How Different Age Groups Use Smartphones


Social media is abuzz after Yahoo! published a story about how an old lady was taking in all the excitement of a movie premiere as the rest of her younger counterparts were reaching for their smartphones to take a picture. The article sparked a lot of discussion about our addiction to smartphones. But it also asked the question: how come we don’t live in the moment anymore.

Seeing people reach for their iPhones and Samsung devices when something happens is a common sight nowadays, particularly among millennials and Generation Zers. It’s all about the selfies and taking the perfect picture for Instagram or best video for YouTube (this method may generate ad revenue).

What may be worse, however, is seeing young people sitting at a restaurant together and spending time on their smartphones and tablets. Instead of participating in the art of conversation or chatting about their day or thoughts on the day’s news, they’re sitting and browsing through their Facebook, checking out the latest YouTube videos or texting somebody else who isn’t there.

But is this something found in all ages or just the modern day youth? Do adults use their smartphones differently based on their age? 

Youth and seniors: They’re both guilty


Seniors usually get made fun of for their "get off my lawn" mentality, but they are just as guilty of constant cellphone use as young people. Simply head to a movie theater or a restaurant and you’ll see plenty of middle-aged couples ignoring each other in favor of using their smartphone.

Due to the simplicity, prevalence and functionality of mobile devices, it’s becoming a lot more common to see middle-aged individuals and seniors spend more time with their smartphones than with their companions. They, too, are sucked into the hypnotic effects of smartphones and tablets.

Of course, we can’t forget how people are avoiding the use of their voice. It’s all about texting and emailing. Instead, it seems with each passing day people are forgetting how to verbally communicate with each other and are metastasizing into socially awkward beings.

A look at the statistics


The Pew Research Center released the results of a study in August. It looked at some of the reasons why mobile phone users take out their phones at parties. Researchers had sought the answers from all age demographics, and what researchers found was pretty interesting to say the least.

First, it should be noted that millennials are a lot more likely to use their smartphones than their older cohorts. Second, older individuals are still at fault for using their devices at parties.

Now, just what did the study authors find? Millennials often use their smartphones at parties to browse the Internet, read a text message, find out if they received any alerts and, the greatest reason of all, for no particular reason! That’s right. People will often take out their smartphones at parties for no reason other than to take it out of their pockets or bags. Yikes!

Despite this anti-social behavior, respondents agreed that these actions are "harmful and distracting to group dynamics, even if they can’t resist the temptation themselves."

Meanwhile, Business Insider conducted an informal poll using Survey Monkey. It surveyed more than 100 young people aged 18 to 29 and here’s what it found:

  • Most found it to be acceptable to take a phone call when you’re out eating with a friend. 
  • Most found it to be acceptable to check Facebook/Twitter when out eating with a friend. 
  • Most found it to be acceptable to send a text when you’re out eating with a friend. 

Indeed, there are an abundance of articles on the Internet providing us tips on how to handle guests at dinner parties who are constantly on their phone. The general consensus among etiquette professionals and authors is that it’s rude, but there’s nothing you can do about it. One person likened it to preventing someone from judging your apartment. You can ask them politely not to, but they’re going to do it anyway. You’ll just have to accept it.

How is this any different than placing a newspaper in someone’s face as you talk to them? It isn’t, but there’s no stopping us from doing it, whether we’re young chicky poos or old farts.

Psychology Today published an interesting report early last year. It noted that, aside from text messaging a lot, there isn’t much difference between cellphone use and etiquette between young people and older people. Perhaps this is why some restaurants have tried to offer all of their customers discounts if they put down their phone during a meal.

Although the research authors say this is just a new way of social interaction and not smartphone addiction, a wave of news reports suggest that smartphone addiction is something real. Here is what Android Authority writes:

'The head of the study, Professor James Robert, says that people can be addicted to behaviours and that habitual cellphone users can begin to depend on their phone in ways that seem quite similar to how people respond to drugs'

Others say that our smartphone addiction is "crippling our life." For instance, some would freak out if their phone’s battery life suddenly died. According to Yildirim and ISU education professor Ana-Paula Correia, who published the results of a questionnaire in the Computers in Human Behavior journal, most people would be annoyed if they couldn’t access their smartphone or the smartphone’s information. And again, this is all age groups, not just young people. 

“I was shocked by how many times people will say, ‘I will feel naked if I don’t have my phone with me today,’” said Yildrim in a statement. “We’ve become so dependent on our smart phones, we’re trying to fight the unhealthy dependence.” 

There’s even a medical term for this: nomophobia. Yep. A fear of being without your smartphone when you walk out of the house is called nomophobia. Whether you’re 20 or 80, are you a nomophobe? Ask yourself that question. 

In this whole debate of smartphone addiction and usage, there was one report that saddened many. In 2014 and this past summer, there were reports about how parents are ignoring their own children just to be on their cellphone. Children even told pollsters that they feel ignored and neglected by their own parents because the mother and/or father are on their mobile device.

If you read the comments section in the newspapers that ran these two stories, parents will say that they now feel guilty for acting in such a selfish and abhorrent manner. And these are parents in their 30s, 40s and even 50s, so don’t say it’s the younger parents.

"They are checking emails or sending texts and pushing a kid on a swing at the same time  or trying to have dinner and still texting and reading emails and it’s a real problem," says child psychologist Dr. Sheryl Zeigler. 

Yes, this does call for the obligatory: "Won’t somebody please think of the children?!" 

In the end, people of all ages are guilty of the same thing: constantly staring at their screen, whether they’re standing at a movie premiere or sitting with their friends at a coffee shop. Life is all about moments. You’re wasting them if you’re waiting for Facebook status updates or trying to capture the perfect snapshot of a celebrity or taking a selfie at a Chinese restaurant. 

Perhaps we should put down our cellphone once in a while and look around. Or better yet, and this may seem like an impossible endeavor these days, leave our smartphones at home when we go out! Oh, the humanity! 

Do you think the young and old use their phones differently or the same? Let us know in the comments section...