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smartphone addiction

Teens taking a selfie at school.


The kids in high school in 2024 have always lived in a world where smartphones exist. Many were raised on iPads and given smartphones by the time they started middle school. During this time, research has begun to reveal the dangerous effects smartphones have on young people; now, teachers and students are forced to cope with the harmful effects of this social experiment.

A recent Speak Up survey found that 80% of teachers think phones distract students and 70% of administrators say it is difficult for students to manage their smartphones responsibly.

Mitchell Rutherford, 35, a high school biology teacher at Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Arizona, is quitting his job of 11 years because his students’ addiction to their phones is making it nearly impossible for him to teach. Rutherford told The Wall Street Journal that something “shifted” in high school kids after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“There was this low-energy apathy and isolation,' he told the Wall Street Journal. At first, he thought it was his teaching, but he realized it was the phones. "This year something shifted, and it's just like they are numbing themselves, they are just checking out of society, they're just like can't get rid of it, they can't put it away,” he told KVOA.

Tucson biology teacher quits over students not being able to put down their phones

“Now, you can ask them, bug them, beg them, remind them and try to punish them and still nothing works,” Rutherford told the Wall Street Journal.

Students aren’t allowed to use phones in classes at Sahuaro, but that doesn’t stop them. So, it’s up to the teachers to enforce what feels unenforceable. He says that when he tries to take a phone away from a student they hold onto them for dear life. “That's what an alcoholic would do if you tried to take away their bottle,” he told them.

He likens his students' relationships with their phones to a severe addiction.

"Opioids, obviously a huge problem, cocaine heroin, all of those drugs, alcohol, it's all a big problem, but like sugar even greater than that and then phones even greater than that,” he told KVOA.

He even attempted to give his students extra credit if they reduced their screen time. "Here's extra credit, let's check your screen time, let's create habits, let's do a unit on sleep and why sleep is important, and how to reduce your phone usage for a bedtime routine, and we talked about it every day and created a basket called phone jail,” he said.

But in the end, it was a losing battle for Rutherford and the phones have won.

In February, he told the school that he was leaving the teaching profession to preserve his well-being. "I have been struggling with mental health this year mostly because of what I identified as basically phone addiction with the students."

When asked how parents and school administrators can help fix this problem, his solution is simple: get kids off their phones. “As a society, we need to prioritize educating our youth and protecting our youth and allowing their brains and social skills and happiness to develop in a natural way without their phones,” he told KVOA.

Health

March 3 is National Unplugging Day. We asked a therapist why it’s more important than ever.

"This day is a good start to learning to disconnect, to reconnect with people and the world around them."

A tired teen holding her smartphone

Just mentioning the idea of taking a break from their smartphones gives some folks a rush of anxiety. What if I get a text? What if I miss breaking news on Twitter? What if that special someone finally slides into my DMs?

The stress is real. But turning off our phones and taking a break has incredible health benefits. A report published in Psychology Today found that just turning off our phones for one hour a day before bed can improve your sleep quality and sex life, and gets you out the door faster in the morning.


To help people find a better balance with the all-pervasive technology in their lives, March 3 has been designated the National Day of Unplugging (NDU). “The idea behind the day was to challenge people to keep their electronic devices unplugged and unused for 24 hours in order to give themselves the chance to take a break and spend time relaxing with family, friends, or alone,” Days of the Year says.

Rebooting, a Jewish organization, initially started NDU as an outgrowth of the Sabbath Manifesto that encourages carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors and connect with loved ones.

smartphone addiction, mental health, unplugging

A smartphone user scrolling through an app

via Pexels

To learn more about the importance of unplugging, Upworthy spoke with Jennifer Kelman, a licensed clinical social worker, certified professional coach and JustAnswer.com mental health expert, on the importance of taking the occasional tech break.

Kelman sees the problems associated with tech addiction every day in her practice.

“We all need more than a day to unplug, but one day is a good start,” Kelman told Upworthy. “Our device use is controlling our lives, and we are losing the ability to interact with each other. Relationships are suffering as the devices are interfering with our interpersonal interactions and time spent together.”

While taking a tech break may stress some people out, it’s worth considering the stress that technology already has us fighting.

“We are more anxious and depressed as we doom scroll on social media and see the ‘perfect lives’ of others. There is no longer the work day, as now people are required to be accessible at all times,” Kelman told Upworthy. “Our relationships are suffering as we ignore our partners and family as the addiction to our device takes up most of our waking, and sometimes even our sleeping lives. People can't even turn their phones off and are checking their phones in the middle of the night.”

Kelman believes that we need to choose people over technology and that NDU is a great way to bring that to people’s attention.

smartphone addiction, mental health, unplugging

A woman staring at her phone at a party

via Pexels

“This day is a good start to learning to disconnect, to reconnect with people and the world around them,” Kelman told Upworthy. “It is not enough, though, as the mental health of all of us is suffering, and we continue to choose to give our mental health over to technology, smartphones and social media. It behooves all of us to make a different choice and choose healthy interpersonal relationships and communication over technology and social media.”

In the end, it’s all about balance.

“There can be a time and place for device use and social media scrolling, but it should be in moderation and one should do a self-check to see how they feel when they are on social media and using their devices,” Kelman continued. “If you are aware that you are anxious and depressed, do all you can to limit the use of devices, technology and social media.”


via Pixabay and Pexels

The stereotype about Millenials (1981 to 1995) is that they are addicted to their smartphones. And, well, it's kind of true, right? The generation that can hardly remember what the world was like without the Internet spends a lot of time staring at their phones.

On the other hand, the stereotype about Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) is that they are Luddites who are often stymied by technology and had a really hard time making Zoom calls when COVID-19 hit.

However, this stereotype is not so true. The truth is, they're a lot more alike than anyone thought. Is that such a bad thing?


A new study by Provision Living found that after surveying 1,000 Baby Boomers and 1,000 Millennials that both use their smartphones for about the same amount of time every day. The survey found that the average Millennial spends 5.7 hours a day on their smartphone and the average Boomer spends 5.

via Pixabay

Even more revealing is they use smartphone technology in only slightly different ways.

Overall, social media takes up the bulk of smartphone screen time for both generations. This is pretty obvious when you see the sheer number of news articles Boomers share on Facebook.

A report in Rolling Stone found that Boomers are much more likely to share fake news online than any other generation.

"For example, both Baby Boomers and Millennials spend an average of one hour or more on Facebook per day," the study says. "Instagram ranks 2nd among both generations in terms of usage and activity with 52 minutes for millennials and 44 minutes for Baby Boomers"

From there, the generations go their separate ways.

"Baby Boomers spend a large portion of time on email with an average of 43 minutes per day. For Millennials, texting ranks 3rd with an average of 48 minutes per day," the study says.

via Provision Living

The study proves that smartphone technology is addicting for just about everyone and that both young and wise both have a hard time putting their phones down. The research also has to be disheartening to the Boomers and Millennials who've defined themselves by being different from one another.

But the good news is that they have a lot more in common than they previously thought. Now, Boomers can't yell at Millenials for having their faces stuck in their phones and Millenials can't make fun of Boomers for not being able to change their printer ink.

The study did uphold one stereotype: Gen X is the most ignored generation. The researchers didn't even bother to ask about the smartphone habits of the smaller generation born between 1965 and 1980.

However, a similar study found that the "Coolest Generation" suffers from the same smartphone addiction as their younger and older cohorts. Gen X uses their smartphones a little more than their Boomer elders and a little less than their Millennial nieces and nephews.

The next step should be for the generations to come together to make this world a better place by teaching one another how to be better at social media. The Boomers need to teach Millenials how to stop it with narcissistic selfies and the Millenials have to teach their grandparents about how to stop sharing fake news.

Gen X? Just keep doing your thing. No one is paying attention and that's how you like it anyway.