After surveying 40 ninth and tenth grade students, that’s the number of hours per day on average they spend in front of their phone.

However, these are my stats for the last seven days. While it isn’t so far off from our students, I might add that a huge chunk of my “Reading & Reference” category is Google Maps, which I use for car navigation and I’m not sure that counts as true screen time.

To narrow it down a bit further I asked the students what their top used app was for the past seven days:

Instagram and Snapchat are a huge part of our students digital usage and are impacting and influencing them in many different ways. Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop with Adam Clark, one of our counselors and COETAIL grad, about teens and their digital use/presence. He shared some of the top 200 Instagram comments and almost all were positive messages about looks. What kind of identity expectations are we setting for our children? Why are these themes normalized in social media? How can adults help shift this?

However, as adults, and educators in particular, I think we are quick to jump to the negatives of this new social connection, but I think it’s fair to also look at the positives. I like to remind myself often that US graduation rates are continuing to increase – it’s not the end of the world and we are certainly still doing something right. Our students recognized the positives as well, they commented:

  • We are able to communicate with friends family very quickly, we are aware of any change in school programs or world events.
  • It is easy to socialize and contact people, as well as there is a wide array of resources available for academic purposes that expand our knowledge.
  • Maintains personal connections and relationships
  • Being a global citizen and knowing what is going going around in the community and the world
  • Although technology can seem antisocial, it is actually one of the most common ways of teens and kids socializing in the modern day. It provides an alternative to actually going out and spending time with that person as you can still “hang out” in the virtual world. It’s an alternative that can be used to avoid external factors that can’t be controlled when hanging out with friends (such as bad weather).

We also asked our students about the negatives of always being connected. This is what they had to say:

  • Can be tracked
  • I’m not focused enough during school.
  • That we can lose track of time and not spend physical time with friends and or family cause were always being our phones.
  • No privacy
  • It can be hard to keep track of time when using technology, so you find yourself overusing your devices at times.
  • It can influence you in ways you don’t realize especially your confidence in your body image, capabilities, etc.
  • Missing out on what’s going on in front of you
  • You are not disconnected
  • I get glued to my phone
  • You get attached to your phone and procrastinate
  • Cyberbullying which is a current problem due to the birth of social media.
  • decreases real life communication and socialization opportunities
  • That any information you put up there is published forever, and your personal information is always tracked by online companies to show you the ad that you will most likely be interested in.

The self awareness among our ninth and tenth graders is quite amazing, actually. I think it shows that they are very aware of some of the challenges with social media/phone usage, but likely lack some of the strategies they need to solve the problems they face. It’s a challenge that doesn’t have an easy one-size-fits-all solution, but I’m encouraged by the steps we are making to combat the challenge.