasant feeling to have. But it is this very boredom that allows us to think, and motivates us to stop sitting around and start doing things!
So, whether you are a teenager like me or not, I challenge you to track your phone and technology use. Think about what you are doing. If you close out of an app, and then open it again a few minutes later to see the exact same posts, you should probably start working on something productive. Think of all the things you could get done if you weren’t staring at that phone for so long!
• AVERY PLOTE is a senior at Leland High School. To contact him, email Assistant Editor Julie Barichello at firstname.lastname@example.org.