Schuh column: Phones down in back
By Jim Schuh
If you’re tempted to point the finger at teens for spending too much time on their smartphones, hold on for a moment.
While it may be true that teens seem to devote all their waking hours glued to a handheld screen, rarely looking up, adults aren’t blameless. And wait ‘til you find out about waking up to see who’s texted.
Common Sense Media, an organization that promotes safe technology and media for children, says it found that over a third of teens wake up at night and check their phones. But adults are nearly as bad – about a quarter of parents do the same thing. What’s the world coming to?
Cell phones and smartphones are certainly among the most marvelous of man’s inventions. But amazing developments like these are prone to misuse and overuse.
We’ve all witnessed people whose smartphones seem to have become body appendages, and feel they require constant attention. The phones accompany them everywhere, commanding their continuing devotion. I recall seeing a couple come into a restaurant, sit down, take out their phones and spend all their time there on their separate phones, never speaking to each other before they finished their meal and left. Maybe they were texting each other.
We’ve all witnessed drivers babbling on cell phones and texting, failing to pay attention to where they’re steering their two tons of moving metal.
While I’ve heard smartphones ring occasionally in church, most users have the decency and common sense to shut off their ringtones ahead of worship time. Subjecting the congregation to electronic versions of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Dixie” is thoughtless and annoying.
Academics and medical people who study cell phone behavior tell us we spend too much time on our devices. A Journal of the American Medical Association report just out says, “for every additional hour young people spend on social media or watching television, the severity of depressive symptoms they experience goes up.”And there are other consequences for that conduct – we’re not getting enough sleep. That has a negative impact on our bodies. The bad behavior also tends to annoy those around them.
Here are some statistics from Common Sense Media’s survey of 1,000 parents and children: 12 percent of parents and 29 percent of teens sleep with their cell phones. 26 percent of teens and 36 percent of adults wake up at night to check their cell phones at least once.
I realize I may be a luddite who’s out of the loop, because I’m one of the few who keeps his smartphone turned off. I check it once a day to see if anyone called or texted me, and then shut it down. I still have a land line and figure anyone who wants or needs to get in touch with me can call it.
When I travel, I make an exception and keep the phone turned on. It rarely rings; probably because I don’t have any friends, and no one really wants to talk to me. My wife keeps her phone turned on and gets a few text messages and an occasional call each day, including a few from telemarketers. That seems to be good enough for us.
I’m proud we’re not slaves to cell phones, and I’d be interested in finding out what logical and sensible arguments those who’re addicted to their devices advance for their behavior. I won’t hold my breath.
You might be familiar with the announcers at the UWSP campus radio station who broadcast clues during the station’s annual trivia contest. After about 10 minutes during which teams have to call in their answers, the announcers tell players their guessing time is up by saying, “Phones down in back.”
That might be good advice for all those who overuse their cell phones.