The fast-paced technological development of the past years has both positive and negative effects on society. While people in the contemporary world are more connected to one another than ever before, there are widespread fears that the use of smartphones and other gadgets has an adverse effect on people. The influence of smartphone use on adolescents is a particularly hot topic today, with studies confirming that these devices can make young adults anxious and depressed and impair their development. In her article, Carlin Flora (2018) contests this notion by showing that there are several sides to the issue and that research on the topic far from conclusive.
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The author begins by offering statistics on smartphone use, which allow understanding the scope and significance of the problem. Flora (2018) mentions that as of 2016, 84% of American households own a smartphone, and 92% of teens aged 13 to 17 reported going online at least once daily. The article then explores various trends and ideas from recent research studies and offers her interpretation of the results based on expert opinions and other sources of information.
For instance, Flora (2018) states that a study found that today’s teens are less likely to drink, smoke, and have sex, and although these trends are positive, some experts are worried that they reflect their infantilism. Some studies also reported the deterioration of mental health among young adult populations, but other research pointed to the unreliability of these conclusions (Flora, 2018). Furthermore, the author explains that it is virtually impossible to produce reliable research results due to methodological issues.
By showing the inconsistencies in research results, the author suggests that the use of smartphones on its own is not a dangerous behavior, but how teens use smartphones could play both a positive and a negative role. To exemplify this idea, Flora (2018) cites a study that proved the negative effects of passive social media use (“lurking”) and the benefits of active interaction with others on social media (p. 34). The article suggests that interactions with others help teens to develop socially, whereas comparisons that teens create while looking at other people’s pictures and the lack of critical thinking can cause depression and anxiety.
This aspect of smartphone use could actually be damaging to the brain development of teenagers because of increased stress hormone levels (Flora, 2018). Similarly, the lack of sleep because of heavy social media use could be a negative factor for teens because it proved to lead to poor academic performance and mental illness (Flora, 2018). The author concludes that while smartphone use itself does not hurt teens, there are some damaging behaviors on social media that could impact mental health and brain development.
Personally, I agree with the finding that smartphone use can be both beneficial and harmful depending on each user’s behavior. For example, some people develop an addiction to games on their smartphones, which can have a damaging influence if unaddressed. There are also people who acquire the fear of missing out due to heavy social media use, which makes them addicted to their smartphones. In both of these cases, smartphone use would be associated with increased stress and compulsive behaviors, which cannot be healthy for one’s mental health at any age. Based on my experience, I can also confirm the link between smartphone use and sleep.
I have noticed that checking social media or playing a game on my smartphone before bed makes it harder for me to fall asleep, and thus I feel tired the next morning. When I realized the connection, I limited my time on social media during the day and at night, which resulted in some of the benefits listed by Flora (2018). For instance, I found that my interactions with friends online became more positive and meaningful. Therefore, the information presented by the author appears correct.
Although the article was very informative, there were some gaps or limitations that could be addressed to improve it. First of all, I found the organization of the material confusing because there were only a few subheadings, and some topics did not follow one another logically. For example, there is a figure on page 34 that presents diagrams from a Dutch study, whereas the results of the survey are explained on a different page.
I think that it would be better if the author organized her research by significant topics, such as social functioning, mental health, brain development, and more. This would help to present such a large volume of information in a way that is more accessible for the reader.
Another gap that I highlighted while reading the article is that the comparison of teenagers’ outcomes of smartphone use with adults’ is inconsistent. At some points in the article, the author mentions that despite the news focusing on teens’ unhealthy smartphone use, adults can also suffer from it (Flora, 2018). I think it would have been interesting to learn more about this topic; moreover, this information could support the author’s argument that the news portrays the issue with teens’ smartphone use in the wrong light. Therefore, this gap would also enhance the article and make it more informative.
All in all, I believe that the article explores the topic of smartphone use in teens in great detail and provides reliable information highlighting the inadequacy of current research. The author examines all the key arguments on the topic, thus providing a comprehensive overview of evidence and explaining why scientists disagree on certain subjects. I agree with the information presented in the article because I experienced the same problems in the past. Still, there are some aspects of the article that could be improved, including presentation, organization, and scope.
Flora, C. (2018). Are smartphones really destroying the lives of teenagers? Scientific American, pp. 30-37.