Adults, you may wonder why we teens spend hours on top of hours on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, just scrolling. The truth is, we don’t keep scrolling because its interesting, we keep scrolling because we’re addicted. We know it; you know it. We all say so in surveys.
Neither teens not adults want to admit it, but it is much easier to keep consuming what’s on our phones than to turn it off and do something we actually want to do.
I am not saying that teens have to delete social media and throw away their phones. I am all for using social media to catch up with classmates over holiday or summer break, keeping in touch with long distance relatives, and even sharing my proud moments with the world.
But the problem is: what happens when we are already caught up? Social media gives the illusion that we always need to see more. There are millions of ‘posts’ for us to see, but we don’t really need to see all those ‘posts.’
A 2016 poll from Common Sense Media found that 50% of teens believe they are addicted to their phones. Why is it so hard to put down a phone that bores us? A nontraditional teen mental health center, Newport Academy, notes in this article that the brain can react to a cell phone as it would to a drug, releasing the pleasure chemical dopamine when it hears a text alert.
Hopefully, many teens spent at least some of the summer away from their phones, whether by working a job through a program like After School Matters or discovering new hobbies like painting, gardening or learning new dance styles. But I know a lot of us spent too much of the summer on the couch, scrolling.
Back-to-school season can be the moment to make a change. Resuming school again can be the moment for putting the mobile devices down. School can help by showing teens the beauty of being off their phones. Engaging classes that use tech wisely (and sparingly) can help teens connect with each other over big ideas. The cool programming After School Matters provides in the summer continues during the school year, offering teens after-school opportunities to explore arts, communications, sports, and technology.
Parents, you can help too. What did you do with your free time when all of today’s technology wasn’t around? Instead of arguing with us about how much time we spend on our phones, let’s all put our mobile devices down and learn together about the world beyond the screens.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
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