The Silver Scribe

How Exactly Do Smartphones Affect The Brain?

Jaiden Beckstead, Staff Writer

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Cell phones are used for everything nowadays. Don’t know the answer to a question? Look it up. Simple addition? Click on the calculator app. Bored? Pull out the phone. It is full of so many useful tools, it isn’t a phone, it’s a tiny supercomputer, a television, camera, arcade, book, calendar, reminder, radio, alarm clock, and most importantly, access to our friends and social lives at all times.

Sure, all of these things are very useful, but can they affect us in a negative way? Maybe having all the answers in the palm of our hand prevents us from using our brains to solve the mystery. Maybe always having a constant stimulant in our pocket shortens our attention span and ability to sit still, and just think. Maybe relying on our social media for counterfeit relationships limits the face-to-face interactions we have with others.

We’ve all heard it, from our parents, teachers, psychologists, and doctors. Phones, smartphones specifically, are toxic for our still-developing brains, and they are intertwined in our daily lives more than ever. In fact, psychologists call our new generation “iGen”. 70% of the 11-12 year olds possess a smartphone, and even more shockingly, 25% of the 2-5 age group own a smartphone.

Obsessive teenage smartphone usage is concerning not only millions of parents and academics, but even those who helped invent the iPhone.

Calstrs (California State Teachers’ Retirement System) and Jana Partners LLC control about $2 billion of Apple shares. They were particularly troubled, and sent a letter to Apple expressing their urgence for them to develop some kind of way to help parents control phone usage with their teens and study the impact their device is having on the mental health of overusing teens.

Ever since 2012, suicide and depression rates have spiked. What also came around in 2012? Smartphone popularity among teens. Between ages 13 and 18, the depression rate for teenage girls increased 65 percent from 2010 to 2015, and has been getting higher. “I think putting your phone away while doing homework or any kind of work helps because you’re focused in on what you’re supposed to be doing and you’re not looking at all the fun things people are doing without you plus things people post and do are their best moments not their everyday basic human moments.” Mabel Bailey, a sophomore, told me.

I have a problem with my phone myself, and I also find this problem with majority of people around me. Here’s an example of how phones are replacing old fashion communication.

My 14 year old cousin just recently started dating this girl. They both really like each other and have no problem talking on text to each other, but when it comes to talking face-to-face, they are extremely socially awkward around each other. My cousin went to drop off a Christmas gift to her the other day. He knocked on the door, she opened it, without saying a single word to each other, he handed it over, she hugged him, took the gift from him, and closed the door.

“I’ve felt like I haven’t accomplished anything and I could be doing something more productive like reading a book, cooking, cleaning, organizing my room, etc.” Jessica Zavala rants to me. Phones can also shorten the amount of time we sleep, not only does its addicting blue light keep us glued to its soft glow, but it confuses our brain into thinking it is sunlight, causing our bodies to stop producing the hormone Melatonin, which is what gives us the “time to sleep” cues.

Although the phones are the source for many major issues, they are hard to let go of because they are so ingrained into our society, especially in the teenage world.

It’s important to keep a watch on how much screen time you have with your phone. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t use it at all, but if you are in line waiting, resist the urge to pull your phone out of your pocket. If you are with friends go out instead of sitting around staring at your screens.

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How Exactly Do Smartphones Affect The Brain?