Almost two-thirds of the adults in America are proud owners of a smartphone. It’s not surprising that 74% of these are young adults between the ages of 25 and 34, with teenage owners creeping up quickly. As the fastest growing segment of the market, an amazing 73% of teens say they own or have access to a smartphone.
There used to be a time when adults were the phone-owners and kids had to beg to have one of their own. Even then, it was often a basic cell phone, intended mostly for emergency use. But times have changed, and what was once the exception to the rule is now the norm. But how is that cell phone use affecting our relationships with family and friends?
Each fall, groups of high school kids fill the local restaurants for pre-Homecoming Dance dinners. It used to be fun to watch as the dressed-up teens overtook the dining room, filling large tables with talk and laughter, the volume rising as the meal progressed. Nowadays, those tables are still full and the kids are still dressed to the nines. But the noise is no longer an issue. Your elderly grandma would be able to hear just fine. Why? Because these teens are quiet as church mice — glued to their cellphones instead of each other.
But it’s not just the younger generation. Many of these kids grew up with phone-addicted role models. Everywhere you turn you see people on cell phones — in their cars, walking down the street, in restaurants and at the movies.
A 2015 Harris poll found that in a nation of coffee-dependent adults, Americans would rather live without caffeine than their cell phone. A full 71% feel this technology has improved their quality of life. Conversely, 73% feel that technology is not only distracting, but may even be “creating a lazy society.” So which is it?
There really is no definitive answer. Each person needs to make their choices — and rules — in conjunction with their own family, friends and co-workers. And what might be okay within one group may not be for another. For instance, many families have banned cell phones from the dinner table. It’s sacred time, reserved for interacting with each other in person. It’s an opportunity to share their day, laugh at jokes and dissect world problems without the interruption and distraction of the ringing, buzzing or beeping of cell phones.
It’s hard to believe cell phones have been a common part of our lives for more than twenty years now. In fact, the first one was invented 43 years ago, but the devices didn’t really become mainstream until the mid-1990s. Now look at us; millennials grew up in a world where cell phones always existed.
We’re not trying to be cell phone-haters, here. There are obviously a lot of positive things we can now do with a smartphone. Besides talking, texting and checking emails, we can use it to find our way around, win at Trivia Night and get help in an emergency. Let’s not forget about the built-in camera, which has without a doubt made life easier for taking family photos and snapping selfies in front of tourist attractions.
Some say the cell phone is the new TV, except that a phone can go everywhere you go. Like the TV, it can entertain and inform. It can also connect us with old and new friends on social media. But when it’s used improperly or disrespectfully it can — and does — drive people apart.
So celebrate the invention of the cell phone and appreciate its benefits — but remember that no phone, no matter how smart, can ever replace the humans in your life.