Editorial: Many Students May Suffer from Nomophobia, the Fear of Being Without a Cell Phone

The fear of being without a cell phone is slowly spreading among new generations of students.

SMARTPHONES ARE CONSTANTLY HOGGING STUDENTS ATTENTION-- Sophomore student of Central High School, Caitlin Leamon, uses her smartphone during school.

Brittney Hoang

SMARTPHONES ARE CONSTANTLY HOGGING STUDENTS ATTENTION-- Sophomore student of Central High School, Caitlin Leamon, uses her smartphone during school.

Brittney Hoang, Staff Writer

What were you doing just five minutes ago? Like many young students, you were probably checking your cell phone for a seemingly unimportant notification. You may even be reading this article on your mobile device.

Today’s generation of teenagers constantly have their noses in their phones. With applications like Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and much more, it has become apparent that the usage of the mobile phone has evolved from just receiving and giving calls over just two decades. Only 15 years ago, texting was the new biggest thing about mobile phones and you were the talk of the school if you had a phone without any form of an antenna extending from it.

It has come to the point where these mobile devices not only infringing adolescent education, it is now even acting as a barrier between a student’s social life with both their family and friends.

“[Smartphones] are a major distraction in class. Some students just refuse to put down their phones during class, and while some submit and turn in their phone for just five school days; others refuse to give up their phones, choosing suspension over living five days without a phone,” explained freshman English teacher Janice Munson, who has been teaching since 1990.

Nomophobia, the fear of being without a phone or being beyond mobile phone contact, is an abbreviation for “no mobile phone phobia,” a term coined during a 2010 study by YouGov, an independent research firm based in the United Kingdom. YouGov studied the anxieties suffered by mobile phone users even though nomophobia has been called a misuse of the term “phobia” and instead may actually just be another form of an anxiety disorder.

Nomophobia could be considered one of the modern age phobias that is the most prominent in the world because in America alone 66 percent of adults suffer from nomophobia. If 66 percent of the adults who are supposed to be able to show restraint and control over their desires and responsibilities are nomophobics, what does this say about the younger generations who have yet to develop a strong sense of restraint and responsibility? Taking into consideration the fact that America’s phones are not the most technologically advanced phones in the world, it can be inferred that countries with much more complex mobile phones have a higher chance of bearing a greater percentage of nomophobic citizens.

As trivial as nomophobia may seem, there are many serious consequences to leaving a nomophobic untreated and without help. According to a 2015 statistic from the British Chiropractic Association, 45% of youths ages 16 to 24 suffer from back pain as a result of their spinal disks being put under pressure. A 2014 study found that texting can add up to 50 pounds of pressure on one’s spine, approximately the equivalent of a seven year old’s weight. Long-term nerve damage such as occipital neuralgia is also a possibility. Occipital neuralgia is a neurological condition where the nerves running from the top of the spine through the scalp become compressed or inflamed. Along with back pain, and nerve damage, there are at least 14 other long-term consequences to leaving a case of nomophobia untreated or without help.

Although there is a chance some students can be described as nomophobic, some cases could just be a simple “addiction” or “reliance” to the device. The question evolves into what might be considered an addiction and what might be considered a reliance.

“Ultimately, the boundary between addiction and reliance is how one copes, and if they can, when something is gone. Many students rely on their phones to communicate, to research, and to socialize in new and (to some) exciting ways,” said Central High School junior, Kathleen Cimeno. “However, some become irate when they cannot use their phones, even at inappropriate times. This often stems at least partially from a mental and emotional dependence, and addiction to their phones.”

According to a report recently released by Common Sense Media, which surveyed 620 parent-child pairs, “50 percent of teens feel that they are addicted to their mobile devices. About 66 percent of parents feel that their teens spend too much time on their mobile devices and 52 percent of the teens agreed with them!” With this being said, it is clear that students are aware of their extreme reliance – or addiction – depending on the case. Despite their wants, some students make an effort to satisfy not only their academic needs, but also their mobile phone needs.

“I use my phone in some of my classes, but I also get my work done, and I know when a teacher doesn’t want us to have it out,” explained Central High School sophomore Abigail Johnson. “Some teachers disapprove of cellphone usage during class, while others do not have such strong thoughts against phone usage and are chill with phone usage as long as the students get their work done and turn in quality work. It all depends on the teacher and their preferences.”

From younger children to teenagers and adults, it is evident that society is reliant on phones to some extent. Although some are much more reliant than others, there is no denying that society cannot be without the innovation of the smartphone be it for educational, business, or social needs.

“I believe that phones are not essential in the sense of, say, food or sanitation. However, it is incredibly difficult to fully function in today’s society without one, much like it would be to function without a car,” added Cimeno. “Many employers, friends, and even teachers, assume that students have access to what are ultimately luxuries by most of the world’s standards. We have built society in such a way that those without a phone find it difficult to compete with those who do. Those who can will leave a call-back number, get to work quickly if needed, or research a topic in class instead of waiting until they can go to the library.”

While there is an endless list of the benefits of having a phone, there is also a list just as voluminous containing the many detriments of having a phone, distractions being one of the better known.

It can easily be said that some teenagers go to bed with their phones on and placed next to them in bed. Some might use them as an alarm, others to listen to music, or to play games and talk to friends during when they are supposed to be sleeping. This leads to the sleep deprivation which teenagers know of all too well.

According to a study by Harvard Medical School professor Dr.Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., in the summer of 2013, electronic devices such as phones, smartphones and tablets emit artificial blue light, preventing the feeling of sleepiness by activate arousing neurons within the brain. Not only that, but it also affects one’s ability to fall asleep, the quality of that sleep, and also disrupts the body’s production of melatonin, the natural sleep-inducing hormones released through the endocrine system. Sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in acne and other skin problems as well as causing someone to eat excessive amounts of “junk food,” such as sweets, which can lead to weight gain. It also may even limit one’s ability to learn, concentrate, solve problems, numbers, names, and also your homework.

Smartphone usage has its many benefits in society, but just as there are many benefits, smartphone usage should be controlled as to where it does not disrupt productivity and create health risks.