Put your phone away!


Sophie Kelleher and Ruby Germack

Many people often associate social media and phones to Millennial’s. However, the impact of smartphones on teens’ mental health is also incredibly important.


Gen Z, aka the teens now, are the first generations actually growing up with social media and smartphones everywhere. Teens tend to feel obligated to go on their phones because of social pressure, for instance FOMO: fear of missing out. Since there is a use of phones everywhere, a common question now is how are phones impacting teens mental health?


Ms. Colon is the guidance counselor at the NYC iSchool. She admits, “You would think that someone died, with the fear that [students] lost their phone.”


She has found that students have begun to communicate less in person and more on their phones leading to inabilities to effectively communicate. “you can’t infer tone,” Ms. Colon stated when asked how communication has changed on and off screens, “Also students..adults do this too, can be a lot more bolder when you are typing it up then when you are [arguing] in person.” Thus, many stressful situations online can arise.


Ms. Colon admits that although she didn’t grow up with social media and phones, she finds herself viewing it as an issue.


“I have to say that it’s been very frightening to watch.” As a guidance counselor,  she expresses her concern with the focus of students, or lack thereof, with the new preoccupation of smartphones: “the biggest frustration is students attachment to it, and the idea that they think they’re missing something.”

With this attachment, comes imminent stress as Colon has observed “Students have definitely come to me and have expressed an interest in wanting to sort of take a social media fast, or break from their phone.” Additionally, this break is definitely advised.


Ms. Brown is a science teacher at the NYC iSchool. In the beginning of each class, she enforces her students to put their phones away in a phone bank. This way, they become inaccessible during class time. She justifies this decision by explaining, “For teenagers it is quite difficult to rely on your own judgement. The prefrontal cortex, your hippo-campus and your reptilian brain are not connected yet, because it doesn’t fully develop until you are 25. So you are less able to make decisions about when to put away your phone and you are more susceptible to dopamine release.” Therefore, there is a much higher of  risk to be distracted by your phone.


“So you actually get a dopamine release every time you get a notification or a notification from a friend.” Ms Brown adds, “You are more susceptible to it so you are actually more likely to pick up your phone.” Thus, since your brain isn’t fully developed yet, teenagers can easily become addicted to social media.


“Taking the phones away makes you more likely to focus on one task,” she says.. And without the distractions from phones, students will be able to master more the course work, resulting in students having better grades and more opportunities.


Dopamine is a feel good chemical that is released in your brain when stimulated with positive reaction. Every time a young adult receives a notification on their phone, their brain gives them a shot of dopamine.


This rush and need for dopamine is why it is wired into our brains to feel attachment towards the use of our phones. The dopamine rush you get from being on your phone can cause you to lose interest in other things, which could lead you to spend excessive amounts of time using it.


Like most high schools, the NYC iSchool has rules regarding cell phone usage in class. Although not every teacher prohibits phone usage, most have limitations on when it can be used.


According to Nicholas Kloor, a freshman at the NYC iSchool, “My grades are definitely worse in classes where I can use my phone.” Perhaps this is because of the constant distractions that Nick, and many other students, experience from the attachment they have to their phones.                                     


Zach Taylor, an 11th grade student at the NYC iSchool, is affected by the culture of constantly being involved on his own social media, “it affects how I view myself in relation to others.” He added that he also notices how it negatively affects his life at school, “If I can use my phone in a class, I admit that I won’t be very productive.”


Tobie Kiser, a sophomore, also noticed (like many of his peers) that in classes where he can use his phone, he becomes more distracted and this affects the amount of work he can complete. “I have one class where I can use my phone, in this class I get more distracted easier.”


Sophomore Joao Ferrite thinks that social media benefits him. When he uses it he doesn’t notice any problems and he enjoys using it, “it is good, and I enjoy using it.”


A problem that arises when people become addicted to social media and phones is online bullying. Online bullying can include sending insulting or threatening messages, posting something belittling about someone else, sharing someone’s personal information online, or anything else along those lines.


Cyber bullying can be very dangerous to adolescents. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and even self harm. According to Cyber Bullying Statistics  over 25% of teenagers have been bullied online repeatedly. The perpetrator of the bullying often does it to be funny and doesn’t think about the consequences. For cyberbullies, their actions may hurt them in the long run. Colleges and future jobs have access to this information, which may lead to some problems getting into the college or job of their choice.


Teen depression has also increased along with the development of social media and technology. According to Are Smartphones Damaging This Generation’s Mental Health, “Time reported that ‘Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leaped by 60%.”’


And while there is a growth in depression, there isn’t always groups where students can go for help with their mental health and addictions to phones. It is so rampant in the culture, the generation has been given the nickname ‘iGen’, which proves that the impact of technology is extremely relevant in the development of this age group. Therefore, teens need help, not only taking breaks from phones, but also handling their phones.


There are also a lot of resolutions for this though. Also, according to Teens and Dangerous Levels of Cellphone Use, there are many solutions to helping teens, such as offering substitutes, (such as reading a book or hanging out with friends) and more opportunities to people, to distract them from feeling the need to go on their phones. You can also schedule breaks in the day to stay off your phone. This can lead you to feel that you don’t need to be on your phone as much and you can feel less attached to it.


If a student or adult is feeling too stressed out, distracted, or disappointed with themselves online, social media breaks can help someone settle down and reflect on themselves. You are likely to feel relaxed and content with your emotions after that reflection.


Kaylene Criollo is a ninth grader at the iSchool. She doesn’t find that social media or phone addiction is a serious problems regarding teens’ mental health. She reflects, “I personally use my phone to interact with people. I only use it for communication and nothing bad.” She finds it helpful if you are trying to keep in touch with friends or family. “Without it things would be difficult.” Although she does admit, “phones are only bad when you use it for bad.” However she explains “if you are on it a lot and still paying attention, I don’t see the problem with it.”


And for a modern teen to feel connected, perhaps a phone is one of the only way to stay in touch. 82 percent of U.S. teens use an iPhone — and that number is only growing, around 85.8 million people in the U.S. alone use an iPhone, which represents around 43 percent of U.S. users


Violet Lane is a freshman at the iSchool. From December to January she was taking a break from her phone, particularly social media. At first she admitted, she was “in denial.” She felt so much pressure to be on her phone and communicate with people online.


Once she took her break and started to

She even found herself more productive  without her phone. She said, “homework is difficult for me because of the need to pick of my phone every three minutes.”


Cellphones and social media are very distracting in class, and it can result in teenagers’ mental health declining. With all the social pressure and distractions that come with phones, it can be hard for a teenager to focus on anything. Even though the internet can be very useful at times, it can also lead to things like cyber bullying, which can be destructive to young adults. In order to stay focused in school, and not as stressed out, it would be advised to take breaks from your phones!


Violet explains, “being away [from phones] felt healthy. I started to appreciate things like family and friends. I even looked forward to going to school so I could see my friends”.