The effect of screen time and the pandemic on Solon students

Screenshot of Sanjana Venkataramans Iphone screen time.
Left to right: pre-pandemic hours and pandemic hours.

Screenshot of Sanjana Venkataraman’s Iphone screen time. Left to right: pre-pandemic hours and pandemic hours.

Divjot Kaur, Contributing Writer

Solon students say that the hours spent on their phone every day has skyrocketed since March 2020. Shira Ovide, New York Times tech writer and columnist, says that “When examining the effects of COVID-19 on adolescents and young adults, found that the average screen time has increased from 3.5 hours to 5.1 hours.”

At Solon High School (SHS), teachers and other staff have been speaking out against constant phone use. For a teacher, the education of students is their first priority, but when the student’s mind is distracted by the apps on their iPhone, the teacher has no control. Marianne Uveges, an AP Psychology teacher at SHS, explained how screen time affects the education of students in many small ways as well.

“Even the presence of the phone sitting on a desk when a student is in class can prove that their attention is being divided,” Uveges said. “They will look up and see that the teacher is looking and will keep thinking in their head to wait a few more minutes before checking that new message. These thoughts of them checking their phones distract them and, therefore, they don’t focus on the important daily lessons.”

The bad grade complaints from the students are the results of their mistakes revealed by senior Jordan Johnson. During class it is crucial to take a break from screens, she said.

“It is super important to take a break from our devices mainly during class so that we don’t get distracted,” said Johnson. “People in my class are always complaining about getting bad grades on their tests but in class during notes and lessons they’re always on their phones, never paying attention.”

The pandemic has filled people with boredom, causing hours on their phones to significantly increase. According to senior Sanjana Venkataraman, screen time has captured her body and mind, making her lose control over her fingers when scrolling on a screen.

“My phone’s screen time has gone from 1-2 hours to no less than 10 hours a day,” Venkataraman said. “I’ve formed such bad habits where I can’t even let it charge back to 50% before I unplug and start scrolling through again. The pandemic is coming to an end, but I’m still a slave to my iPhone.”

According to School Psychologist, Gina Williams, when a problem starts to become a major complication, then individuals should come up with a solution. She elaborated on the issues of screen time and how they can be fixed.

“The screen time problem was way long ago, but the pandemic strengthened it,” Williams said. “We’re so conditioned to checking our phones and we forget to set limits for ourselves. We are constantly bombarded with information, such as entertainment, leisure, and etc. It’s hard for students and adults to control their fingers. Every classroom should have a rule to put their phones up front in the caddy because teenagers have a hard time regulating their own behavior.”

It’s a human tendency to get distracted easily. Sometimes, individuals don’t even realize they’re getting distracted. Junior Aiden Prelog discussed how screen time and social media can become the number one cause of distraction in our lives.

“I would say yes, screen time does affect our education because the more time you spend on your screen, the more time you’re looking at all of the other distractions that are on your devices,” Prelog said. “Such as Youtube, Snapchat, Instagram and everyone’s favorite TikTok. Nobody wants to sit on a Chromebook doing tedious work while you could look up what’s trending on Youtube.”

According to senior Yazmeen Aziz, when a cell phone is near us, we ignore the teachers who are telling us important info. She conveyed that our attention gets diverted and we’re in another world.

“Screen time during school hours does affect our education in a terrible way,” said Aziz. “We tend to tune out the teacher and start to pay attention to our devices. We don’t know what’s going on in the classroom anymore then.”

Ethan Dobres on his phone during class.

According to Valerie Smith, a licensed school psychologist for the past 20 years, screen time is drowning students and increasing the pressure amongst them. Also, she indicated that students feel that they are ‘missing’ out on information even if they do take a break from it.

“Screen time has become a distraction to students because of the constant gratification that students are getting from the use of phones,” said Smith. “The phone provides so much stimulation, and if students are not constantly using the phone or checking messages/notifications, they have a hard time due to anxiety about what they may be missing out on. There has definitely been an increase in anxiety and experts do believe that screen time and the pandemic play a major role.”

Along with increasing screen time on students’ phones, the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant psychological and social effects on students, according to Solon High School substitute teacher Mrs. Manis.

“COVID impacted social skills and now the students are only focused on their screens,” Manis said. “Nowadays, people eat lunch without talking to each other and are into their phones. I was sitting with a few kids during their lunch, and it was silent in the room. The students were looking at their phones while eating lunch. I went up to them and asked if they knew each other and they said no. I asked if they wanted to know each other and they said no again. This worried me a lot because interacting with others is really important and healthy.”

The pandemic has caused a lot of bad factors and people are getting extremely affected by them, said science teacher Kaylee Rodriguez. She expressed concerns about screen time in class and how social media plays a big role in it.

“Due to the pandemic, screen time is getting worse not only in students but in adults as well,” Rodriguez said. “Along with affecting the education of students it also has other negative impacts such as social media. People who have Instagram and Facebook tend to get more depressed than the people that don’t. These things are all distractions in our lives which can impact us all tremendously.”

The major issue at school with cell phones is social media, expressed Valerie Smith. She stated how social media can affect our emotions and education.

“We (counseling department and school psychologists) often have to work through the challenges during the school day that arise from being able to use the phone throughout the day,” said Smith. “Some students send messages to others that bring up a variety of emotions. Also, it is easier to put something out there on social media because anyone can hide behind the screen and not have to deal with human feelings/emotions so it seems that teens don’t always hold back on how they feel, regardless of who may end up seeing it.”

According to Senior Hayley Hunter, in college, no one will tell students to put their cell phones away and that they will be in total in charge of what they choose to do. These small things can affect our future greatly, she stated.

“The screen time issue is becoming major and needs to be fixed,” said Hunter. “I say this because when we go onto college, no one will be stopping us like the teachers at SHS do. We will be in charge of our own actions and behavior. Therefore, if you want to become a successful student in the future it is necessary to control your fingers and mind.”