“Please put your phones away.” This announcement precedes almost every assembly and school-wide gathering. Teenage attachment to cell phones is not limited to our high school. It is, however, negatively affecting our school culture and undermining our respect for teachers and students who deserve our attention.
Smartphones can be incredibly useful and have enabled us to communicate in many ways. Our phones allow us to maintain relationships with friends we do not see every day, get in touch with our families when necessary, and have more efficient conversations. However, this form of virtual interaction has significantly dulled our appreciation for real-time experiences.
The average teenager checks his or her phone nearly 150 times every day. Considering the number of hours we spend in school, this means we look at our phones about 80 times throughout the school day. It is difficult to comprehend why we feel the constant need to check our various inputs (text, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) when we are in an academic setting, surrounded by our friends. Our time in school should be spent focusing on our studies and, in free moments, socializing with the people around us.
The fixation on our cell phones is comparable to a nervous tic. Texting or checking Facebook during an assembly stems not necessarily from need or disinterest but rather from a desire to look “cool” or busy. However, being occupied with a phone in this situation conveys disrespect. Not only is the person speaking denied our attention, but the friend sitting next to us is ignored. We should compartmentalize social media for when it’s appropriate and beware of letting it distract us at inopportune moments.
The problem persists even after teachers ask students to take their phones off the desks and put them away. Swiping to another screen when the teacher walks towards the back of the room does not conceal the fact that students are often messaging while in class. Since a teacher cannot always see it, we have to take it upon ourselves to determine when it is the right time to check our screens. If students consciously limited these distractions, we would be more present, both in and out of the classroom, and would help create an environment in which everyone is engaged and respected.