"I kind of wish phones didn't exist...kind of." I know that's something you might not expect to hear from a teenager.
My name is Reese Wilson and I am a junior in high school. I'm part of Gen Z so I basically watched the whole world acclimate to technology. Yes, I was an iPad kid, and my parents had the small iPhone 4s before they really became a BIG thing. I never really understood the downsides to technology, especially smartphones, until high school…
Everyone has a phone! Everyone has some form of social media!! Everyone!!! Don't get me wrong, I love snapping and facetiming, but there is a part of me that wonders what life would be like if everyone didn't have a phone.
I believe that friendships, sleep, and our willingness to take risks are all suffering because of phones.
For a moment, think back to high school and imagine you are in your junior and senior common area. One group is over in the corner playing a game - preferably spoons, another group is playing ping pong that they set up on a table, a couple is cuddling in the corner (ew), one guy is working on a science project that he procrastinated on, and a circle of girls and guys are laughing uncontrollably in the center over something nobody else would understand. Except, that doesn't happen anymore. Why? Well - it's because everyone is on their phones. When these scenarios do happen, all it takes is one person to pull out their phone, and then the rest of the group decides to pull theirs out as well. I don't understand it?! But that's the reality almost every day. That’s the way things are. It’s sad. I wish it weren’t that way. We are missing so much.
I wish I was better about putting my phone to bed before 10:00 pm, but I am not. Thank goodness my parents make me power down at night, or else I would not have the self-control to hang up. I openly admit it. If I did not have a rule to put my phone up, I would be using it way more at night. I have friends that don't have any rules surrounding technology and I watch them struggle. I don't think kids 20 years ago consume the same amount of caffeine that kids my age do today. And it is because we don't have the self-control to put our phones down when we get in bed. Everyone is just so tired. All the time.
Finally, I don’t think people my age take risks anymore. There are positives and negatives to that statement. But life is kind of boring now! I wish I lived in the 90s - disposable pictures, no social media, and the music was ten times better. And I suspect that teenagers were so much happier! My friendship scenario that I talked about earlier would be real if we didn't have a tiny rectangle standing in our way of forming real relationships and taking risks. Those risks shouldn't necessarily be sneaking out or skipping school, but they should be something as simple as merging the boys' and girls' friend groups. Maybe we can choose to wake up and go see our best friend instead of just texting. All this to say, maybe life as a teenager doesn't have to be so boring. Endless scrolling on Tik Tok or snapping your crush does not beat in-person exchanges and the memories that can be made by taking risks.
Yes, there are a lot of downsides to phones. I wish I could throw mine out the window all the time. However, the rest of the world won't do that with me, and that is okay.
I can only hope that we teenagers be more intentional with how we use our phones. And some of us are. Here are two examples of how we Gen Z’ers are making good choices.
I love school. I wouldn't consider myself a nerd, but my parents think otherwise. :) Last year, I had a group of guys and girls over to study for our AP Modern European exam. Doesn't that sound like fun? I know. Everyone was invested in studying, but there was something still blocking us from being locked in and studying well. I decided to try something. "Guys. What if we put our phones in a box?" I said. There was some hesitation, but everyone threw their phone in. I closed the lid.
We didn't get as much studying in as you would think that day, but we all made memories that would not have happened if we had kept our phones. We had a pillow fight, jumped on the trampoline, sang our favorite songs, and studied - sort of. Some of us ended up dating each other that summer as well! That day was so much fun. Nothing could have beat it. Plus, when I have those friends back over at my house they all ask me the same thing: "Reese, where is the box?"
Dating is changing too, but I think for the better. Just recently, I went on a double date, and not one of us looked at our phones the entire time. We all put them in our seats so that they were not even visible on the table. I even think my date left his phone in his car - he always does. Now, I am not gonna lie and say that at that dinner I had the best conversations of my life (some of it was actually pretty awkward) but it was a step that we all took to focus on each other instead of our phones. A couple sitting beside us asked if my friend and I were being cheap dates for ordering water and salad, and some little kids decided to throw rocks right next to our table. I didn’t mind though because those are some of the things that would not have happened if we decided to have our eyes down and phones out. And I am really proud of us.
I have faith that my generation will be the ones to change how we see our phones. My hope is that there are others like me and my friends who want to experience real life instead of being stuck scrolling.