CAPTION: Junior Ellie Pendleton, left, sits silently alongside senior Kristy Donnelly while sending their morning Snapchat ‘streaks’ before their marketing class in the library.

By Samantha Martin

Upon walking into the cafeteria at lunch following a relaxing winter break I found myself thrilled to catch up with my friends who I hadn’t seen in days. I sat down eager to hear all about their time off, only to be met with a careless “hey” as their eyes barely glanced up from the smartphones that seemed to have a firm grasp on their attention.

Following the release of the new Screen Time feature on my phone, it became apparent to me how much time I too actually spend with my phone. Only days prior had I been a victim of the same obsession and if it weren’t for a simple timely realization that sparked a New Year’s resolution to use my phone less, technology still may have had a significant hold on my time.

Apple has recently created a section in Settings that tracks the user’s smartphone usage. This “Screen Time” sub-category tracks your screen time, most used apps, number of pickups and notifications. Each is broken down into daily and weekly statistics to give the user an idea of how they’ve spent their time on their respective smartphones.

In order to gain a better scope of the situation, I took to the halls of Andover High to find out how often students here really do use their phones.

  • Junior Ellie Pendleton reported her daily average at 5 hours and 44 mins, most of which she spent on social networking apps. She does find her phone somewhat distracting, explaining that if “[she goes] on Instagram to look at one thing [she’ll] just keep on looking,” wasting plenty of her time on her phone.
  • Sophomore Kirk Hillson had an average of 6 hours and 12 minutes; he also spent most of his time on social networking apps. Similarly to Pendleton, he admitted to finding the constant presence of his phone distracting. Both students agreed that they wished their average was much lower.
  • And perhaps the most shocking statistic of them all: senior Nadia Aruri admitted to having an average of 13 hours and 10 minutes at one point. Aruri consistently spent half of her day on her phone throughout the course of the week.

Some teachers here have also noticed the addiction and have attempted to fix it with phone pockets that adorn nearly every classroom in the school. Mrs. Rodier spoke about her phone policy and emphasized how her students are supposed to keep their phones in the little phone holder at the front although she admits it does not “[work] to the best of its intentions” at times. She went on to describe her students’ phone usage as “distracting and obsessive,” adding that it “seems to be something that is a crutch for students. It’s so easy to rely on [a smartphone] instead of figuring things out on their own.”

The attachment that students have with their phones can be, in part, explained by the chemical reaction that it can cause. Longtime health teacher Ms. Breen took the time to explain how there is a link between dopamine flow and technology: “People–even when they see someone’s’ smile or some positive thing that they might open on Snapchat or whatever their vices on their phones are, it does increase that dopamine and that feeling that’s produced–you want more of that.” This increase of dopamine causes an increase in happiness, which fuels a continuation of whatever said user is doing on their smartphone.

Aside from the distraction it may cause in our academic lives, Breen explained how it is also impacting us socially and emotionally: “I think phones have really decreased the amount of social interaction [teenagers have]. You could go home on a Saturday night and just Snapchat friends from your bed, in your room, and you’re not conversing with your parents, you’re not conversing with your friends…. We’ve seen a huge increase in anxiety and depression [between this generation and the last] and one of the only real differences is [the] technology [available daily to teens].”

The obsessive usage of smartphones here at the high school has been acknowledged time and time again, evident despite the phone pockets that were distributed to each classroom. But we have failed to address the profound tolls it has taken and is taking in our everyday lives.

Our generation is facing a smartphone-overuse epidemic with an end that doesn’t seem in sight. So much of our daily lives are devoted to technology and this issue translates into an even larger problem beyond our lives here at Andover High School. This addiction is prevalent to much more than just our time as teenagers.  Check out this link to a brief 15-question test that was created by a University of Connecticut psychiatry professor, David Greenfield. The test asks about your average habitats in regards to your smartphone usage and then gives guidelines on how addicted you are while also advising what to do to solve any issues.

My hope is that this article inspires a similar spark to promote change in the lives of students and faculty at Andover High. Although January 1st has passed, it’s not too late to add just one more resolution: take up the not-so-grueling challenge of using your phone less.

I promise you won’t regret it.

I surely don’t.