Under the Cell Spell

A teenager on the love, longing and loneliness of owning a smart phone

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  • Written by
    Abby Rothwell

As a parent, you walk into your teenager’s bedroom to find them in the exact same position as 30 minutes ago: face buried deeply into cell phone, thumbs moving faster than you thought humanly possible and a “tuned-out” aura that makes you want to snatch the phone out of their hands, roll your eyes or shake their shoulders.

As you see it, they’ve wasted another half-hour that could have been spent enhancing their mind or enjoying their loving family. Perhaps you fantasize that one day you’ll walk in to see their oh-so-beloved cell phone replaced by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility … or even just a pen. 

Another irritation could be your overwhelming curiosity that compels you to snatch the phone and look through every app, text and social media post. You may not have ever done this, but you’ve definitely wanted to. 

However, I am on the other side. I am the one with my face in my phone, only caring about what the next notification will be. A new follower on Instagram? An invite on Facebook? A text from my best friend? Who knows what will show up? My iPhone is a teleportation device to teenage society. If I don’t use it, it’s as if I don’t exist. I want to exist.

 Social media is a verification of a teenager’s existence. Not so with adults, so it is understandable why they are scared of it. Adults always say that it’s bad and it’s dangerous and that all accounts should be deleted because something awful could happen. If they think anyone is listening, I recommend they think again.

 And it’s more than just a phone. It’s a camera, a calculator, a radio, a calendar, a wallet, a watch, a library, a notepad, a television and much more.

 My parents are concerned when they see my hand on my homework but my eyes on my phone. There are three explanations. The first is that I’m using my calculator to multiply complicated decimals instead of doing it manually and risking being incorrect. 

The second is that I saw my lock screen light up, reading “iMessage” from a friend. How could I focus after being overwhelmed with the suspense of that iMessage? I must read … and reply. Not replying would just be rude. 

The final possibility is that not taking a short break from the minimum of five hours of homework I have per night would result in the deterioration of my own sanity. I can only calculate equations for so long without wanting to explode. What’s the harm in scrolling through a few funny memes or sending a Snapchat if it means the difference between security and lunacy? 

Confession: I love my iPhone, and the thought of parting with it for even a day overwhelms me with loneliness. It’s not pathetic to give in to societal norms and engage with social media. A cell phone is a source of freedom, reliability and even joy. It reminds me that my friends are always there for me and gives me the opportunity to always be there for them.

 Remember all of this the next time you’re about to yell, complain or punish your child for overdosing on technology. Have empathy. Although it might not matter to you, it’s everything to them.


Abby Rothwell is a 15-year-old high school freshman. When not on her cell, she loves to play golf and write.