LIHUE — During her three-week trip to Europe, 17-year-old Cassandra Corpuz was separated from her iPhone. It seemed like a dark cloud hung over her vacation.
“It made me really sad,” she said. “Like I had nothing else in my life.”
For many in America, especially teens and young adults, smart phones are an important part of life — and functioning without them seems almost impossible.
“It’s part of my life,” Corpuz said about her iPhone. “I can’t be without it because everything’s on there: all my information, my homework, my info, my friends’ info, contacts. Everything’s on there.”
Alex Smith has a similar attachment.
“Stressed,” said Smith when asked how she felt after misplacing her phone. “I kept on reaching for my phone in my pocket but it wasn’t there.”
Because people spend so much time on their phones — one report said young adults aged 18 to 24 send an average 109.5 text messages a day, in addition to checking their phones 60 times a day — they have become both emotionally and psychologically attached to them. And that’s not good.
A study conducted at the University of Missouri found that individuals separated from their smart phones for an extended period of time experience severe “psychological and physiological effects.” This is known as “cell phone separation anxiety” and it can negatively impact cognitive performance.
Today, 90 percent of Americans have a cell phone, and 58 percent have a smart phone, according to the study.
“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks,” says Dr. Russell Clayton, the main author of the study and doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. “Additionally the results of our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of ourselves such that when we are separated from them, we experience a lessening of self and a negative psychological state.”
However, cell phone separation anxiety does not only affect college students. Many teenagers have also experienced a sense of loss without their phones, including high student Samuel Guana on Kauai.
“I kind of freaked me out because it’s an expensive piece of technology,” said Guana about when he was separated from his phone. “I feel they are important … to contact your parents or any important people such as police, ambulance or the fire department.”
Teenager Khloe Mondon had similar feelings.
“I love it,” Mondon said of her phone. “There’s apps and I can FaceTime my friends. I left it at my friend’s house one time … and I was going crazy.”
In high schools across Kauai, instructors have seen similar effects of cell phone dependency among their students and worry about their future. Kauai High teacher Tita Kahaulua understands the benefits of cell phone use but also believes their negative effects outweigh the positives.
“Over the past couple of years, it’s been literally like we have to pry it out of the students’ hands,” Kahualau said. “It’s like they’re going to lose something important if they don’t look at their phone every five minutes.”
In addition to catching students using their cell phones during tests, Kahualau said 90 percent of students will sneak their cell phones into classrooms by hiding the devices behind their legs, in their composition notebooks and inside their pencil boxes.
One time, a student was scheduled to retake a test for Kahualau, but indicated she was unable to do so without her iPhone because she had saved her notes on the phone. While written notes were allowed during the test, cell phones were not.
Kahuala compared the devices to a drug.
“People need to be on it, constantly updating things,” she said. “It actually makes me cringe a bit, that technology is so important in this day and age that people think they can’t do anything without it.”
As a mother, Kahulau doesn’t allow her children to have cell phones. Instead, they have other toys to keep them entertained, like fishing poles.
“I personally believe we are perfectly fine without the technology,” she said. “It’s not necessary for me to have a cell phone 24/7. … If I smashed my phone and broke it, I’d be fine with that.”
Helen Cox, chancellor at Kauai Community College, said that while phones can be useful tools, more often than not they are a distraction.
“There are extremely important uses for cell phones but they keep us hooked in 24 hours a day,” she said.