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Monday, December 21, 2015

Put Down Your Damn Cell Phones

Jadelin Pikake Felipe, student services specialist at Stanford University's Archaeology Center and formerly director of enrollment management operations at Menlo College summarizes, "What is the point of scheduling a lunch date with a friend when your attention is somewhere in digital la-la land?"

Every day, I see two people having lunch with one another, both glued to their cellphones, not talking. And I cannot help but think: something valuable is being lost. 

Working on a college campus, I see many situations like this. Someone forgets their cellphone at home and suddenly it seems as if the earth is crashing down. Cellphones have become the new-age security blankets.

I recently took a group of students on a community-building trip to play mini golf, and they were more preoccupied with taking photos, and posting them to Instagram, than they were actually able to enjoy playing the game. Declaring to the world, online, about their fun day at mini golf trumped engaging in conversation and laughter with those who were there right beside them. In that moment, I witnessed how cellphones have changed the in-person human-interaction landscape.

We cannot blame these students entirely, as this is their norm. On average, a person checks his or her smartphone 150 times per day. Nielsen Media Research has dubbed those born after 1990 and who have lived their adolescent years after the 2000s Generation C, in large part because of their constant connectivity to all digital things. Students who are now entering our colleges' and universities' doors simply don’t know life without cellphones, iPads and laptops. And cellphones are not all bad. These gadgets help college students easily keep in touch with families who may be far away and give students access to campus resources to help navigate the complexities of their new college life.

Yet we all pay a price -- and one that is hard to see, as the damage usually takes place within people. But that does not mean it is any less real. As a master’s student at the University of San Francisco, I have been studying the impact that cellphones have on student engagement. Research has shown cellphone use changes brain activity, negatively impacts one’s ability to identify nonverbal cues and our empathy for others, and can increase risk of depression, anxiety and stress.

And just as concerning, authentic in-person conversations happen less frequently. So while students today may argue that a cellphone is just an object, we who work at colleges and universities can argue otherwise...

The center’s webpage highlights student testimonies on how involvement in the center’s programs has helped enrich their relationships and their ability to self-reflect and be engaged. As one student notes, “My digital life is different now because I have increased my intentionality of making friendships a priority over spending time online. So I have to be more efficient with time to have space for meeting a friend for coffee or spending time in a conversation. It is worth it. I need rich relationships.”

One might argue that it’s too late to try to teach healthy digital boundaries at the college level and that it should instead be addressed in elementary and secondary school. I agree this issue should be dealt with at an earlier age, and I encourage K-12 educators to start thinking of ways they can teach our youth about it. For now, I challenge those of us in higher education to take a lead on dealing with this pervasive issue on our campuses.

Source: Inside Higher Ed