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Kids These Days: Let's talk about teens and phones

Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio
Teens use their phones all the time, but may never talk about how they use them. The unspoken rules, expectations of social media; how phones impact relationships.



Let’s talk about teens and phones.

Cell phones have always been there throughout their lives.

They use them all the time, but may never talk about how they use them. The unspoken rules, expectations of social media; how phones impact relationships.

18-year-old Lana Heaney is your typical modern day love story. Girl opens Tinder, swipes right, and meets somebody. Meets somebody she actually likes.

“I wanted to, like meet up with people and like have people to like either hook up with or party with, but also I wanted a relationship. And I found one, so,” Lana said.

Lana’s Tinder profile is pretty standard: some selfies, some recycled instagram posts. She has pictures expressing her political views and also her sillier side.

But Lana has also put a lot of thought into what she’s looking for in someone else’s profile.

“I want a witty bio. I want a good range of photos of them,” she said. "I like party pictures. I want a photo of them and their dog. I want at least one photo of them with a younger child; babies especially are really cute.”

Lana did eventually find someone she liked on Tinder. His photos were great, even though his bio kinda sucked, it said: “Be my pong partner.”

They matched and met up the same night. Lana spent the next few weeks almost exclusively at his house.

“He matched my vibe really well. He was so touchy in, like, a comforting kind of way, like touching my arm and like hugging me,” Lana said.

At first, things were really good. They had date nights every Friday, with flowers and candles and dinner and a movie. But there was always a third wheel around: Their phones.

Lana says sometimes, she’d be out, doing her thing, when she’d get a text from him. She’d read it, put her phone down and forget to text him back. Then her phone would blow up with frantic texts.

“It just started to get bad when we started having trust issues,” she said. “Who are you talking to? Like, what are you doing? Are you mad at me? Are you mad at me?”

Tracking was also a big one for them. Lana says he was constantly checking her location, asking her what she was doing and who she’s talking to.


“I'd literally be like grocery shopping, he’d be like ‘where you going? I thought, you're coming over.’ And I was like, ‘I'm going to get something.’ Like, what? Whose house are you going to get something? A Kroger. Do you know her?” she said.

Even though their phones brought them together, it also ended up playing a large part in why they ultimately broke up.

As you probably noticed -- there were a ton social cues that came into play in Lana’s story. Tracking and response time were two of the big ones.

But friendships and romantic relationships aren’t the only place these factors are coming into play.

Let’s talk about parental tracking.

“I would definitely rather them not track me, but I'm not that upset about it because I kind of have become accustomed to it, because it's just been like a fact of my life is that my parents know where I am,” said 18-year-old, Anja. “No matter what I'm doing, my parents can see my location and that's just become so normalized to me that … I almost can't imagine a world that my parents don't know where I am at any given moment.”

Hear that full conversation in episode six of Kids These Days on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen.

Support for Michigan Radio's Kids These Days comes from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and The Children's Foundation.

Want to make sure Michigan Radio continues creating projects like Kids These Days? Donate $20 today right here.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.