Students need to power down

By Javia Headly


As I walk down the halls of Sonoma Valley High School, I am constantly bombarded with images of my peers connected to their cellphones. They are everywhere.

People are using their cellphones for everything these days and everywhere you look, everyone you know owns one of these tiny, hand-held gizmos.

Teenagers, especially, seem to be attached to their cellphones. They’re on them all the time. Walking through the halls, texting under the desk in class, at lunch, while they’re chatting with their friends and, yes, even while driving.

Vicki Arndt Helgesen, who teaches AP United States history, said she is “struck by the way that, when cellphones first came out, they were convenient, they were tucked away. Now they are an extension of the body.”

When she watches her students with cellphones, or people who are really plugged in to them, there is, she says, “almost a caressing. It is an extension of who (they are).”

Arndt Helgesen was one of many surveyed by the Pew Online Survey that was conducted by the Berkman Center for Technology and Society at Harvard University. The survey found that cellphone technology creates “an easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

With a staggering 78 percent of young people ages 12 to 17 owning a cellphone, it is easy to see how the devices have become a part of teenagers’ everyday lives. Not only are they using these devices to text their friends, they are using them to play games, download apps, look at funny pictures and much more.

These distractions create an environment in which it’s nearly impossible for students to focus on their work.

The Pew survey found that 76 percent of all teachers thought that, due to the increase in the use of technology, students have come to expect information quickly and efficiently and thus are unable to do any work that actually includes patience and research.

Arndt Helgesen claims that her students continually become less attentive and less likely to spend an entire period without getting bored and taking out their phones.

The number of students who are seemingly unable to sit through class without checking their phones is outrageous. Yes, phones are a wonderful innovation that have proved helpful, even in classroom situations, but in order to improve upon the quality of the work done by students who are all but glued to their phones, these devices need to be put away.

Although our school has a policy that all phones should be off and in backpacks during class time, this rule is not usually followed by students or administered by teachers. Teachers should be making a greater effort to end the usage of phones during class time. If they fail to do so, students will continue on their downward spiral toward illiteracy and worthlessness.

We will get so immersed in the habit of quickly checking our phones for the answers, or turning our attention to the newest app when class gets boring, that we won’t be able to retain any information at all.

Our futures and our careers depend on our ability to sit and learn, to process and utilize information. However, we will not be able to better ourselves and create our future if research and meticulous hard work is all but impossible for us to do.

It is not up to the students to do something about this predisposition and their gravitation toward their phones. It is the job of our counselors and teachers to show us the right path. And, even if we are reluctant and unhappy with the results now – the missed text from our best friend or the Facebook notification we never got to post – later in life, when we are successful, we will thank them.

• • •

  Javia Headly is a senior at Sonoma Valley High School where she is co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, the Dragon’s Tale. This column was taken from the Oct. 14 online edition of the Dragon’s Tale.