Teenagers! Always on call. Especially here in Boston, where many of them—we've come to discover thanks to the Boston Globe—sleep with cellphones under their pillow. Important texts ("Seeing if you're awake") simply cannot be missed!
Brookline, Boston proper, even suburb Waltham—it matters not. Teenagers are texting all the live long day and continue to do so even when they enter their Twilight-covered sleeping chambers for what sounds like the most restless, unproductive, vibration-under-the-pillow sleep I've ever heard of:
Brookline 10th-grader Ashley Olafsson sleeps with her cellphone under her pillow so she doesn't miss "emergency'' texts - "like if a friend broke up with her boyfriend.'' Stephanie Kimball of Waltham, 14, is also available for urgent overnight correspondence, such as, "Hey, seeing if you're awake.'' Dedham ninth-grader Courtney Johnson gets as many as 100 texts while in bed. "I just don't feel like myself if I don't have my phone near me or I'm not on it,'' she said.
This semi-sleep is being dubbed "on call" by teens, parents and doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston, where they are seeing an alarming number of exhausted children admitted for evaluation. Yes, you read that correctly! Kids these days are texting so often they're actually disrupting Stage 4 REM sleep. This is the same stage of sleep that's important for processing the day's learning experiences so, yes, in this case cellphones literally are affecting children's brains and making them dumber.
And lest you think this is just the Globe creating a trend out of the ether to fill space in the Sunday edition, it's not! The Pew Research Center, which is an organization that researches things, reports that in a 2010 study on teen cellphone usage, four in five teens reported sleeping with their bedazzled Blackberrys and iPhones next to their beds. Some even reported falling asleep with the device still in their hand. Can you imagine how that last one went down?
"Dear Jenny, it's Becky. Can you believe Rob? I mean OMG WTF!1!. Did you see how he was looking at..." Zzzz...
Holy crap, Becky! Wake the fuck up! We need to know what Rob did with what's her face! Stop sleeping! That's a sign of weakness! And yes, weakness was purposefully chosen, by me, for that sentence, for this reason:
Sometimes teens answer late-night calls and messages less out of excitement than fear. In focus groups convened by the Pew Research Center, some teens related stories of friends or acquaintances who became angry or insulted when text messages or phone calls weren't immediately returned. "As a result, many teens we heard from said they feel obligated to return texts and calls as quickly as possible, to avoid such tensions and misunderstandings,'' the report said.
The data only gets worse from there. A 2010 JFK Medical Center study found that teens average 33.5 emails and texts per night and are often woken from a sound sleep by a message. Dr. Scott Frank, director of the Master of Public Health Program at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, discovered that teens sending more than 120 texts per day were more likely to get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep per night and doze off in class.
I'll end this little tirade with what must be the saddest quote from a teenager I've read in a long, long while. A.J. Shaughnessy, BC High freshman, take it away:
"When I'm texting someone I don't feel alone. When you don't have your phone, you feel incomplete."
Christ on toast. You know another way you can not be alone? By standing next to a real, live person and talking to them. Also, where the heck are the parents? [The Boston Globe]