A slippery slope

Students need to take time to appreciate the world around them without technology


There are five minutes until the bell rings, and the teacher has finished presenting information for the day. Almost immediately, all of the students reach into their bags and pull out their phones, not even bothering to take a minute to themselves.

This scene presents itself in nearly every classroom that I have ever been in during recent years. Teens today rarely spend any free time without their phones and seemingly need to have the stimulation that they bring at all times. This constant reliance on technology is negatively affecting the mental health of teens and must be addressed immediately.

Studies have shown the connection between technology and mental health time and time again. For example, a study by San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge found that between 2010 and 2015, teens began to spend more time on screens and less time on other leisure activities. During the same time period, the number of teen girls who reported having severe depression rose 58%. As the participants’s technology use increased, their mental health decreased.

“Although we can’t say for sure that the growing use of smartphones caused the increase in mental health issues, that was by far the biggest change in teens’s lives between 2010 and 2015,” Twenge said.

I am no exception to the common link between phone use and mental health. During the first round of quarantine, I began listening to podcasts regularly. At first, I would just listen while I was doing boring chores around the house like cleaning the bathroom or sweeping the floor. But, the more I listened, the more reliant I became. Soon, I was listening to them whenever I was by myself, even in the shower.

It came to the point that I rarely spent any time alone without playing a podcast. I never had any time to explore my own mind or let my brain have a break.

After a few months of this, I realized how the lack of “me time” was manifesting itself. I became more irritable, always snapping at my family, and I found myself more stressed and anxious. Because I didn’t take any time to sort out my own feelings, they knotted themselves up inside and eventually became too much for me to handle. My mental health began to suffer because of my constant dependence on technology.

In some ways, I wish that it was possible to go back to a time when today’s technology didn’t exist. But, I recognize that the role it plays in the world, connecting people and places millions of miles away and improving living conditions for many, is irreplaceable and simply isn’t an option.

Research supports spending a controlled amount of time on technology. Another study by Twenge found that teens who had limited access to technology, between one and five hours per week, reported being happier than those who didn’t have any. But, the study found that the unhappiest group was teens who reported using screens for 20 hours or more each week.

Going forward, everyone should make an effort to take the control of their lives back into their own hands and out of technology’s. Whether that means not always leaving the TV on for background noise or dedicating the first hour of the day “screen-free” time, working towards less reliance on technology will benefit mental well-being. See what the real world has to offer and take a break from the screen, it may be surprising.