Resisting the need to stay connected

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The generation now growing up around us is one that has been shaped by the smartphone and the rise of social media. Members of this generation, born after 1995, have or are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account, and do not remember a time before the Internet.
Most of today’s living grew up with the telephone, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.
The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.
Things change from generation to generation, but nothing has changed this generation like the smartphone and social media. They are a generation that must stay connected 24 hours a day. Parents are connected to their children, children to their friends.
We’re constantly bombarded by bells, buzzes, and chimes that alert us to messages we feel compelled to view and respond to immediately. Smartphones are known to be addictive. They draw a user in, whether to check social media, text a friend, do a bit of work or look up stray information. The world is at hand when a phone is in hand. Tempting, to be sure.
With 1 billion people in the world with smartphones, it’s no exaggeration to say that this technology is changing how humans interact. We’re not among those who bemoan the “good old days” when, supposedly, families chatted, neighbors sat on the porch conversing back and forth and pesky kids played sandlot ball instead of all those groups staring at their phones. Like any innovation, the smartphone can be both good and bad.
One report from the New York Times say most people now check their smartphones 150 times per day or every six minutes. The report also noted that young adults are now sending an average of 110 texts per days, and 46 percent of smartphone users say that their devices are something they “couldn’t live without.”
Are we turning into a generation of digital robots? Will future generations know how to converse with one another face to face? Will they notice the birds, trees, sunrise, and people around them?
Screens such as smartphones, computers, and television are stealing time that children and adolescents should be spending on physical activity and sports, reading, or creating and engaging directly with other children, all of which are critical to healthy physical and social development.
And, then there are those people who use the phone while driving. Your phone may be smart; you should be smarter than that.
There is particular concern about the impact of smartphones on young people, prompting the “Wait until 8th Pledge.” This group promotes families taking a pledge to make children wait for smartphones until after they are 13. It’s a grass-roots effort — families ask other parents to sign up, so that peer pressure is turned against smartphones. Instead, younger children whose parents think they need phones buy flip phones that simply are useful for calls or texting.
Phones are useful tools, yes, but they should not become substitutes for human interactions, or even for a walk in the park. Individuals have to choose how they use media and the Internet, rather than allowing themselves to be sucked in mindlessly. A virtual life, after all, is no substitute for the real world.

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