Teens and screens

Cell phones have become a part of everyone’s daily lives, particularly in teens. With new apps, games, and social media, students dependency on phones has only increased over the years. Additionally, the recent launch of Fortnite has led teens to be attached to not only their phones but T.V. screens. The Central Times investigates this technological and how students have been affected by it.

Alana Cervera, Sports Editor

A bright screen illuminates junior Josh Andstrand’s face as he lays in bed. It’s been two hours of looking at Instagram and his eyes ache from the bright display.

“I can scroll through Instagram for literally hours,” Anstrand said. “I will just go through the explore page and refresh it to look at the most random pictures and videos. It grabs my attention and I can’t stop looking at it. There’s something about being able to mindlessly scroll and find random things [which] makes it addictive.”

He cannot seem to disconnect before bedtime. Anstrand’s phone has become a part of his nighttime routine and continues to check last minute messages and emails.

“It does make it hard to fall asleep because I plan to go to bed […] but stay on my phone and end up going to bed [later],” Anstrand said.

Anstrand estimates that he spends at least three hours on his phone every day. He is not alone in spending those hours. Junior Lucy Schmid admits she does as well.

“[I] do this because of all the social media I look at on my phone and all my texts,” Schmid said. “It’s hard for me not to look at those apps all the time since it’s just habit and I want to keep up with whatever is new on my timeline.”

Teens’ dependency on portable technology became particularly noticeable in 2001 when Apple introduced the first iPod. In 2007, Apple’s iPhone essentially combined this device with the cellular phone. The constant release of new applications, games and models has kept teens hooked ever since. And “hooked” might actually be the appropriate word for it.

“The people who are making these apps have neuroscience backgrounds,” psychology teacher Cindy Tilt said. “They know how your brain works and how rewards work.”

To illustrate this idea, Tilt explains just how dependent teens and adults have become on smartphones.

“The cellphone is a part of our body,” Tilt said. “It’s not only a part of [our] lifestyle, it also plays into [our] brain development.”

Dean Mike Stock agrees.

“[Technology’s] just always there. It’s a constant that young adults have to deal with where [my generation] did not,” Stock said. “I do think it places a burden in which you guys have. You just can’t set things aside. And everybody makes everything look so great [on social media]. We all do it. We’re all part of it.”

Cell phones have evolved to become one of, if not the most important thing in teenagers’ lives, taking away time from family, homework and other responsibilities.

In a 2017 CNN article titled “Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain,” studies compared teenagers brains who were and were not addicted. The study showed the addicted teens had much higher levels of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that inhibits neurons. This means those who are addicted have poorer attention and control, and are therefore unable to focus consistently. Researchers also found addicted teenagers had high levels of anxiety, depression and insomnia.

“I am concerned that we’ve grown so used to [technology] it takes us away from the present moment,” Stock said.

In an online survey of the student population at Naperville Central conducted by the Central Times, 35.7 percent of the survey’s 235 respondents said they spend three hours a day on their phones with 27.7 percent spending four or more hours.

Many would like to see these numbers lowered.

“I think we’ve become less connected as we become more digitally connected,” science teacher Michael Jarvis said. “The more time you spend online connecting to people, the less time you connect to real people.”

While using cell phones has multiple benefits such as sending out important messages to teammates, talking to distant relatives and conversing with a teacher, to some, these benefits don’t outweigh the negatives.

Stock sees many teenagers struggle to find opportunities to disconnect from their technology.

“Having access to everything going on at all times, it’s difficult to turn it off,” Stock said. “You just wish we could find quicker that balance between [cell phones] and closing all that and being very present.”

Anstrand is one of those teenagers.

“I think the biggest drawback is [being drawn] into [your phone] and you’re on it for two to three hours,” Anstrand said. “It’s like a vortex that sucks you in.”

Because cell phone use and technology is entwined with teens’ everyday activities, the possibility of finding a definite solution is nearly impossible. Jarvis believes electronic usage will only advance in the future.

“I think that’s cell phone use is a part of being an American whether your a teen or an adult in this day in age,” Jarvis said. “People expect you to be connected and be reachable. Every kid’s going to have a [phone] and they’re gonna be using it.”

Senior Grace Vanmeter relies on her phone for schoolwork and steady communication.

“The best part is being able to do just about anything with it like you have access to email, you have access to all of your school apps, you can access pretty much anything,” Vanmeter said.

But, Tilt warns teens against becoming addicted.

“I can certainly say addiction can happen,” Tilt said. “Teens are more vulnerable to it […] because during the teen years, you’re prefrontal cortex is still filling out which is impulsive control and higher executive thinking but also your brain chemistry is still filling out. It won’t have the same effect on my brain as it does teens.”