Exploring the dangers of cell phones

April 7, 2016

Twenty-first century students have any and all resources they could ever ask for in the palm of their hands.  Through smartphones, students at Westford Academy access the Internet, answer research questions, or write their English essay.  There is no question about the benefits of a tiny, mobile computer, yet there are dangers right under these students’ noses that need to be exposed.

“We are disengaging from each other.  The human part is withering and dying,” said health teacher Maria Henderson.

According to Henderson, cell phones are causing issues with time management, communication ability, distraction, and health.  However, these issues are easily concealed by the cultural condition of constantly being connected.

Whether sitting around a lunch table, walking in the hallways, or waiting for a physical education class to begin, Westford Academy students and even many adults are resorting to using their cell phones when they have any free time.  

“This is all you’ve grown up with, so we understand that, but I feel adults are just as guilty, and they set an example and a precedence,” said Henderson.

Additionally, health teacher Brian Roark questioned the validity of cell phone use being a part of generational values.

“My [question] is if this is a generation thing, where they’ve grown up with cell phones and have kind of lost their ability in social skills, so to speak, not completely, but to engage in conversation with each other or to engage in conversations with the teacher, or is it something completely different?” said Roark.

Henderson explains that constant cell phone use was not always the norm at Westford Academy.

“2012 was the last year that students [were only allowed] to use cell phones during lunch time, which I thought was reasonable,” said Henderson.

Nevertheless, Henderson walks in the hallway now and recalls that there were more random greetings without the immense presence of cell phones, and there was less congestion in the hallways caused by people stopping to look at their phones.

“I would say over sixty percent of [students have] their heads buried looking down at their cell phones. […] I get stuck behind someone who’s walking slower because they’re either reading or texting,” said Henderson

The need to stay connected has reached an unhealthy extreme.

“The kids feel that they have to be so tied in and that they have to know what everyone says every forty-five minutes […] It’s excessive knowledge that I feel distracts them from their schoolwork. […] It’s this insatiable fix that they have to get,” said Henderson.

Gossip and information retrieved on phones fills students’ minds instead of education.  Health teachers claim that it is tiring for the teachers to have to deal with students constantly on their cell phones throughout the entire day.

“We’re looking at close to a hundred kids a day [per teacher] and after awhile that gets really exhausting that we’re trying to do our job which is to educate all of you somehow someway. […] And [cell phones] stop us from doing the best that we can do,” said Henderson.

Henderson believes talking to each other is part of being human.  It is how we relate and connect, and keeping up with the times is not worth students losing their communication capabilities.

“Aren’t we doing a disservice by […] just giving in [to cell phones]? How many people are we missing out that, by not looking at their face and talking to them, we [miss] that they’re sad?” said Henderson.

Missing out on communicating and recognizing the emotions of others are not the only consequences.  Health detriments include eyesight deterioration from looking at small screens for too long, neck and back issues from looking down all day, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and major issues with anxiety.  Anxiety generates mental stress, which leads to stomachaches, headaches, backaches, and more.

“Emotions can turn into the physical.  […] People are afraid they’ll miss something or they find something out about them that [makes them uncomfortable],” said Henderson.

Our brains have a difficult time keeping up with all the information from social media.

“Irrational and too quick decisions are made that you’re not thinking consequences through,” said Henderson.

Cell phones are for quick access to resources and social media and provide ease in life, but ease does not teach responsibility.  Cell phones allow students to reach out to anyone at anytime, but students are not learning to plan ahead.

“Pre-cellphones, you had to make plans and you had to set everything up. With the cell phone and the ability to communicate instantaneously, kids wait till the last possible second, because they know they can reach everyone.  But sometimes, people don’t have their phones on or someone is busy doing something else, so it can have a negative effect if they rely on it too much. They don’t pre-plan things far ahead, and then there ends up being conflicts, and then it adds more stress to their day because they’re trying to work everything out at the eleventh-hour,” said health teacher Jeff Bunyon.

Cell phones have seemingly taken control of students’ lives.  When Henderson asked her class if they would take a day without cell phones and a breather from technology, they responded with agitation.

“You would’ve thought that I was asking for their most prized possession.  They were mad at me for even just asking. […] Kids need to have their cell phones […] because it’s just easier.  We’re so afraid of having things just a little bit hard, which is really a huge misconception of how life is.  […] People don’t know how to figure out these everyday [disappointments],” said Henderson.

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