Give up screen time, get your life back
According to ABC News, as of Oct. 29, an American teenager spends an average of seven hours and 22 minutes on their phone per day.
That number is mind-blowingly high, almost impossibly so. There couldn't possibly be enough hours in the day. But let's do the math and see.
The average teenager spends seven hours sleeping, seven hours at school, and three hours doing homework on an average school day. That leaves exactly seven hours per school day of free time. Factor in even more free time on weekends and in the summer, and that average of seven hours and 22 minutes of phone time per day starts to look almost … low.
My average isn't nearly that high. I use around two hours of phone time per day, plus an hour of TV in the evenings. Even with three hours per day in front of the screen, my life has never revolved around technology.
But when I went on a phone detox for the past two weeks, I noticed how much I relied on it after all.
Over the first few days, every single time I had a spare moment, I started reaching for my pocket where my phone usually was. At lunch, on the bus, in between classes, at home.
I spent a lot of lunches that week staring blankly at a wall while my friends stared at their phones. I spent a lot of bus rides staring out the window.
I spent a lot of afternoons staring at my feet. So basically, I just spent the exact same amount of time staring, except it was just staring purposelessly at nothing instead of staring purposefully at my phone.
All of that staring got boring quickly. I needed to find something interesting to stare at that didn't run on battery.
I just so happened to be at the library volunteering. One of the librarians had around 200 old unwanted books that she was going to donate, and she asked if I and the other volunteers wanted first pick. I left the library that day with a backpack stuffed with free books.
That was on a Thursday. I had read two books, both full-length, 300ish-page novels, by Saturday night. On Sunday I went shopping with my family and bought two more books to add to my growing pile on my desk.
Before my phone detox, I hadn't read a non-school-assigned book in years. And the school-assigned books I did read were stupid, boring, pretentious books that only an English teacher could possibly like.
I thought I wasn't reading because I didn't have enough free time in my crazy busy life. But no. It wasn't that I didn't have free time, it was that every second of my free time was being sucked into the all-consuming vortex that is my phone.
From then on, I no longer spent lunches and bus rides and afternoons staring purposelessly at walls and windows and feet. I spent that time staring purposefully at a book.
Everywhere I look, people have their eyes glued to screens. They use their phones at school, at work, at home, in the halls, on the bus, in the car, in the restaurant, at the store. They don't know how to be bored, and with their phones always in arm's reach, they never have to be.
This is everyone. This is me and you and all of our families and friends and neighbors and coworkers. This is society. This is normal.
This is dangerous.
An average teenager spends seven hours and 22 minutes on their phone every day. If we round that to seven hours per day, that makes 106 days of phone time per year.
"I'm not a teenager," I hear you say. "I'm not even close to that bad."
OK, fine. According to The Guardian, as of Aug. 21, the average American adult generally spends an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. Round that to three hours per day, and that makes 45 days per year.
A month and a half of phone time in one year.
If you had a month and a half to do whatever your heart desired, without needing to sleep or eat or pee, what would you do? What could you do?
With a month and a half, you could change your life.
Want to find your own phone year? Take your average daily screentime in hours, divide by 24 hours per day, multiply by 365 days per year. The resulting number is the number of days per year you spend on your phone.
Even if you reduce your daily screen time by an hour, that's an extra 15 days. Two weeks straight, without sleeping or eating or peeing.
Take those two weeks and do something with them. Write that novel you always wanted to write, train for a marathon, play an instrument, start a business, learn a new skill. Read because you want to, not because you have to.
Take back your life from the all-consuming vortex that is your phone, and live it to the fullest.
Kaleigh Henderson is a senior at West Linn High School.
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