Screen Epidemic

9B330D9C-3D4A-497A-9596-6886D8A88714TIME magazine sounded the alarm a little late this year.  With the latest iPhone release and the new Moto coming out, the smart phone has now turned 10 years old.  Still to young to measure the ultimate effects that it will have on society, but old enough to begin watching the trends play out.  TIME magazize about once a year runs a apocalyptic/praise piece on the smart phone and youth culture.

Schools don’t know what to do.  Part of the reason I didn’t return to full time at school was because of the policy on phones. Give a kid a $300 laptop and they still have to wander around with a phone?  Teachers don’t want to be on phone duty, but if they did without administration backing, the kids were on their phone suring lessons, in the hallway, and at lunch: non-stop.

There have been numerous articles and pieces written now about inattentive walking.  I about hit a kid in the parking lot at Taco Bell because he had his earphones in (as he had all throughout his dinner with his family) and was texting as he stepped out into the parking lot.  PSA:  if you hit the age of 16 and have to have an ear bud in at all times, some where in 16 years you failed to learn a very important lesson about respect.

These two stories are my most recent interactions with smartphones.  I am not the biggest fan of them.  I have watched (grown people: 28, 29, 30 years old) people get a smart phone and suddenly fall into the internet abyss.  I myself have been convicted by my own use age.  TIME definitely sounds the alarm with this piece.

The article begins as many others do:  a seemingly happy student attempts suicide.  The shocked parents realize the amount of depression after the attempt and stumble onto the social media accounts.  Bullying, peer-pressure, and drama are the underlying causes, but smartphone usage is the symptom that was a) missed and b) blamed.

This students depression did not come because of the piece of aluminum, plastic, and glass that she held in her hands.  It was all the things the phone stood for.

Smart phones are this generations and this worlds answer to our deepest desires.  1) Connectivity.  We want to be connected.  We want to be able to reach people immediately.  When Facebook began, you could send a message to a friend and they might not check it that day.  Now they have Messenger which alerts you to a message immmediately.  This is an app that you have to use now on your smart phone, which by the way has a feature on it nearly as old as the cell phone itself called text messaging”

2) Opprotunity.  FOMO is an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out”.  Without a phone 24/7 and the ability to talk to everyone all the time, there is a chance that something will be missed.  It could be as trivial as a trip to Sonic or Publishers Clearing House holding a million dollar check at your door.  The predominant way thinking today is that there is always something better out there than what I’m doing now…I don’t wanna miss the opprotunity to upgrade.

3) Image.  If I were to stop eating decently healthy, and quit trying to be active, my health and appearance would suffer.  If I decided to stop checking the fluids in my truck and quit doing maintenance on it, the truck would  eventually have some issues.  In the same manner, should an image be constantly maintained, it will have a health issue.  Social media is the place where an image is cultivated and displayed.  It must be regularly kept up and it must be  constantly added too.  When the phone is off, when the tablets are down, when away from the internet, an identity is being starved.

So how is the situation curt tailed? How is the screen epidemic to be remedied?

  1.  In education.  I understand that technology is the career of the future and it is a tool in the classroom; however, educators should  spend half of their classes without technology.  I’m not saying that it needs to be only teaching time w/o technology.  It could be a brain break or Kagan activity.  It could be an ice breaker game or communal learning.  A lecture or even homework time with, God forbid, paper and pencil.  Education’s purpose is to cultivate viable citizens.  The educational buzz word now is “soft skills” that employers are looking for.  Non-screen time aids in both.
  2. At Home.  Disallow screen time at the table.  I get more frustrated watch kids at a table with other people while on the phone.  The same can be said about adults.  Make it a point to put the phone away and spend 45 minutes talking with the people in the same room.  It may be awkward do a time but it will be ok.  Make it a point to have a black out time.  9:00 pm the phones go away on week nights.  There are emergencies that take an adult call but I trust an adult to be able to screen calls.  Trust me, there is no such emergency that would warrant a teen answering a call at midnight who is at their own residence.
  3. In public.  Less phone and more interaction.  I get bothered watching a kid in a shopping cart watching a video on their parents phone.  A 6 year old kid can learn to walk along side their parent I the store.  Heck, if I’m there tell them I will buy them a candy bar and I will do it.

Our screen epidemic was created by us…it’s time for us to start working to solve it.

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