Another Generation's Cigarettes

Ryan Heshmati

May 13, 2022 (last updated May 15, 2022)

When one looks around at the students of Saratoga High School, it becomes apparent AirPods and phones hold more importance than the company of peers. The halls are filled with teenagers who are infatuated with these devices. For one, it may be to post on Tik Tok and Instagram. For another, tech is a window into the universe of whatever video game is hot that week. The social obsession with technology seems to be increasingly prevalent in Generation Z, defined as those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s. In fact, according to Business Wire, 58% feel uncomfortable after being disconnected from the internet for more than four hours. Inability to go long periods without a fix is a common issue with nicotine, so a similar addictive theme for adolescents is deeply troubling.

Pew Research reports that 91% of teens sometimes or often use their cell phones to pass time. It appears as though the board game and book have been made obsolete. While changes in preferences are not inherently a bad thing, Jean Twenge, a researcher, found that odds of at least one risk factor for suicide increase 71% with device use above five hours a day. Freshman Naahur Sajwan feels that social media, the staple of most teens’ phones, is full of toxicity, pointing out, “[...] what’s messed up is that on Twitter, like any other social media platform, people just call out each other instead of confronting them in [...] real life.” 

Many refuse to admit they are addicted to their devices, however. Atish Chatterjee, another freshman, who would not transparently share his screen time information with the Journal, disagreed with Sajwan, asserting, “phones are de-stressing mechanisms, people say phones are bad influences, but they’re a way to transport yourself away from the world for a little bit.” Studies according to Common Sense Media indicate it is about half-half, with about 50% admitting to their addiction. It is difficult to foresee the successful implementation of solutions when, in such a technologically dependent group, only half of the teens recognize they have a problem.

So far, solutions, expectedly, have failed. For instance, screen time limits, a feature introduced onto IOS devices by Apple, can be overridden and bypassed, rendering them ineffective. One possible new approach is to educate users on the hidden emotional costs of smart device use. Another, moving forward, would be taking steps to ensure new users never begin to overuse their phones, which can be achieved through, again, education. 

To sum it up, it seems as though every generation faces a severe obstacle; technology, will, seemingly, be this one’s cigarettes. Everytime one scrolls further on a Tiktok or Instagram, it is like another puff to their brain.