The Impact of Phones at U-32

This article was written by Biruk Alfarone, a senior in the journalism class here at U-32. It tackles the topic of phones’ impact on young students is tackled by social workers, teachers, nurses, and students in this article.


Jamie Spector, U-32’s Social worker, is first in line to confront the dilemma of the issues phones have on physical and mental health. However, Jamie believes phones should be thought about very dualistically and not one-sided. She sees both the positives and negatives phones have on social connection. “Youth report feeling more connected to peers and friends, and are more able to support each other,” said Jamie.


Additionally, Jamie realized phones have many benefits and purposes in a student’s life. A student who’s marginalized in their community now has a way to connect to peers comfortably. Students also use it as a tool for self-help videos when they don’t understand a class.


However, according to Jamie and research done by the American Psychological Association (APA), the negative aspect of phones relates closely to social media, and very generally a student’s relationship with their phone. “There is a correlation with spending three or more hours online a day increasing the rate of depression and anxiety,” said Jamie.


Furthermore, students understanding the impacts phones have and why they occur is important. The University of California, in Los Angeles (UCLA), has devoted time to studying teenagers’ brains, and it comes down to the reward center in the brain. Jamie recounts UCLA’s studies when it comes to increased time spent on phones, “The teenage brain is wired to have extra sensitivity. Combine this with these apps that are designed to feed your brain dopamine…”


Jamie believes we should be thinking about the companies who make these apps and what their motives are, coming from a term called attention economy. “What are they selling? What’s the product that they’re selling? The product is us,” said Jamie. Phones trick the brain and incentivize students to keep coming back. Jamies notes The Center for Humane Technology is a company that’s dedicated to shifting to more humane technology.


Students gaining a better understanding of technology is important. This can start with something small. “One of the major suggestions is if you’re going to be on social media, turn off notifications,” said Jamie.


Photo is of Jamie giving a presentation-Biruk (Alfarone/Chronicle)


Ellen Cook, a counselor at U-32, has a very low frustration tolerance when it comes to phones. She sees how harmful phones can be to students when it comes to disinformation, bullying, and harassment. “Kids can say things that they would never possibly say to someone in person,” said Ellen.


Additionally, Ellen knows there are positives about phone use like for navigation, information, and being able to connect to people.


Furthermore, Ellen sees social media’s impact on students comes down to the effect it has on the neurobiology and chemistry of growing brains and the nervous system. “When someone is activated by an event through social media, it’s hard to stay focused and come back to the present,” said Ellen. She believes that distraction that comes from social media results in students struggling with organization and the ensuing panic of reliance on a phone when it’s lost.


Ellen points out that phones are a privilege for people to have, and that we should be mindful of how and why we’re using them.


Photo is of Ellen-Biruk (Alfarone/Chronicle)


Amber Larabee, a nurse at U-32, often sees that students are coming in very tired. “A lot of students say they have their phone by their bedside, notifications still on,” said Amber. She connects phones to the tiredness students feel because of its effect on the nervous system, due to the screen being a blue light.


Amber believes the harmful effects of blue lights on phones can spiral students into the negative impacts they can have. “Insomnia and the lack of sleep can lead to depression and anxiety,” said Amber.


As a nurse Amber would suggest an alternative sleep routine to the use of phones, like doing some type of exercise before bed. Or to stop using your phone, programming it to shut off at a certain time, and turning notifications off.


Photo is of Amber-Biruk (Alfarone/Chronicle)


Casey Byrd, a senior at U-32 sees the impacts phones have when it comes to social media. “A student spending hours a day just mindlessly using their phone, would be damaging, and takes away from homework,” said Casey. She believes a treatment for inappropriate phone use for students could be setting a time limit.


Rory Mclan, a senior at U-32, sees the negatives and positives of using phones for students. “A lot of the time I’m using my phone because I’m just bored, and don’t have much to do,” said Rory. A solution to being bored Rory notes is doing more things to not feel obligated to be on his phone as much.


However, like others who talked about the negative impact of social media, Rory doesn’t believe that’s the case. “I don’t feel any sort of anxiety from social media, but I think just because I spend so much time on it, it’s a waste of my time.”

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