Cell phone addicted teens struggle through a week without

It’s second hour on a Monday morning in the editorial journalism classroom, and amidst the finishing of Starbucks and the mingling of journo-geeks, an aura of dread is making its way through Room 153. Suddenly, Will Jarvis and Anna McCloskey call everyone’s attention––the time has come for the people in the room to give up their cell phones for a week. The tension in the room is tangible.

In an experiment to experience first -hand how modern teens fair without their cell phones, 20 Knight Errant staff members gave up their phones for a full week to see how they could cope without them. Students placed their right hands on a dictionary (substituting for the Bible) and swore to not use their phones. Of course, not all survived until the end. What did they find? Teens are addicted to their phones. Without them, they lost their primary method of communication as well as an instrumental piece of their social lives.

Teens show an almost innate preoccupation with their phones. “[M]y mind buzzes with the thoughts of what I could be missing. Has someone texted me? Did I miss an important call?” sophomore Sarah Letscher said after only 23 hours without her phone. Similar to most teens, when she’s separated from her phone, she feels separated from her life.

Teens rely on the phones as a social outlet. “I only made it through the weekend without my phone because I had a football game on Friday and had to work late on Saturday, so I knew I didn’t have any time for being social. If I hadn’t had one of those things, I probably would have asked my dad for my phone back,” senior Michelle Sauer said. Jason Dorsey, an expert on the Millennial generation, has discovered that Millennials and generations afterwards are often confused for being tech savvy, when they are actually tech dependent.

Teens aren’t the only ones affected by strong cell phone dependency. Parents have begun to lean on the technology to contact their children. “I can’t contact my parents letting them know where I am, which, in turn, can get me in trouble. [So my] parents are now forcing me to get my phone back,” junior Mark Falls said about his experience in the KE experiment. (Sadly, Mark did get into trouble and was grounded.)

This dependency on phones has affected the ways in which teens relate to people. “[I observed] the rest of my peers as they played Candy Crush, checked Twitter, and posted on Instagram. All the while, I felt fidgety. I’m not used to having nothing in my hands to check when I’m bored,” senior Megan Pohle said. Many turn to easy superficial distractions phones provide instead of engaging in human interaction.

Phone dependency does have adverse effects on teens, ones far greater than mere addiction. As teens spend so much time texting, their ability to interact face-to-face with others is compromised. While adults also lose some interpersonal skills as a result of texting, they have lived most of their lives without phones, and have already developed strong interpersonal capabilites–– unlike teens who are still working to develop these crucial life skills. These interpersonal skills will be essential in the real world, such as in job interviews and collaboration in the workplace.

Further, cell phones distract teens and cause them to lose focus. Many teens take their cell phones to bed with them, in case they receive any late-night texts, causing them to lose sleep. “Without my phone, I was falling asleep at 9:30, but now that I have it back, I’m back to going to bed at 11:00,” McCloskey said. Research has proven that texting sparks excitement in the pleasure centers of the brain––the same area of the brain that heroin excites. Cell phone use, texting in particular, truly is addicting.

Between feeling the urge to text and checking Tweets, teens pull their phones out to resolve an awkward moment, and life without a phone is quite a challenge. Without their handheld devices, teens go through feelings of anxiety, awkwardness, and unease. BSM students are, without a doubt, stricken by phone dependency.